Don’t Miss a Thing

Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Image: Photo / Wikimedia

Reading List June 27, 2022

Reproductive Justice After Roe

As Roe is struck down by the Supreme Court, we bring together recent and archival essays to assess what is at stake—and how we might move from reproductive rights to reproductive justice.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the left must rethink its approach to abortion access and employ new discourses and political strategies that go beyond the logic of “individual liberty” and “choice” in an effort to build a more solid basis for reproductive justice. 

In a recent essay, Rachel Rebouché argues that the right to privacy which undergirded Roe was always an inadequate anchor for abortion. While it blocked state governments from criminalizing abortion, it also failed to ensure abortion access. In a post-Roe America, Rebouché writes, any legislative counter to the Court’s decision must mandate affordable abortion access, shifting the focus from reproductive rights to reproductive justice.

Such a shift in political strategy requires us to abandon the discourse of individual liberty embodied in slogans like “my body, my choice.” In a thoughtful essay from last year, Abby Minor writes that  individualistic logic “reenacts mainstream white feminism’s most egregious error: the belief that liberalism, with its attendant concepts of privacy and choice, can simply be extended from the board room to the picking fields to the uterus.” Instead, we should not call solely for choice when it comes to our bodies, but equality. 

Indeed, as Sara Matthiesen argues in “Abortion Is Not a ‘Choice’ Without Racial Justice,” vast inequalities have made “reproductive choice more myth than reality for an ever growing number of people.” Matthiesen writes that a shift from reproductive rights to reproductive justice is necessary in order to give more people the means to make real substantive choices about when and how to terminate a pregnancy or start a family.

An essay from abortion provider and writer Christine Henneberg also challenges our focus on “choice.” “What do we mean by choice?” she asks. “Did my patient’s induced delivery at twenty-two weeks constitute an abortion (albeit one that many would call ‘acceptable’)? Or was it a tragedy, a ‘choice’ that was never hers to make?” Acknowledging the moral complexity of many cases, she nonetheless affirms a profound commitment to the women her practice serves and the decisions they make.

Alongside more recent essays on abortion during COVID-19, the archival pieces below reflect on abortion’s troubled past and increasingly uncertain future—dissecting the morality and the medicine, comparing the role of abortion in different national and religious contexts, and exposing its place in the broader politics of reproduction, gender, and inequality. 

Finally, in an archival essay from 1996, obstetrician Maureen Paul gives us a glimpse of what might be in store now that Roe has been repealed. “Life before Roe. I was a teenager back then, pregnant and desperate,” she writes. “Too terrified to make the midnight trip to the back alley with a password and hundreds of dollars.” But rather than a story of failure, Paul gives us a story of resistance that provides lessons for the fight that awaits us.

Rachel Rebouché
It is time to stop talking about Roe as the touchstone for abortion rights and to start imagining what law and policy can do to facilitate affordable and available services.
Judith Levine

The right to reproductive health and agency is a compelling state interest.

Sara Matthiesen
After Roe v. Wade, Angela Davis wrote about how the reproductive rights movement was failing women of color. As Roe is dismantled, her diagnosis is more crucial than ever.
Maureen Paul
Before Roe, abortion providers operated on the margins of medicine. They still do.
Daniel Grossman
A doctor's case against COVID-19 abortion bans. 
Abby Minor
Liberalism cannot simply be extended to the uterus. Reproductive justice requires a vision of the social body.
Rachel Rebouché
A recent abortion ruling asks whether abortion access laws may one day be judged on how they serve women's health.
Martha C. Nussbaum

What the Indian constitutional tradition can teach about sex equality.

Judith Jarvis Thomson
The idea that a fetus has rights cannot be bypassed as nonsense. We have to take the idea seriously.
Kate Manne
Moralistic or not, misogyny is not about hating women. It is about controlling them.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

Boston Review is nonprofit and reader funded.

Contributions from readers enable us to provide a public space, free and open, for the discussion of ideas. Join this effort – become a supporting reader today.

Sign Up for Our

Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.

While we have you...

…we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we’ve organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review’s responsibility to public reason is sure. That’s why you’ll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.

Donate Today

Most Recent

Family policing is deeply unjust. The nuclear family is too.

Will Holub-Moorman

Workers will benefit from technology when they control how it’s used.

Brishen Rogers

Twenty years later, the U.S.-led invasion continues to shape geopolitics for the worse.

Boston Review

Supporter Membership

$100 / year

If you love Boston Review, support us with this biggest yearly membership.

Membership at this level includes:

  • Print subscription to Boston Review
    (4 issues/year)
  • Digital subscription to Boston Review
    (4 issues/year)
  • Access to our member portal and entire digital archive
  • Curated weekend Reading List
  • Weekly From the Archive newsletter

Digital Membership

$25 / year

Get even more out of Boston Reviewwith our digital membership.

Membership at this level includes:

  • Digital subscription to Boston Review
    (4 issues/year)
  • Access to our member portal and entire digital archive
  • Curated weekend Reading List
  • Weekly From the Archive newsletter

Print Membership

$50 / year

Turn the pages of Boston Review with our best value membership. 

Membership at this level includes:

  • Print subscription to Boston Review
    (4 issues/year)
  • Digital subscription to Boston Review
    (4 issues/year)
  • Access to our member portal and entire digital archive
  • Curated weekend Reading List
  • Weekly From the Archive newsletter