The books that expanded my thinking about bodily autonomy: A reproductive justice reading list by Gina Rushton

I reported on reproductive rights for a few years before I began to read deeply on the history of the fights for bodily autonomy in Australia and abroad. These are the books I’d recommend if you’re looking to learn more on this topic.

Radical Reproductive Justice by Edited by Loretta J. Ross, Lynn Roberts, Erika Derkas, Whitney Peoples, and Pamela Bridgewater Toure

If I could recommend one book, it’s this one. It expanded my entire understanding of what reproductive rights could become and how so many social justice fights were intertwined. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to learn more. 

“Reproductive justice is not difficult to understand,” the authors write in their introduction. “It is both a theoretical paradigm shift and a model for activist organising centring three interconnected human rights values: the right not to have children using safe birth control, abortion, or abstinence; the right to have children under the conditions we choose; and the right to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments.”

The Seed: Infertility Is a Feminist Issue by Alexandra Kimball

This book is essential reading — we will all either be personally impacted or know someone who will be impacted by infertility and this book brilliantly argues that this topic should no longer be neglected by feminists. Kimball writes, resolving infertility is left by feminism to “passive faith” rather than political or material action. “In the language of hope, infertility is not a matter between women and the world, but one woman and fate,” she writes. 

The Turnaway Study By Diana Greene Foster 

This book is based on Greene Foster’s landmark 10-year study in which she and her team of psychologists, epidemiologists, physicians, demographers, economists, and public health researchers conducted and analyzed almost eight thousand interviews of women who were either allowed or denied the abortion they wanted in the United States. Some gave birth after they were denied an abortion because they had been just over a clinic’s gestational limit and the rest were just under that limit and received an abortion.

“When asked why they want to end a pregnancy, women give specific and personal reasons,” Greene writes. “And their fears are borne out in the experiences of women who carry unwanted pregnancies to term.” 

This book is such a feat and validated the experiences of millions of people.

The Family Roe by Joshua Prager

We often only know her by her famous but boring pseudonym “Jane Roe” but the woman whose unwanted pregnancy changed reproductive rights forever was an incredibly complex character. This book isn’t about one woman, it is 50 years of American history in which the battlelines for the political tussles over bodily autonomy were drawn. 

Talkin’ Up to the White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson

This classic covers a lot more than reproductive justice but I’m including it because it documents the reckless and coercive use of Depo Provera in Indigenous communities and the horrific consequences of fetishising white motherhood in a colony. It makes crystal clear the battles white feminists in Australia prioritised and neglected.

“Motherhood as an institution has made some classes of white women prisoners of their bodies,” Moreton-Robinson writes. “Radical feminists have failed to take account of that for other women, such as Indigenous women in Australia, motherhood meant having their children forcibly removed from their care.”

Womb by Leah Hazard 

This book tells so many stories by focusing on one organ. Through her research, NHS midwife Hazard explains the scientific and medical history (and possible future) of the uterus. Along the way she finds the prejudices that have contributed to the reproductive health disparities we have today. 

Tissue by Madison Griffiths 

A deeply personal exploration of abortion. It looks at the contradictions of choice and shines a light on a common but stigmatised procedure with empathy and curiosity. 

Killing the Black Body by Dorothy E. Roberts 

This groundbreaking 1997 book is still relevant today. It draws those incredibly important lines between reproductive autonomy, racism and the degradation of Black motherhood. From racist images of “welfare queens” and “crack babies” to the coerced sterilisation well into the 20th century, this book is crucial reading. 

Abortion Care is Health Care by Barbara Baird

Are you wondering what the future of abortion care looks like in Australia now the procedure has been decriminalised everywhere? Wondering why people are still paying private providers for abortion? This is the book for you, you nerd! The fight isn’t over for equitable access of abortion and Baird, who is a giant in this space, maps how we got here and where to next.


Gina Rushton is the host of new podcast, The Dilemma, exploring one of life’s most pressing question: Should I become a parent? Proudly supported by the Victorian Women’s Trust. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Gina Rushton is an author, journalist and podcaster who has written for BuzzFeed NewsThe GuardianThe MonthlyThe Saturday PaperCrikey, and The Australian. She is a Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists media excellence award winner and Australian Human Rights Commission media award finalist for her coverage of reproductive rights.

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