The Fertility of Scholarship on the History of Reproductive Rights in the United States

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Abstract

During the past several decades scholarship on the history of reproductive rights in the United States has flourished. Developing in tandem with the expansion of second wave feminism, this fertile scholarship shaped and was shaped by heated controversies within and outside the woman’s movement. The initial scholarly focus on the history of contraception and abortion widened into one that also grappled with women’s right to bear children, combining issues of choice with those of reproductive rights and justice and the procreative concerns of poor women and women of color. New perspectives emerged in the history of reproductive technologies, of covert and overt women’s resistance to government policies and prevailing norms, and of the relationship between the eugenics and birth-control movements. Scholars also revised older studies on colonial and nineteenth-century Americans’ outlook and behavior toward sexual expression and fertility control.

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