Teaching the History and Conversations around Reproductive Rights

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Teaching about reproductive rights can encapsulate a large number of topics, from sex education to access to contraception, to abortion, to maternal healthcare. And these are not topics that need to be reserved for health curricula. They are relevant when discussing public policy, the Supreme Court, and women’s rights and history more broadly. 

The curriculum resources below will help introduce these concepts in a way that allows students to engage with public policy debates and current events in order to form and defend their own views. 


  1. Animated videos
    1. Supreme Court Cases 
      1. Roe v Wade: Learn about the case that originally established the constitutional right to abortion. 
      2. Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt: This case, which resulted from a Texas law that placed restrictions on abortion providers and clinics, decided that because the law made abortion harder to obtain, but not safer, that it violated the undue burden standard set in Planned Parenthood v Casey.  
      3. Buck v Bell: Eugenicists in the early 1900s supported sterilization in people who they deemed intellectually disabled. This case upheld a Virginia law that allowed doctors to sterilize patients against their will. 
      4. Griswold v Connecticut: This case established the rights of married women to use contraceptives, which the court decided was rooted in the right to privacy. 
    2. Gender Equality Series: Explore a collection of videos on different topics related to gender equality around the world. 
    3. Thompson’s “A Defense of Abortion”: Look at abortion from a political philosophy perspective. In her famous paper, Thompson argues that the question of whether a fetus has a right to life doesn’t actually settle the debate over whether abortion is permissible. 
    4. The Non-Identity Problem: Explore a related ethical dilemma with The Non-Identity Problem. In general, the non-identity problem asks us to consider how our actions affect future individuals, but rests on conflicting moral institutions that must be reconciled. 
  2. Task forces: 
    1. Redesigning Sex Education: Students act as the US Dept of Education to design national standards for Sex Education. This is a great activity to accompany a lesson on reproductive rights because it allows students to think critically about how the educational system can help protect and promote those rights. 
    2. Create Your own Healthcare System: This task force can be easily modified to directly respond to issues related to reproductive rights because access to affordable healthcare has a major impact on the choices that people make about when and whether to have children. 
    3. Gendered Division of Labor App: Women are expected to take on a disproportionate share of the unpaid labor or raising children, cooking, cleaning, and other household responsibilities. In this task force, students think about designing an app that would make that system more fair. 
  3. Student Articles 
    1. Check out some articles written by former students on women’s rights and reproductive issues. Some that are particularly relevant include: 
      1. The Injustices of Restricting Abortion 
      2. A Reprehensible New Abortion Law Passes in Thennessee 
      3. New Court Ruling Threatens the Availability of Planned Parenthood Services. 
      4. Why We Need to Protect Planned Parenthood 
      5. The Case of Brett Kavanaugh vs Women’s Rights 
  4. Activities 
    1. Have students write a letter to one of their local or national representatives, advocating for them to take action on an issue related to reproductive rights. They can ask their representative to support or reject a current piece of legislation or take another action. Here’s a great template for crafting a letter to an elected official. 
    2. Students can write an op-ed like the ones linked above on a social issue or current event related to reproductive rights. Resources and assignment print outs are available here. If you email student articles to [email protected] we will publish them on students4sc.org
  5. Take it a step further
    1. This guided reading activity on the Non-identity Problem includes discussion questions for students to pause and reflect as they consider the implications of this famous philosophical dilemma. The original article used to create this reading can be found here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nonidentity-problem/