15 Nonfiction Books About Reproductive Rights You Should Be Reading Right Now
With health care under fire across the U.S., it can be difficult to parse the negative feelings you're having about the potential revocation of your bodily autonomy. I've picked out 15 nonfiction books about reproductive rights you should be reading right now, because conservatives are inching closer to overturning Roe v. Wade everyday.
Last week, the Trump administration pushed through a plan to revoke Title X family planning program funding from clinics that perform or refer patients for abortions. Title X funding helps to ensure that poor and low-income people with vaginas have access to otherwise expensive birth control, STI screenings, and examinations. In its nearly 50-year-long history, Title X has never funded abortion procedures, but now clinics and other providers can be prevented from providing many other types of life-saving care if they mention abortion as an option to pregnant people.
It's unclear whether the new Title X regulations make exceptions for rape, incest, or other extenuating circumstances that are typically exempt from abortion restrictions. Although the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it "[r]equires referrals for those conditions deemed medically necessary," the portion of the document that focuses on victims of "child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, incest, intimate partner violence, and trafficking" makes no mention of pregnancy termination at all.
It's clear that these new regulations aren't taking the health care needs of poor and low-income people with vaginas into account. Additionally, because 75 percent of patients at organizations receiving Title X funding in 2017 were people of color, there is an added layer of racism to the Trump administration's new policy. And because 59 percent of people who receive abortions in the U.S. are parents already, the new restrictions on Title X funding put children's well-being at risk. So much for being "pro-family," amirite?
Several organizations have already taken legal action against what Planned Parenthood Federation of America V.P. of Government Relations & Public Policy Jacqueline Ayers called the "unethical and dangerous" requirement that "health care providers to withhold important information from patients," but no one can be sure of whether or not their efforts will succeed. Additionally, because of legal challenges against the unconstitutional abortion restrictions and bans that have cropped up around the country over the last two years, Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that secured our right to abortion care, could soon be overturned.
In short, there's no better, more important time to read these nonfiction books about your reproductive rights.
'How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump' by Laura Briggs
In How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics, Laura Briggs traces the correlation between racist political jabs at families of color and what publisher's copy calls "the government and business disinvestment in families." As rising costs of living leave the federal minimum wage behind, pushing more and more families below the poverty line, Briggs argues that every political decision made today impacts reproductive justice.
'Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement' by Sarah Erdreich
Published at the start of President Barack Obama's second term in office, Sarah Erdreich's Generation Roe envisions the new challenges that reproductive rights advocates must face in order to push abortion out from the shadows of social taboo, exposing it for the common, life-saving reality it is.
'The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade' by Ann Fessler
Written by a woman who was adopted from her teenage mother in the mid-20th century, The Girls Who Went Away offers an eye-opening look at the tragedies suffered by unwed parents in the decades before Roe v. Wade. Ann Fessler's book is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one, if you want to fully understand what a return to "family values" means for the U.S.
'Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women's Reproduction in America' by Jeanne Flavin
Written by Fordham University Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Jeanne Flavin, Our Bodies Our Crimes examines the myriad ways in which people of color are punished for having children — and rewarded for not reproducing. The right to be pregnant and the right to not be pregnant are of equal importance, and this book is a fantastic and depressing primer on an often-overlooked aspect of reproductive justice.
'Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation' by David A. Grimes and Linda G. Brandon
Written by abortion-performing doctor and former Chief of the Abortion Surveillance Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Every Third Woman in America examines the social history of abortion, including how the U.S. changed in the wake of Roe v. Wade, and what those of us who have grown up in a world of legal abortion should know.
'Reproductive Justice: The Politics of Health Care for Native American Women' by Barbara Gurr
Focusing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Barbara Gurr's Reproductive Justice takes readers inside Native American women's struggle to access adequate reproductive care, including prenatal treatment, through the Indian Health Service.
'The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service' by Laura Kaplan
In operation for years before Roe v. Wade, the Jane Collective was an underground network of people who conspired to secure safe abortion and low-cost health screenings for thousands of pregnant individuals in Chicago, accepting $100 or whatever women could pay. Laura Kaplan tells all about Jane's inspiring history in this fantastic book.
'Handbook for a Post-Roe America' by Robin Marty
Robin Marty's Handbook for a Post-Roe America is a necessary primer on organizing, fundraising, and avoiding legal trouble when and if you must break an unconstitutional law.
'How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Sex, Virtue, and the Way We Live Now' by Cristina Page
If you're on the fence about abortion's impact on and importance to the well-being of this country, look no further than Cristina Page's How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. This handy microhistory, written during the second Bush administration, exposes how increased family planning choices have improved the quality of life for millions of people across the U.S.
'The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World' by Michelle Goldberg
Exploring the lives of people with vaginas on four continents, Michelle Goldberg's The Means of Reproduction examines how advancements in reproductive justice can radically alter the trajectory of entire societies, and can hasten new developments in public health and well-being.
'Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty' by Dorothy Roberts
A black feminist anthem and a rallying cry to civil rights activists who have gone soft, Dorothy Roberts' Killing the Black Body exposes how recent legislation has restricted the reproductive rights of black people, particularly those who live in poverty. No discussion of reproductive or racial justice is complete without this book.
'Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice' by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta J. Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez
One of the criticisms lobbied at the Jane Collective was the overwhelming whiteness of its staff, who served a largely black clientele. In Undivided Rights, authors Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta J. Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez unearth the history of women of color's reproductive organization and activism, through archival research and interviews.
'Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade' by Rickie Solinger
Focusing on the two decades that followed World War II, Rickie Solinger's Wake Up Little Susie dissects the double standard that emerged toward unwed pregnancy in the postwar period. White parents gave up children for adoption, which was not available to black parents, and this disparity was used — and continues to be used today — to argue against black families' worth and self-direction in the U.S.
'My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights' by Robin Stevenson
Clocking in at just over 200 pages, My Body My Choice is a quick-and-dirty primer on the facts surrounding abortion in the U.S. For people who are new to reproductive activism, this is an excellent place to begin reading.
'This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor' by Susan Wicklund and Alan Kesselheim
Written by an doctor compelled to wear a bulletproof vest and carry a gun for protection, This Common Secret combines Susan Wicklund's 20 years of experience in abortion clinics with patient testimonies, giving readers a fascinating and important look beyond the protesters and behind the closed doors of American clinics.
This story was updated on Aug. 19, 2019 to meet Bustle's editorial guidelines.