Mass Incarceration and Reproductive Justice In a Post Roe v. Wade Landscape

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Brittany Theodore
Amy Lind


Record ID: 261

Program Affiliation: Supported by the Taft Research Center

Student Major: Sociology

Project Advisor: Amy Lind

Abstract: The outcome of the work will examine the ways in which incarceration in the United States serves as a tool of reproductive control. In the United States, criminal prosecutions of pregnant women began to rise sharply in the latter half of the 1980s as a result of cultural and legal debates about abortion rights, restrictive drug control laws in the so-called "war on drugs," and a political shift toward stigmatizing urban poverty. Since that time, the United States has had the highest rate of incarceration, with women making up roughly 10% of those who are incarcerated today. Nevertheless, this percentage has been rising recently. With the 2022 overturn of the historic Roe v. Wade (1973) ruling that protected the right to access abortion legally all across the country, there are concerns that women who have abortions will be arrested and sentenced to incarceration at even greater rates. I contend that restrictive laws pertaining to fetal protection and the related prison industrial complex are used, particularly against low-income women of color, as methods of reproductive control. In addition, I argue that pregnant women's status as full constitutional persons is stripped away by the legal distinction between fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, which furthers repressive reproductive control over women's bodies.


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Category: Race, Reproduction, Global Culture, & Diversity