Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Against this backdrop comes Melissa Murray, Katherine Shaw, and Reva Siegel’s edited collection of essays, Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories. The collection could not be timelier. Their volume contains a series of essays that “bring together important cases involving the state regulation of sex, childbearing, and parenting.”
The two goals of the collection are to expand the contours of the field of reproductive rights and justice and to decenter the role of courts in that field. The editors’ pathbreaking volume cements a definition of reproductive rights and justice that is both more coherent and more nuanced than many earlier definitions, which often limited discussions of reproductive rights
and justice to contraception and abortion. The volume makes significant headway in illustrating the many different ways that law affects reproductive rights and justice.
Broadening readers’ understandings about what constitutes reproductive rights and justice has several benefits. It illuminates the many different ways that law and society construct and constrain what parenthood—and particularly motherhood—entails. Unpacking how law and society have made motherhood carry certain roles and expectations clarifies the stakes of
traditional reproductive rights and justice issues. For example, if becoming a parent, and in particular becoming a mother, entails assuming a particular identity, then the autonomy and liberty interests at stake in parentage decisions are much greater than just bodily autonomy.
The collection of essays also offers a lens through which to understand myriad legal issues. The volume makes clear that many different topics— ranging from workplace protections, to labor law, to disability law, to criminal procedure, to insurance law—implicate reproductive rights and justice in addition to decisions about whether to criminalize abortion or contraception. That has the salutary benefit of unearthing the complex web of laws and social conventions that influence parentage decisions. Understanding all of the influences on parentage decisions would also make it easier to construct a system that is supportive of families.
By broadening the definition of reproductive rights and justice to include the many different ways that law and society shape individuals’ decisions about whether to have children, the volume also pushes its readers to think about additional ways in which law and society influence decisions about sex and parentage.