The Future of Reproductive Rights in America

Partisan battles and damaging misconceptions abound in debates about women’s reproductive rights and access to health services. SSN scholars have come together to assess the political and policy landscape and identify ways to further sound programs that meet the needs of America’s women – furthering their autonomy, combating inequalities, and ensuring women’s right to raise children they choose to have in safe and economically sustainable conditions.

The policies that influence the availability and accessibility of reproductive health services affect the lives of millions of women. More than 99% of sexually active U.S. women of childbearing age have used some form of contraception. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintentional. And by age 45, three in 10 women will have had at least one abortion. Yet debates about reproductive issues – and policies that have an impact on women’s health, freedom, and economic wellbeing – are often downplayed and separated from other policy discussions.  Research from SSN scholars in a variety of disciplines, ranging from  sociology to public health and obstetrics/gynecology,  points toward innovative solutions to complicated problems and intractable social conflicts. This work can help to ensure that reproductive justice issues are not marginalized in national discussion of the problems facing America’s women and families.

The Landscape of U.S. Abortion Politics

Political struggles over abortion rights have raged for decades and have recently reached new levels of intensity in the courts, state legislatures, and Congress.  Opponents of abortion hope to overturn the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision – and until that is possible, they are pushing laws that reduce women’s rights and block access to safe and effective reproductive health services.   SSN scholars offer succinct and compelling overviews:

U.S. Abortion Politics in the Early Twenty-First Century
Deana A. Rohlinger, Florida State University

Why Abortion Controversies are So Central to U.S. Politics
Drew Halfmann, University of California, Davis

The New Wave of State Laws Targeting Abortion Providers
Carole Joffe, University of California, San Francisco

Policies That Restrict Abortion Access

State legislatures have taken steps to prevent women from seeking and obtaining abortions by passing regulations that shutter clinics, and requiring patients to jump personally trying hurdles. In the first quarter of 2016 alone, 411 abortion restrictions have been introduced in state legislatures.  Seventeen of these have passed at least one chamber and 22 have been enacted in six states (Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah).

How Catholic Hospitals Restrict Reproductive Health Services
Debra Stulberg, University of Chicago, and Lori Freedman, University of California, San Francisco

Women's Experience with a 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortion
Sarah C.M. Roberts and Ushma Upadhyay, University of California, San Francisco

What Happens when Women Planning Abortions View Ultrasounds?
Katrina Kimport, University of California, San Francisco


How Americans Form Opinions on Reproductive Rights

“Pro-life” and “Pro-choice” advocates are known for being equally emphatic in their beliefs – but scholars have discovered many complexities in how opinions are formed and how both future activists and everyday citizens choose sides on the abortion issue.

How People Become Pro-Life Activists
Ziad Munson, Lehigh University

Understanding the Media Strategies of America's Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Movements
Deana A. Rohlinger, Florida State University


Reproductive Justice for All

Guaranteeing abortion rights is only one step toward ensuring that all women – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, location, or sexual orientation – can nurture and support their families and themselves.   Full reproductive justice requires attention to the special needs and circumstances of women of color, poor women, lesbians and transsexuals, and women living in conservative regions.

The Reproductive Stigmas Faced by Low-Income Young Women in the Deep South
Janet M. Turan and Whitney D. Smith, University of Alabama at Birmingham

How the Reproductive Justice Movement Benefits Latinas
Rocio Garcia, University of California, Los Angeles


Socioeconomic Arguments for Reproductive Rights

When women can’t choose when they have children or control the size of their families, research shows that their personal wellbeing is negatively affected. The economy and public budgets suffer too. In addition to affordable and accessible health care, support for working women and families must include policies to help mothers stay in school or continue in the workforce.

New Evidence about Women’s Experiences with Abortion – Compared to Carrying Unwanted Pregnancies to Term
Diana Greene Foster, Rana E. Barar, and Heather Gould, University of California, San Francisco

Why America Needs the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Wendy Chavkin, Columbia University

Birth Control is an Economic Issue for Women and Their Families
Carole Joffe, University of California, San Francisco

Can Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Activists Recognize the Socioeconomic Realities of Abortion?
Hannah Phillips, Tutor, A-List Education


May 2016