Women’s Rights are Human Rights: A Reading List

Now more than ever it’s essential to get informed about reproductive rights and the fight to protect women’s bodies. Educate yourself about reproductive justice and other women’s issues with these important books, because women’s rights are human rights.

Use promocode MYBODY35 at check-out when ordering from nyupress.org for 35% off.*

Also consider following these hashtags on your social media platform(s) of choice: #YouKnowMe, #reproductiverights, #HeforShe to see how you can stand up,  shout out, read #allthethings, and make a difference. 

Click on any of the covers to learn more about them and to add them to your NYU Press cart. Apply promocode MYBODY35 at checkout for 35% off!*

*offer good until 06/30/2019


Reproductive Injustics

Reproductive Injustice

Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth

By Dana-Ain Davis

Publishing on 06/25/2019, Preorder now!

Black women have higher rates of premature birth than other women in America. This cannot be simply explained by economic factors, with poorer women lacking resources or access to care. Even professional, middle-class black women are at a much higher risk of premature birth than low-income white women in the United States. Dána-Ain Davis looks into this phenomenon, placing racial differences in birth outcomes into a historical context, revealing that ideas about reproduction and race today have been influenced by the legacy of ideas which developed during the era of slavery.

The book argues not only that medical racism persists and must be considered when examining adverse outcomes—as well as upsetting experiences for parents—but also that NICUs and life-saving technologies should not be the only strategies for improving the outcomes for black pregnant women and their babies. Davis makes the case for other avenues, such as community-based birthing projects, doulas, and midwives, that support women during pregnancy and labor are just as important and effective in avoiding premature births and mortality.


Sutton front coverSurviving State Terror

Women’s Testimonies of Repression and Resistance in Argentina

By Barbara Sutton

In the 1970s and early 80s, military and security forces in Argentina hunted down, tortured, imprisoned, and in many cases, murdered political activists, student organizers, labor unionists, leftist guerrillas, and other people branded “subversives.” This period was characterized by massive human rights violations, including forced disappearances committed in the name of national security. State terror left a deep scar on contemporary Argentina, but for many survivors and even the nation itself, talking about this dark period in recent history has been difficult, and at times taboo. In Surviving State Terror, Barbara Sutton draws upon a wealth of oral testimonies to place women’s bodies and voices at the center of the analysis of state terror. Recounting not only women’s traumatic experiences, but also emphasizing their historical and political agency, Surviving State Terror is a profound reflection on state violence, social suffering, and human resilience—both personal and collective.

“Torture survivors are witnesses. Many people do not want to hear their voices. Barbara Sutton has listened to scores of Argentinian women who survived to detail the misogynist lengths to which a military junta will go to stay in power. Sutton reveals how our listening to these women is crucial for sustainable democracy.”—Cynthia Enloe, Author of The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging the Persistence of Patriarchy


Pregnancy and PowerPregnancy and Power, Revised Edition

A History of Reproductive Politics in the United States

By Rickie Solinger

Publishing on 07/16/2019, Preorder now!

Reproductive politics in the United States has always been about who has the power to decide—lawmakers, the courts, clergy, physicians, or the woman herself. Authorities have rarely put women’s needs and interests at the center of these debates. Instead, they have created reproductive laws and policies to solve a variety of social and political problems, with outcomes that affect the lives of different groups of women differently.

Tracing the main plot lines of women’s reproductive lives, the leading historian Rickie Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the effort to control sex and pregnancy in America over time. This revised edition of Pregnancy and Power reveals how far the reproductive justice movement has come, and the renewed struggles it faces in the present moment.

“Solinger is impressively optimistic about America’s potential not only to evolve into ‘a country of reproductive justice,’ but also to overcome centuries of the sex, race, and class prejudice that have literally built our society.”—Bitch Magazine

“This succinct, highly readable political and cultural history of a wide range of reproductive issues is a near-perfect primer on the topic.”—Publishers Weekly


OUR BODIES OUR CRIMES front book cover

Our Bodies, Our Crimes

The Policing of Women’s Reproduction in America

By Jeanne Flavin

In this important work, Jeanne Flavin looks beyond abortion to document how the law and the criminal justice system police women’s rights to conceive, to be pregnant, and to raise their children. Through vivid and disturbing case studies, Flavin shows how the state seeks to establish what a “good woman” and “fit mother” should look like and whose reproduction is valued. With a stirring conclusion that calls for broad-based measures that strengthen women’s economic position , choice-making, autonomy, sexual freedom, and health care, Our Bodies, Our Crimes is a battle cry for all women in their fight to be fully recognized as human beings. At its heart, this book is about the right of a woman to be a healthy and valued member of society independent of how or whether she reproduces.

