WGS.S10 | Spring 2013 | Undergraduate

Reproductive Politics in the United States


Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


MIT students must get the instructor’s permission.

Course Overview

Throughout the semester, we will examine the ways that class, race, and sexuality affect women’s experiences of reproduction, and the role of the state in shaping those experiences, now and over the course of the last century. Many of our topics fit into two broad areas: conflicts over the control of childbearing (sterilization abuse, birth control, and abortion) and conflicts over who deserves to be a mother, especially when the mothers in question face social stigma and lack political power. Other topics include the global market in reproductive services and conflicts over pregnant women’s conduct and what status to accord to fetuses. Class materials will include court opinions, government documents, news stories, op-eds, first-person narratives, web sites, documentaries, and reports as well as academic scholarship. 


Attendance and active participation 30%
Two 4–5 page papers 30%
Final paper 40%

There is no final exam in this course.

Course Materials

Tyler, Elaine. Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness. Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780674061828.


  • Please sign up for the Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. This will help us to keep up with news about reproductive politics and health policy.
  • You may also be interested in the Guttmacher Institute, which has research articles, data, and monthly updates on state policies governing reproductive health and rights.
  • The class chose how to spend the last two weeks of the semester:
    • Read Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti. New Harvest, 2012. ISBN: 9780547892610


  • Suggest topics of interest. (The Spring 2013 class chose this option and added readings on the experience of gay fathers and transgender parents.)

Academic Integrity, Collaboration, Resources

Every student is expected to do his or her own work and must turn in original papers written specifically for this course. Students are encouraged to discuss the reading outside of class. You may find it helpful to exchange drafts of your papers and give each other feedback, or to visit the Writing and Communication Center. If you get feedback from another student, acknowledge that person’s contribution in your paper. 

Engaging with and giving credit to the ideas, words, and research findings of others is an important part of scholarly writing and academic integrity. If you have questions about when to cite a source or what counts as plagiarism, ask!

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments