By: Clare Daniel and Karissa Haugeberg
May 10, 2022
The recently leaked SCOTUS draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson has generated turmoil in the lives of many feminist educators and their students. Although the final decision will not be released until this summer, experts agree that it is unlikely to change much from the leaked draft. Long-time activists, advocates, and scholars of reproductive rights, health, and justice are preparing for the impending social, political, and health crisis that will ensue.
As practitioners of feminist pedagogy, we must ask ourselves what this means for our classrooms, both onground and online. Given women aged 20-24 received 27.6% of abortions performed in 2019 and that woman-identified students made up 59.5% of college students in the 2020-2021 school year, the loss of abortion as a constitutional right will surely affect our students. Trans and gender-nonconforming students capable of gestating, already stigmatized and marginalized in many healthcare settings, will also be affected by this change. All students and instructors who are capable of gestating and those who love them will encounter new challenges. These difficulties will be experienced differently by those who use prescription birth control and those who require or desire abortion services while studying or working in states like Louisiana, where we teach. In other words, the criminalization of abortion–and possibly birth control, too–will exacerbate gender-, race-, and class-based inequalities.
Without the federal protections offered by Roe, Americans’ access to abortion care will vary by state. Students, faculty, and university personnel who live in states that criminalize abortion will be forced to travel long distances, draw upon vacation or employers’ goodwill to miss class and work, and spend large sums of money in order to obtain safe, legal abortions. Others might turn to the illegal, unregulated marketplace to end their pregnancies.
When abortion was a crime, those who turned to the unregulated marketplace encountered a range of providers. Some found brave physicians, nurses, and midwives who risked prosecution for providing safe, yet illegal abortions. Others lost their lives to charlatans. Unlike in the past, states now appear to be more willing to prosecute those who seek abortions in addition to those who perform them. For instance, despite the overall safety of self-managed medication abortion early in pregnancy, legislators in Louisiana and other states are seeking to make it a crime. The risks, hardships, and stigma of criminal abortion laws will not be experienced equally: those capable of carrying a pregnancy, those who cannot afford to travel, and those who do not have the social connections to navigate the new abortion landscape will suffer the most.
States that severely restrict or criminalize abortion altogether will likely see higher rates of poverty, maternal and infant mortality, and other negative outcomes that will affect our ability to teach and students’ ability to learn.
The editors of Feminist Pedagogy for Teaching Online have initiated a new section of the guide devoted to social justice issues. They will collect resources useful for implementing feminist pedagogy to teach about abortion as part of a larger subsection on reproductive justice. The social justice guide will also include resources for teaching racial justice, environmental justice, and other social justice topics.
Keep your eye out for this new section and please help make it robust by contributing any resources you are aware of via firstname.lastname@example.org.
For now, though, here are a few items to get started thinking about feminist pedagogy and abortion:
- The latest data on abortion in the US from the Centers for Disease Control
- “Abortion as Feminist Pedagogy of Grief in Marianne Apostolides’s’ Deep Salt Water”
- “Making Women the Subjects of the Abortion Debate: A Class Exercise that Moves beyond “Pro-Choice” and “Pro-Life“
- A published essay written by an undergraduate at Tulane University about a student, June Wall, who died in her dorm after a botched abortion in 1963: https://t.co/Hi1oiYCBpc
- Ms. articles on medication abortion and self-managed abortion: https://msmagazine.com/tag/medication-abortion/
- Some useful books on abortion:
About the Authors:
Clare Daniel is an American Studies scholar and an administrative associate professor at Tulane University’s Newcomb Institute, where she conducts research, teaches, and creates student programming related to reproductive rights, health, and justice. Her book, Mediating Morality: The Politics of Teen Pregnancy in the Post-Welfare Era (University of Massachusetts, 2017) examines political and popular discourses about adolescent pregnancy at the turn of the twenty-first century. She is a founding co-editor of Feminist Pedagogy for Teaching Online. You can find her on Twitter at @ClareMDaniel.
Karissa Haugeberg is an associate professor of history at Tulane University, where she teaches courses on US women’s history, legal history, and the history of medicine. Her first book, Women against Abortion: Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century (University of Illinois Press, 2017), examined women’s participation in antiabortion activism since the 1960s. Haugeberg co-edits the textbook Women’s America: Refocusing the Past (Oxford University Press) and is completing a book on the history of nursing in the United States since 1964. You can find her on Twitter at @shesareader1.