Both Sides: Reproductive Rights and Justice Beyond 'Roe v. Wade'

Felicia Kornbluh, LAPA Fellow; University of Vermont

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 4:30pm
300 Wallace Hall
Event Category: 

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Précis:  "This paper will share early findings from my current project, a history of reproductive politics that starts with a pair of neighbors on the eighth floor of 800 West End Avenue, New York City, Apartments A and B.  The neighbors were my mother, ashkenazic Jewish feminist attorney Beatrice K. Braun, and the Puerto Rican feminist doctor and public health leader Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias.  I argue, first, that what we generally know as “reproductive rights” is an historical construction that has omitted parts of the reproductive rights agendas that existed in the past.  Second, I argue that an ahistorical approach to constitutional law has left scholars arguing about Roe v. Wade and missing much of the history of claims for reproductive rights that pre- and post-dated Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Roe.  Third, I join a small group of colleagues in calling for a robustly historical, socio-legal, study of U.S. Constitutional law – surprisingly elusive especially in the study of gender and reproduction – including by weaving together the history of developments in the Supreme Court with those in state legislatures, state and lower federal courts, and administrative agencies.  Among other insights we gain from such a grounded study of reproductive rights, I argue that we gain an appreciation of the arguments and strategies that worked to enhance reproductive rights before Roe, and the continuous controversies that prove there never was a quiet time in this history."

Felicia Kornbluh
2019-2020 LAPA Fellow
University of Vermont

Professor Kornbluh is an advocate and writer, as well as a scholar and teacher, who has served on the Vermont Commission on Women and as president of United Academics, the UVM faculty union (AFT/AAUP).  Kornbluh’s roots lie in advocacy for women and children.  In high school, she was Senior Editor of Children’s Express news service, and after college served as a staff member at the U.S. House Committee on Children, Youth, and Families and two Washington, D.C.-based think tanks.  She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and is Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America-Vermont Action Fund.  Kornbluh’s research and writing concern the history of social and economic policy in the modern United States, and the role of grassroots social movements in making policy change.  Her first book, The Battle for Welfare Rights, focused on a movement of low-income women and their allies in New York City and nationally.  Her second, Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective (co-authored with Gwendolyn Mink) chronicled the history of the 1996 welfare reform.  Professor Kornbluh received her BA from Harvard-Radcliffe College and her Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is now at work on two projects, a collection of her own essays about grassroots movements and public policy and a monograph on reproductive rights and reproductive justice entitled “How to Fight a War on Women.”