A well-researched review of the last few decades of the reproductive and sexual-rights struggle for women.

The Means of Reproduction is a sweeping, well-researched review of the last few decades of the reproductive and sexual-rights struggle for women, with a focus on the developing world, particularly as it has been affected by American politics. Goldberg begins with the 1960s, when male politicians zeroed in on the threat of over-population to justify the need for contraception rather than attending to overall health issues for women. Using document research and first-person interviews, she demonstrates how a handful of researchers, activists, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fought to define access to contraception and abortion as a basic human right.

Just as policymakers began to understand the connection between Third World development and women’s access to contraception and abortion, the Bush administration reinstated the global gag rule, limiting funds to NGOs if they provided access to abortion. Goldberg’s greatest achievements in this book are the many intimate examples she provides of how conservative evangelical policy, like the gag rule, has affected women in the developing world, often with frustrating results. When Nicaragua, for example, voted to ban all abortions, even those necessary to save the mother’s life, the resulting deaths of both women and their unborn children underscored the absurdity of the claim that this type of legislation is “pro-life.” Goldberg’s work will be invaluable in making the case that policies which support a woman’s agency will inevitably result in stronger and more vital communities and nations, something that is a true affirmation of life, not simply lip service.

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