Reproductive rights are at a critical and historical juncture in the United States. In early December 2021, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that pitted Mississippi state officials against the state’s last remaining abortion clinic. The case centres on Mississippi’s intention to outlaw all abortions at or after 15 weeks, but has given rise to concerns that the Court’s new conservative majority might be willing to revisit the landmark Roe versus Wade ruling of 1973.

The controversy over reproductive rights has shaped the political, religious, and legal landscape of the United States in the 20th century and has constantly revealed deeper patterns of racial, ethnic, gendered, and sexual oppression. The public debate over reproductive rights has gained new momentum since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and reflects and perpetuates many aspects of the increasing polarization in contemporary US political culture. As part of our Urgent Past Seminar Series, HOTCUS aims to provide a forum to contextualize the rekindled debate about reproductive rights and promote historical research that may help us to understand antecedents, causes, meanings, and implications. 

To this end, we invite submissions from our community in the UK and beyond for a HOTCUS Seminar on the Urgent Past, which will take place online, via Zoom, on 11 February 2022, 15.00-17.00, GMT. Submissions should propose a 5-minute contribution to the discussion from members researching historical topics relevant to the current events surrounding the state and future of reproductive rights in the United States.

Topics may include, but are not limited to: 

  • The legal history of reproductive rights
  • Reproductive rights, health, and sexuality
  • US religions and reproductive rights
  • Reproductive rights, race, and ethnicity
  • Reproductive rights and policing
  • Reproductive rights and American Imperialism
  • Reproductive rights and the Culture Wars

If you would like to contribute, please email uta.balbier@history.ox.ac.uk  with a 150-word outline of your topic by 31 January 2022, 17.00 GMT. Please also recommend a related text for our community reading list.

We particularly invite contributions from scholars from an ethnic minority background who have been traditionally underrepresented at HOTCUS events, as well as postgraduate researchers and those working beyond the academy. Please direct general questions or queries to Uta Balbier, uta.balbier@history.ox.ac.uk