- Dr. Carole Joffe, a scholar of reproductive health, teaches reproductive coercion.
- She said she used to tell her students about China’s one-child policy as an example.
- But now she almost always uses the US to illustrate an example of a lack of bodily autonomy.
In the decades Dr. Carole Joffe, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, spent teaching students about reproductive health, she’s developed her own strategies to help students grasp the material.
For years, Joffe said she invoked China’s one-child policy, using the country as her go-to example to illustrate what a lack of bodily autonomy looks like.
“We used to tell our students about China,” she told Insider. “When they had the one-child policy, which they no longer have, we used to tell our shocked students that there are community workers who go around and tabulate when a woman’s last period was to make sure she wasn’t pregnant.”
If a woman was pregnant, Joffe said, she’d be forced to get an abortion.
“That for us was the absolute prime example of reproductive coercion. A rare example where people are being forced to have abortions against their will,” she said.
But in recent years, as restrictive abortion bills have been emerging all over the country, Joffe, a reproductive rights advocate, has begun instead to talk about and emphasize reproductive healthcare in the United States.
The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, dubbed 2021 as the “worst year for abortion rights in almost half a century.”
“Buoyed by the Supreme Court’s 6–3 anti-abortion majority, state legislators raced to enact abortion restrictions,” the institute said in its report. “As of December 31, 108 abortion restrictions had been enacted in 19 states. This is the highest total in any year since abortion rights were affirmed by the US Supreme Court in 1973.”
The attack on reproductive rights has continued into 2022, with several other states introducing enacting their own restrictive anti-abortion laws. In just the first third of the year, 536 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 42 states, data from the Guttmacher Institute says. As of April 15, 28 have been passed in at least one chamber in 11 states.
On Monday, Politico published a leaked draft opinion in which Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito called the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortions nationwide “egregiously wrong from the start.”
Abortion will remain legal in the United States until the court hands down a final verdict, which could come as early as June when the bench decides the verdict for another abortion case. But the draft itself was enough to put reproductive rights activists and doctors who perform abortions on edge.
Joffe said she fears that if Roe is overturned, people who have miscarriages in the US will be accused of having an abortion.
“If I had gone to the hospital, and I was devastated like many people are when they have miscarriages, in addition to my grief, the ER staff or the OB/GYN staff said, ‘Oh, are you sure you didn’t cause this yourself? Are you sure you didn’t take abortion pills?'”
“I can’t imagine anything more barbaric,” Joffe said.
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