The Reproductive Rights Reader

Law, Medicine, and the Construction of Motherhood

419 pages

January, 2008

ISBN: 9780814722312



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Nancy Ehrenreich is Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

All books by Nancy Ehrenreich

Since the passage of Roe v. Wade, the debate over reproductive rights has dominated America’s courts, legislatures, and streets. The contributors to The Reproductive Rights Reader embrace reproductive justice for all women, but challenge mainstream legal and political solutions based on protecting free choice via neutral governmental policies, which frequently ignore or jeopardize the interests of women of color and the poor. Instead, the pieces in this interdisciplinary book—including both legal cases and articles by legal scholars, historians, sociologists, political scientists and others—favor a critical analysis that addresses the concrete material conditions that limit choices, the role of law and social policy in creating those conditions, and the gendered power dynamics that inform and are reinforced by the regulation of human reproduction.

The selections demonstrate that the right to choice isn’t an automatic guarantee of reproductive justice and gender equality; to truly achieve this ideal it is essential to recognize the complexity of women’s reproductive experiences and needs. Divided into four sections, the book examines feminist critiques of medical knowledge and practice; and the legal regulation of pregnancy termination, conception and child-bearing, and behavior during pregnancy.


  • The Reproductive Rights Reader is sure to be a vital resource to anyone who’s been following any and all of the many conversations that Ehrenreich brings to the forefront on reproduction policy in American society since Roe vs. Wade. . . . For those of us starved for a nuanced yet substantial exploration of the complexities of the reproductive rights in the U.S., The Reproductive Rights Reader delivers just that.”

    Feminist Review

  • “At a troubling time in history when a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has called into question the constitutional protection of women’s health and equality, this book comes none too soon. The Reproductive Rights Reader gives us a uniquely comprehensive and useful collection of the major court decisions, legal briefs and scholarly commentaries on the searing debates about reproductive politics in US public discourse over the past 40 years. And it does so not only through the lenses of the law, science and public health but also with a clear focus on the critical dimensions of gender, race, class, sexuality, poverty, social exclusion and social justice. It is an absolutely indispensable resource.”

    —Rosalind P. Petchesky, author of Abortion and Woman’s Choice

  • “Powerful and provocative, The Reproductive Rights Reader explodes the stale debate over the constitutional legitimacy of Roe v. Wade by bringing critical perspectives of race, gender and class to the question of women’s control over their reproductive lives. Taking seriously issues of substantive equality, this volume is essential reading for all those interested in human rights and social justice.”

    —Nancy Northup, President, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Lecturer-in-Law, Columbia Law School

  • “This type of anthology bridges the sciences and humanities and narrows the divide between these two broad areas of study.”

    —Martha Chamallas, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University

  • The Reproductive Rights Reader offers a thoughtful, powerful, and provocative examination of fundamental questions, philosophies, and attitudes that inform and shape our discussion of these critical health care and public policy concerns.”

    The Journal of Legal Medicine