A central concern regarding reproduction is power, power between men and women, between the state and its citizens, between clinicians and their patients. This talk contextualized the current state of global reproductive health by considering its history as a one of power inequalities and inequities but also one of resistance and revolution. It explored a few core events within the history of reproductive health since the early twentieth century, in particular the spread and uptake of modern forms of birth control, the mid-century population control movement, the increased legalization of abortion globally since the 1960s, and the shift away from family planning to reproductive health and reproductive justice. By doing so, it outlined how history, especially regarding reproductive health, is a useful tool for health care practitioners.
In the early 1950s, abortion was punishable by law in China. How then did China come to have one of the world’s highest abortion rates? Drawing on the grassroots history of birth control and abortion, the session explained how abortion inadvertently became a primary method of fertility control in China. Dr. Mellors Rodriguez spoke about the intricate evolution of the Chinese government implementing political campaigns leading the population from growth to contraction based on its need.
Safe abortion care is an essential component of comprehensive health care. In settings where abortion is restricted, patients often access abortion outside of the formal healthcare system. For many people, particularly in developing countries, these constraints lead to unsafe abortion. Almost half of abortions worldwide are unsafe. Tragically, unsafe abortion is the leading preventable cause of maternal mortality and contributes to 13% of maternal deaths worldwide.
There are innovative solutions to this problem though. Both abroad and in the United States, Dr. Laursen will discuss who is working to improve the safety of abortion. She will show how both large changes in policy and individual grassroots educations work to empower patients, ensure safe abortion, and improve reproductive health overall.
How does structural racism impact abortion policy, access, and outcomes? This talk unpacked the history of abortion in racialized communities in the US, explore the relationship between structural racism and abortion access, and describe the inequitable effects of abortion restrictions at home and abroad.