Contextualization Sterilization: A Discussion of Reproductive Autonomy

1st Place, People's Choice, Spring 2021

By: Fatima Benitez, Lily Emerson, Annie Moskofian, Kayleigh Ruller

Coercive sterilization may sound like a Twilight Zone practice of the past, but it’s a present day problem evolved from eugenic roots and systemic racism.

  1. Read the Guide!
  2. Then Listen on SoundCloud

Listeners will be presented with historical context, case studies, expert interviews, science and data to think about the topic of sterilization as more than a surgical procedure. We use various instances of forced sterilization to highlight the persistent abuse of women’s bodily autonomy, particularly women of color’s bodies and individuals in the disability community. The goal of this episode is to “contextualize sterilization,” meaning we explore cases of sterilization from the past, such as the Buck v Bell case which legalized involuntary sterilization on folks deemed “feebleminded” and intersects with ableist issues. We also explore present instances of nonconsensual sterilizations, which includes coercive sterilization by racist doctors, severe medical misinformation, and varied, inequitable access to contraceptive options. Our overarching goal is to discuss how authorities in innumerable powerful institutions strip women of bodily autonomy through manipulation, misinformation, and structural barriers. Forced sterilizations are a continual threat to cultural values, human rights for people of color and disabled communities, and reveal an antiquated, racist, and exploitative element of reproductive healthcare that has yet to be addressed. Our interactive guidebook paired alongside the podcast will urge readers to question what reproductive freedom and reproductive care looks like to them. Simultaneously, they will confront how their identities inform their reproductive choices, reframing reproductive freedom not only as a women’s issue, but as a human rights issue. Our hope is to leave readers or listeners with a tangible idea of what consent and equitable, comprehensive reproductive care looks like, and how to support victims of forced sterilization in seeking justice.

Wow! This podcast is like straight off of NPR or something! SO intimidated! The sensitivity, the depth, and the complexity of the science and social issues presented here is amazing; great use of interviews, and other audio material. A superb piece of work! – Prof. Kelty

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