The debate over abortion has only intensified in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped away constitutional protections for abortion, returning the issue to states. Since the ruling, 12 states have banned or severely restricted abortion care, and at least 10 other states have bans pending or on hold.
In response, the Office of the Provost at Washington University in St. Louis is offering a new interdisciplinary course this fall that aims to provide students with a nuanced understanding of what led to the ruling and implications as the nation moves forward in a post-Roe world.
Over the course of the semester, students in the 1.5 credit hour “Politics of Reproduction” course (I50 INTER D 310) will explore topics including reproductive health, law, disability, economics, film, politics, reproductive justice and religion through a series of in-person events and public webinars featuring leading scholars from almost every school as well as guest speakers. There also will be options to complete work asynchronously.
In designing the course, Rebecca Wanzo, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in Arts & Sciences, said she wanted to create a course that appealed to students from every discipline and provided them with a variety of different knowledge bases they need to think about this issue more holistically.
“I want people to recognize how the debates around abortion touch pretty much every aspect of life, and that’s one of the things that interdisciplinary thinking helps you do,” Wanzo said.
“We are fortunate to have some leading authorities around these issues on campus, scholars such as Marie Griffith, PhD, author of the book ‘Moral Combat;’ Susan Appleton, JD, a nationally recognized expert in family law and feminist legal theory; and Zakiya Luna, PhD, an influential reproductive justice thought leader.”
The course launched in July with a public event in which Tessa Madden, MD, and Dineo Khabele, MD, from the School of Medicine discussed what reproductive health looks like post-Dobbs. The event was recorded for students to watch asynchronously. Among additional speakers are:
- Anca Parvulescu, PhD, Rachel Brown, PhD and Shanti Parikh, PhD, in Arts & Sciences, and Mytheli Sreenivas, PhD, at Ohio State University, on abortion rights in other countries;
- Jessica Levy, PhD, at the Brown School, on public health, maternity and poverty; and
- Diana O’Brien, PhD, in Arts & Sciences, on legislative politics and abortion.
Bringing together these diverse, internationally renowned scholars in one course is a unique opportunity for students.
“‘Politics of Reproduction’ is meant to be an exploratory course that gives people time to think through issues in a way that might be challenging for them or out of their comfort zone,” Wanzo said.