“Bolstered by quotes and firsthand accounts, Flavin delivers eye-opening reports on topics including abortion rights, infant abandonment and battered women, detailing little-noticed or taken-for-granted policies that restrict and remand women. Written in a flowing academic style, Flavin’s attention to historical detail and unfailing moral compass make her progressive reexamination of women’s rights thorough and convincing.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)


GOVERNED THROUGH CHOICE front coverGoverned through Choice

Autonomy, Technology, and the Politics of Reproduction

By Jennifer M. Denbow

At the center of the “war on women” lies the fact that women in the contemporary United States are facing more widespread and increased surveillance of their reproductive health and decisions. In recent years states have passed a record number of laws restricting abortion. Physicians continue to sterilize some women against their will, especially those in prison, while other women who choose to forego reproduction cannot find physicians to sterilize them. While these actions seem to undermine women’s decision-making authority, experts and state actors often defend them in terms of promoting women’s autonomy.

In Governed through Choice, Jennifer M. Denbow exposes the way that the notion of autonomy allows for this apparent contradiction and explores how it plays out in recent reproductive law, including newly enacted informed consent to abortion laws like ultrasound mandates and the regulation of sterilization. Denbow also shows how developments in reproductive technology, which would seem to increase women’s options and autonomy, provide even more opportunities for state management of women’s bodies.

“[Denbow’s] poignant critique of government’s ‘coercive paternalism’ with respect to women’s reproductive choices introduces a transformative potential of radical thought at the crux of her thought.”—New Political Science

“Governed through Choice brings new perspective to the changing political landscape of women’s reproductive rights.”—PsycCRITIQUES



On Infertile Ground

Population Control and Women’s Rights in the Era of Climate Change

By Jade S. Sasser

Using interviews and case studies from a wide range of sites—from Silicon Valley foundation headquarters to youth advocacy trainings, the halls of Congress and an international climate change conference—Sasser demonstrates how population growth has been reframed as an urgent source of climate crisis and a unique opportunity to support women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. ­Although well-intentioned—promoting positive action, women’s empowerment, and moral accountability to a global community—these groups also perpetuate the same myths about the sexuality and lack of virtue and control of women and the people of global south that have been debunked for decades. Unless the development community recognizes the pervasive repackaging of failed narratives, Sasser argues, true change and development progress will not be possible.

On Infertile Ground presents a unique critique of international development that blends the study of feminism, environmentalism, and activism in a groundbreaking way. It will make any development professional take a second look at the ideals driving their work.


GIVING UP BABY front cover

Giving Up Baby

Safe Haven Laws, Motherhood, and Reproductive Justice

By Laury Oaks

“Baby safe haven” laws, which allow a parent to relinquish a newborn baby legally and anonymously at a specified institutional location—such as a hospital or fire station—were established in every state between 1999 and 2009. These laws were thought to offer a solution to the consequences of unwanted pregnancies: mothers would no longer be burdened with children they could not care for, and newborn babies would no longer be abandoned in dumpsters.

Yet while these laws are well meaning, they ignore the real problem: some women lack key social and economic supports that mothers need to raise children. Safe haven laws do little to help disadvantaged women. Instead, advocates of safe haven laws target teenagers, women of color, and poor women with safe haven information and see relinquishing custody of their newborns as an act of maternal love. Disadvantaged women are preemptively judged as “bad” mothers whose babies would be better off without them. Laury Oaks argues that the labeling of certain kinds of women as potential “bad” mothers who should consider anonymously giving up their newborns for adoption into a “loving” home should best be understood as an issue of reproductive justice. Safe haven discourses promote narrow images of who deserves to be a mother and reflect restrictive views on how we should treat women experiencing unwanted pregnancy.

