Graduate Project


Reproductive Criminalization: Understanding an Increasingly Wicked Problem Public Deposited

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  • Pregnant people have been criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes even after Roe v Wade established some rights to reproductive autonomy. Fetal personhood theory, changing societal conceptions of motherhood, and existing racial and class-based biases have fueled an increasing and complex patchwork of punitive policies and interpretations. This study analyzed 35 well-documented cases of modern pregnancy criminalization to categorize this complicated phenomenon, seeking to clarify potential policy areas that may help address this issue more broadly. This study resulted in four categories of actions that have led to arrests and forced interventions into pregnant people’s lives: refusing medical care, substance use, personal injury, and self-managed abortion. In the shadow of the Dobbs decision, this categorization allows for clarification of which areas of policy may require targeted advocacy for the development of true reproductive justice. In addition, this study investigated several common factors in pregnancy criminalization- such as racial inequality, poverty rates, drug criminalization, etc- to determine risk factors and high-risk states.
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