This Week in (Reproductive Rights) Essays


To everyone worried about the continued shrinking of reproductive rights: you are not alone. For every governor signing punishing and abusive legislation just to prove what a good Christian woman she is, there are hundreds in Handmaid costumes ready to storm a state house, thousands with painful and defiant abortion and miscarriage stories to tell, a genuine chorus of anger to propel us.

You don’t have to look far to find women telling their stories. These personal stories come in waves with each breaking news headline and every signed abortion ban. Histories that have been suppressed bubble to the surface as people utilize the incredible power of accessible platforms to project their voices onto the screen of cultural consciousness.

The fetus fetishization racket is in full force; regression is America’s new national policy. The fight never ends, my friends. Bookmark this page and come back to it when you need fire and hope. There is potential in our collective power. Our storytelling, the sharing of our necessary truths, is needed now more than ever.


Let Us Remember Our History

Meet the man who invented the speculum and revolutionized modern gynecology by violating black women’s bodies. Camille T. Dungy walks us through this terrible history (and points to further reading) at Lit Hub.

Forced and coerced sterilizations have happened throughout American history, and they will continue to happen as legislators become drunk on their power over women’s bodies. At the New York Times Magazine, Marcela Valdes reviews a 1975 lawsuit that ten Latinas brought against a hospital that coerced them into sterilization after giving birth there. The women argued that this widespread practice aimed at “population control” violated their civil right to procreate.

While women of color face unwanted sterilization, procreation is encouraged for white women. At Topic, Therese Shechter covers the history of women being pressured by physicians, politicians, and marketers to have more children. Spoiler alert: This pronatalist rhetoric comes tinged with white supremacy.

Here at The Rumpus, Marissa Korbel brings us up to speed on Roe and its challenges in her monthly column The Thread. “These abortion laws terrorize women and people with uteruses, which is what they are designed to do. They don’t have to be constitutional to do that.”

Oftentimes, women have to fend for themselves—and each other. In the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, the Jane Collective was formed to help women get discreet and safe abortions. Clara Bingham tells the story at Vanity Fair.


You Don’t Know What It’s Like Until You’ve Lived It

These people don’t know shit about late-stage abortions, yet they want to legislate it. T.S. Mendola’s essay for The Rumpus on the agony and heartache of a woman who has to abort late-term should be required reading for any legislator trying to undermine women’s medical safety and body autonomy.

“When you conceive, all you do is open a portal. Life may come through it, or death may come through, and you don’t know which. You don’t. It’s an ineffable eternal mystery of life, and you can’t legislate an ineffable eternal mystery of life.” For her email series Dana Stories, Dana Norris shares an incredibly honest story of a miscarriage and writes on the arrogance of trying to legislate something as tenuous as creating new life.

The choice of whether or not to abort a pregnancy should always belong to the woman carrying said pregnancy. To her surprise, Lindsay Hunter chooses not to abort when she gets pregnant with an IUD lodged in her uterus even though she definitely doesn’t want more kids. She writes at The Cut: “My trauma was right there; I was coated in it, a ghosty afterbirth that I could ignore but never wash off.”

“For all its advancements, the question that science still couldn’t answer was, ‘Can I get pregnant?’” Serena W. Lin writes on wanting children as a single, QTPOC for The Rumpus.


If Birthing Is So Great, Why Are We Doing So Poorly at It?

Black women are four times more likely to die during or following childbirth. How can we force people to give birth when we can’t even provide proper maternity care? Dani McClain writes for The Nation on her fears during pregnancy: “It wasn’t until I’d gotten a second opinion from a black female ob-gyn that I accepted that a C-section was the right choice. I felt more confident that she’d been able to see me as a human being, just like her.”

Complete disdain for the humanity of immigrants is the point, so it is not surprising that the current administration is taking poor care of pregnant mothers held in detention at the border. Ema O’Connor and Nidhi Prakesh report for BuzzFeed News on these violations and their devastating consequences.

Many women prefer to give birth outside of hospitals, but home birthing options are regulated state to state. At Highline, Rebecca Grant follows a covert network of women trying to do childbirth their way. 


Get Your Religion Out of My Uterus

“What rose up instead was a new character, less threatening than the empowered woman: the baby, who, by virtue of not actually existing as a formed human being, could be invested with all the qualities—purity, defenselessness, dependence—that women used to embody, before they became free and disruptive.” At The New Republic, Rebecca Traister examines how we’ve gotten to this point where the fetus is the only life that matters for so many Americans.

While religious beliefs may not compel the current administration to extend loving kindness to women seeking asylum in the US, it does seem to be a guiding principle in denying these women abortion access. For Bustle, Lauren Holter looks at how women detained by ICE—a large percentage of whom may have been raped while journeying to the border—are being denied abortion care.

Bullying and inadequate information are just another way to control women’s bodies. At Vox, Susie Meister writes on volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center and opening her eyes to the deception taking place there.


Reproductive Rights for the Modern Age

Trans people have a right to safe abortions, and severing access to more trans-inclusive and affordable health care services like Planned Parenthood is just another way to deny that care. Trish Bendixat covers the issue at them.

Let us not forget that men, too, are responsible for conception and its aftereffects. Teri Carter takes us to the other half of the equation for the Washington Post.

Where do eggs held for IVF fit on the scale of personhood? Belle Boggs tries to figure out what to do with her remaining embryos at the Atlantic.

A life-valuing, death-despising world view is the wrong way to approach the abortion question. Abby Minor attempts to reframe the discussion at Bitch Media.

In an extensive series of editorials, the New York Times looks at how even before the most recent spate of terrible state bills, pregnant women have been perniciously criminalized for a variety of apparent abuses.

Tamara Matthews is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor. Visit or find her on Twitter: @writingtoatee. More from this author →