“[Oaks] demonstrates quite clearly and powerfully that American safe haven policies represent a tangle of cultural, political, legal, and religious ideas and forces about class, age, gender, motherhood, and race.”—Anthropology Review Quarterly

“Oaks skillfully navigates the complex web of issues, from class politics to notions of maternal love, that intersect with safe haven laws.”—Pacific Standard

“The author skillfully portrays the contradictions and hypocrisies of the SHL movement. She documents supporters’ often-vehement opposition to abortion and sex education, their hostility to formal adoption, and their refusal to acknowledge the institutional and socioeconomic reasons why millions of US families live in poverty.”—Choice


Linda Fentiman's book BLAMING MOTHERSBlaming Mothers

American Law and the Risks to Children’s Health

By Linda C. Fentiman

In Blaming Mothers, Professor Fentiman explores how mothers became legal targets. She explains the psychological processes we use to confront tragic events and the unconscious race, class, and gender biases that affect our perceptions and influence the decisions of prosecutors, judges, and jurors. Fentiman examines legal actions taken against pregnant women in the name of “fetal protection” including court ordered C-sections and maintaining brain-dead pregnant women on life support to gestate a fetus, as well as charges brought against mothers who fail to protect their children from an abusive male partner. She considers the claims of physicians and policymakers that refusing to breastfeed is risky to children’s health. And she explores the legal treatment of lead-poisoned children, in which landlords and lead paint manufacturers are not held responsible for exposing children to high levels of lead, while mothers are blamed for their children’s injuries.

Blaming Mothers is a powerful call to reexamine who—and what—we consider risky to children’s health. Fentiman offers an important framework for evaluating childhood risk that, rather than scapegoating mothers, provides concrete solutions that promote the health of all of America’s children.


RESPECT YOURSELF front book cover

Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself

Latina Girls and Sexual Identity

By Lorena Garcia

While Latina girls have high teen birth rates and are at increasing risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections, their sexual lives are much more complex than the negative stereotypes of them as “helpless” or “risky” (or worse) suggest. In Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself, Lorena Garcia examines how Latina girls negotiate their emerging sexual identities and attempt to create positive sexual experiences for themselves. Through a focus on their sexual agency, Garcia demonstrates that Latina girls’ experiences with sexism, racism, homophobia and socioeconomic marginality inform how they engage and begin to rework their meanings and processes of gender and sexuality, emphasizing how Latina youth themselves understand their sexuality, particularly how they conceptualize and approach sexual safety and pleasure. At a time of controversy over the appropriate role of sex education in schools, Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself, provides a rare look and an important understanding of the sexual lives of a traditionally marginalized group.

“A groundbreaking study. . . .Garcia asks illuminating new questions that highlight how some Latina girls negotiate sexual safety and pleasure within the context of their racialized, classed, and gendered locations.”—Lourdes Torres, author of Puerto Rican Discourse: A Sociolinguistic Study of A New York Suburb



Laura Harrison's book cover

Brown Bodies, White Babies

The Politics of Cross-Racial Surrogacy

By Laura Harrison

Brown Bodies, White Babies focuses on the practice of cross-racial gestational surrogacy, in which a woman – through in-vitro fertilization using the sperm and egg of intended parents or donors – carries a pregnancy for intended parents of a different race. Focusing on the racial differences between parents and surrogates, this book is interested in how reproductive technologies intersect with race, particularly when brown bodies produce white babies. While the potential of reproductive technologies is far from pre-determined, the ways in which these technologies are currently deployed often serve the interests of dominant groups, through the creation of white, middle-class, heteronormative families.


