From no say over our own bodies, to rights to contraception and abortion, to Dobbs v. Jackson and the on-going fight for reproductive autonomy.
Know Your Rights
Coming in 2023
In Know Your Rights, the story of an American woman’s right to control her body begins with enslaved women having no rights to their bodies, Indigenous women systematically hunted down and slaughtered to prevent them from procreating, and early white women’s rights activists advocating for autonomy.
Women took care of each other’s reproductive health needs until the mid-1800s, when the medical profession took over women’s reproductive health, criminalizing the popular practices of midwifery, birth control, and “restoring the menses.”
By the late 1800s, US governmental policies and laws were devised to control who could and could not bear children, targeting poor women and women of color through involuntary sterilization programs while encouraging affluent white women to procreate, and denying all women legal birth control and abortion.
It wasn’t until 1965 that the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that states must allow married couples to use contraceptives. This decision became the foundation of women’s rights to birth control for single women in ’72, to abortion in ’73, to contraception for 16-year-olds and older in ’78, and even same-sex marriage in 2015.
Despite these gains, the June 2022 Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade, setting reproductive rights back 50 years. Now at least 20 states are banning or restricting contraception and abortion, while another 20 are protecting and expanding women’s access to reproductive health care, with the rest of the states unpredictable. Undeterred by obstacles, women continue to fight for reproductive justice.
A Latina woman Speaks OUT, sharing the story of how the US government sterilization campaign from 1930-1970 in Puerto Rico, the longest and largest in the world, impacted her family. Sterilization by tubal ligation was offered for free, but without informed consent. Women were subjected to the experimental trial for “The Pill” without knowing the risk to their health. Hundreds of thousands of women were deprived of the right to bear children because they were judged “unfit” to reproduce.
Then and Now
Women spanning three generations tell intimate stories about the personal impact of reproductive rights in their lives, Then and Now, over the past 80 years.
In Birth Control, women share their experiences with expanding choices in their lives as contraception changed over the past 50 years. The first hormonal-based contraceptive, “The Pill,” newly available in the mid-1960s, led to the wide range of contraceptive methods available today, changed society’s attitudes toward sex, and transformed women’s lives.
In Abortion, women speak frankly about what it was like to discover their contraception had failed, and face having an abortion before and after it was legal. Some endured harmful, brutal procedures; others were treated with respect in safe, clean medical offices. None regret the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
In Family Planning, women talk about balancing family and career before and after effective contraception became available in the mid-20th century. The older generation, with limited options, focused on family and children. Starting in the 1970s, some women chose to build a career before having children, others to work at home while raising a family, or live a full life without children. Through their eyes we see that to be truly free, women must have reproductive freedom.