SWS Endorses National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Statement in Support of Reproductive Justice

On May 28, 2019, SWS Council voted to endorse the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Statement in Support of Reproductive Justice. Read the text below.

National Women’s Studies Association Statement in Support of Reproductive Justice 

May 22, 2019

The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) is a professional association of feminist scholars committed to social justice and academic inquiry. We strongly condemn the current attacks on reproductive choice and add our voice to the chorus of opposition. Autonomy over our bodies, including our reproductive choices, is fundamental. NWSA members have upheld this principle in our scholarship and practice for over four decades. We reiterate it today in these urgent times.

The new spate of laws limiting the right to abortion that is sweeping the country is alarming. In the past few months Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri have passed restrictive legislation with other states poised to pass similar laws. In most of these cases, state legislators have made abortion illegal when a so-called “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which is usually around six weeks; in reality, what is being measured is fetal cardiac pole activity, since a six-week fetus does not have a heart.  Alabama’s law goes further and prohibits all abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life. The aim of these laws is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The new laws are just one manifestation of a very long history of controlling women’s reproduction that includes forcing enslaved Black women to reproduce for economic profit; encouraging white women to reproduce to prevent “race suicide”; enacting forced sterilization on populations (often majority people of color) deemed unfit; outlawing abortion and birth control; reducing access to health care for poor pregnant mothers or neonatal babies; drug testing pregnant women and taking their babies if they test positive; forcing incarcerated people to labor and give birth in chains; and limiting welfare and child care assistance to impoverished women.  
The women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s saw reproductive rights as inextricably linked to liberation and the full personhood of women, fighting on multiple fronts to ensure that women have freedom to control their reproduction, including abortion rights, an end to forced sterilization, access to birth control and the expansion of social and economic support for poor mothers and children. More recently, “reproductive justice” has been elaborated by Black women and other women of color as a broad framework that names these historic struggles and offers a human rights basis for the fight, saying that every individual must have the right to decide if and when they will have a child and the conditions under which they will give birth; decide if they will not have a child and their options for preventing or ending a pregnancy; parent the children they already have with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without fear of violence from individuals or the government; and, have bodily autonomy free from all forms of reproductive oppression.
Since the passage of Roe v. Wade, there has been a concerted effort to undermine the substance of the Supreme Court decision. In 1977, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion and made it less accessible to poor women. In addition, states have imposed prohibitive regulations on abortion providers, imposed a “global gag rule” that denies US federal funding to any overseas organization that provides or even counsels women on abortion, and instituted myriad other measures.
The current spate of laws affects all people who can get pregnant, but hits poor women, women of color, gender-variant, and trans individuals the hardest since they often have fewer options. NWSA stands firm in its support of reproductive justice and condemns any attempt to curtail or control the reproductive decisions of anyone.

SIGNED by the Executive Committee (EC) with affiliations*

Premilla Nadasen, President, Barnard College
Barbara Ransby, Past President, University of Illinois at Chicago
Diane Harriford, Vice President, Vassar College
Patti Duncan, Secretary, Oregon State University
Karma Chávez, Treasurer, The University of Texas at Austin

(*affiliations for identification purposes only)

Click HERE to go directly to the National Women’s Studies Association Statement in Support of Reproductive Justice

Congratulations to the SWS 2019 Feminist Activism Award Winner: Amy Blackstone


The SWS Feminist Activism Award, established in 1995, is presented annually to an SWS member who has notably and consistently used sociology to improve conditions for women in society. The award honors outstanding feminist advocacy efforts that embody the goal of service to women and that have identifiably improved women’s lives. This year’s Feminist Activism Award Subcommittee included Victoria Reyes (Subcommittee Chair), LaToya Council, Mindy Fried, and Emmanuel David. The Subcommittee decided that Amy Blackstone will be the SWS 2019 Feminist Activism Award Winner. As part of this award, Amy will deliver her Feminist Activism Talk at the SWS Summer Meeting in 2020 to take place in San Francisco, California and will participate in a campus visit during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Amy Blackstone is a professor in Sociology and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, where she studies childlessness and the childfree choice, workplace harassment, and civic engagement. She is the author of Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence (Dutton, 2019). Professor Blackstone’s research has been featured by various media outlets including the Katie show, public radio, New York Times,Washington PostBuzzFeedUSA Today, and Huffington Post. Her work has been published in journals such as Gender & Society,American Sociological Review, Law & Society ReviewSociology Compass, and others.

Heather McLaughlin, the central nominator of Amy Blackstone, shared the following:

“Beyond her scholarship and public sociology, Amy makes a difference in the lives of women in other ways: as a mentor, teacher, administrator, and community member. I first met Amy in 2004 when she was an Assistant Professor and I was an undergraduate student at the University of Maine. I would soon learn that Amy is a brilliant sociologist and a powerful activist, but she was important to me even before I knew these things about her. She was warm, kind, enthusiastic, and patient—qualities that allowed me to open up about my concerns and struggles as a first-generation college student. Amy was incredibly generous with her time and invested in me in a way that no other professor had. She was (and continues to be) there to listen, to brainstorm, and to offer expertise. Simply put, Amy’s mentorship has made me a better teacher, researcher, feminist, and human. Amy instilled a passion for social science research and activism, but her mentorship also gave me the confidence to believe in myself and pursue a career in academia.”

Of Amy’s commitment to gender equality and work toward that end, collaborator and current director of the Rising Tide Center Susan Gardner shared: Dr. Blackstone’s scholarship reflects her values as an academic citizen, colleague, and collaborator. She is devoted to creating change through the work she does and inspires excellence among all with whom she works. As a long-term collaborator of Dr. Blackstone’s, I have found her ability to work across disciplinary boundaries and navigate differences in disciplinary methodologies to be another one of her scholarly gifts. Most important, Dr. Blackstone uses the work she creates in the larger public sphere to foment change and make a difference. To me, this is the pinnacle of academic excellence.

Of Amy’s commitment to feminist social change in her community, Mabel Wadsworth Center Director Andrea Irwin said: Amy Blackstone has been an exemplary supporter, friend, and champion of the Center, lending her valuable expertise, energy, time and connections to ensure our success in meeting our mission. Independent abortion providers like Mabel Wadsworth Center depend on the support of volunteers and community members to keep our doors open. While non-profit fund and resource development can be intimidating for many, Amy enthusiastically welcomed the challenge, eagerly accompanying staff on key donor meetings. Amy has leveraged her local reputation and profile to bring awareness to the Center and invite others to learn more about our work by speaking publicly about the Center or co-hosting events. Most important, while her role at the University and national reputation as a feminist thought leader grows, she continues to hold space for community organizations like ours that are on the ground working to improve the lives of women and girls. Amy’s dedication to feminist social change shines through in everything she does and we are so grateful for her continued support.

We hope you will join us in congratulating Amy and that you will make plans to join us for the 2019 SWS Awards Reception to be held on Sunday, August 11, 2019 starting at 6:30 pm at the Hilton Midtown, New York, NY. More details will come soon regarding Summer 2019 Meeting Registration.