“Laura Harrison’s book Brown Bodies, White Babies: The Politics of Cross-Racial Surrogacy provides readers with a comprehensive and insightful analysis of surrogacy using both intersectional theory and discourse analysis, before concluding with a call for activism and engagement.”—Hypatia Reviews

“[A] refreshingly new take…add[ing] complexity to the well-trod feminist discussion….”—Signs

front cover of Deomampo's book

Transnational Reproduction

Race, Kinship, and Commercial Surrogacy in India

By Daisy Deomampo

Transnational Reproduction traces the relationships among Western aspiring parents, Indian surrogates, and egg donors from around the world. In the early 2010s India was one of the top providers of surrogacy services in the world. Drawing on interviews with commissioning parents, surrogates, and egg donors as well as doctors and family members, Daisy Deomampo argues that while the surrogacy industry in India offers a clear example of “stratified reproduction”—the ways in which political, economic, and social forces structure the conditions under which women carry out physical and social reproductive labor—it also complicates that concept as the various actors in this reproductive work struggle to understand their relationships to one another.

“Accessibly written, it could be taught in undergraduate courses or modules on transnational surrogacy or assisted reproduction and social/economic inequality at lower and upper levels. The book promises to be an important resource for scholars of global markets in reproductive services.”—Medical Anthropology Quarterly


Katie Oliverio's book VULNERABILITY POLITICS cover

Vulnerability Politics

The Uses and Abuses of Precarity in Political Debate

By Katie Oliviero

Vulnerability Politics examines how twenty-first century political struggles over immigration, LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice, and police violence have created a sense of vulnerability that has an impact on culture and the law. By researching organizations like the Minutemen (civilians who monitor the US/Mexico border), the Protect Marriage Coalition (a campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California), and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (an anti-abortion movement), Katie Oliviero shows how conservative movements use the rhetoric of risk to oppose liberal policies by claiming that the nation, family, and morality are imperiled and in need of government protection.

The author argues that this sensationalism has shifted the focus away from the everyday and institutional precarities experienced by marginalized communities and instead reinforces the idea that groups only deserve social justice protections when their beliefs reflect the dominant nationalist, racial, and sexual ideals.


IS BREAST BEST? book front cover

Is Breast Best?

Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood

By Joan B. Wolf

Why has breastfeeding re-asserted itself over the last twenty years, and why are the government, the scientific and medical communities, and so many mothers so invested in the idea? In Is Breast Best? Joan B. Wolf challenges the widespread belief that breastfeeding is medically superior to bottle-feeding. Despite the fact that breastfeeding has become the ultimate expression of maternal dedication, Wolf writes, the conviction that breastfeeding provides babies unique health benefits and that formula feeding is a risky substitute is unsubstantiated by the evidence. In accessible prose, Wolf argues that a public obsession with health and what she calls “total motherhood” has made breastfeeding a cause célèbre, and that public discussions of breastfeeding say more about infatuation with personal responsibility and perfect mothering in America than they do about the concrete benefits of the breast.

“Wolf offers a powerful and important cultural critique…this is an insightful and eye-opening book that will be of interest to sociologists of gender, medical sociologists, and science studies scholars.”—Abigail C. Saguy, American Journal of Sociology

“Beautifully written, powerfully argued. . . . Challenges the science prescription that all infants must be breastfed.”—Linda Blum, author of At the Breast


IN OUR HANDS front cover

In Our Hands

The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy

By Elizabeth Palley and Corey S. Shdaimah

In In Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy, Elizabeth Palley and Corey S. Shdaimah explore the reasons behind the relative paucity of U.S. child care and child care support. They examine the history of child care advocacy and legislation in the United States, from the Child Care Development Act of the 1970s that was vetoed by Nixon through the Obama administration’s Child Care Development Block Grant. The book includes data from interviews with 23 prominent child care and early education advocates and researchers who have spent their careers seeking expansion of child care policy and funding and an examination of the legislative debates around key child care bills of the last half-century. Palley and Shdaimah analyze the special interest and niche groups that have formed around existing policy, arguing that such groups limit the possibility for debate around U.S. child care policy.

“This book provides a great overview of barriers within the political system and illustrates many of the unmet needs of families and children in the current system. The analysis of the child care movement as an effective social movement adds to the current literature and provides insights for practitioners about how to move forward.”—Affilia



Click on any of the covers to learn more about them and to add them to your NYU Press cart. Apply promocode MYBODY35 at checkout for 35% off!*

*offer good from 06/30/2019

Feature image from Pixabay user rhysara.

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