Abstract: Reproductive Justice for All?

Hello, everyone! My name is Gowri Buddiga, and I am a self-designed Comparative Social Policy major at the College. My Honors research in Interdisciplinary Studies will combine the fields of public policy, racial history, and gender studies.

White supremacy is a type of oppression that rides on the control of colored bodies. While white privilege exists in all corners of the globe, white supremacy in the United States, Australia, and Canada is the result of settler colonialism. Settler colonialism is a term used to describe practices of colonialism in which white settlers displace indigenous populations and forcibly migrate other populations to serve their own interests.

The most egregious manifestation of white supremacy is in white, patriarchal control over women of color’s sexual agency and reproductive freedom, which is perhaps the most intimate facet of bodily autonomy. Contraceptives offer a unique window into reproductive justice agendas; while contraceptives are broadly known today as a symbol of female reproductive and bodily agency, contraceptive practices – particularly sterilization – have also been used to control the bodily sovereignty of women of color throughout history.

Through my honors research, I will answer the question of how the legacy of settler colonialism intersects with the 21st century context of reproductive justice through a comparative analysis of contraceptive policy in the United States, Australia, and Canada. I chose these countries specifically because of shared characteristics aplenty. These countries are advanced, liberal, federalist democracies. They have a fraught history of how their respective settler colonialist populations have treated indigenous peoples; in addition, the United States has an additional history of economic reliance on the slave labor of forced migrants, the descendants of whom make up a significant minority of the American population.

In addition, there is no concept of traditional post-colonialism in these three countries, since white settlers and their descendants make up the population majorities of these three countries and tend to hold the most economic and social power. After each one of these countries gained “independence” from the United Kingdom, oppression of indigenous populations persists to this day. Anti-Black racism remains a powerful force of oppression in the United States. Reproduction is a near-ubiquitous facet of human experience, so it makes a particularly useful lens to examine how racist ideas play out in public policy. The comparative methodology will offer ample opportunity to study how patterns in history lead to parallels in policy and will additionally offer explanation of differences and outcomes.

The strength and uniqueness of my potential honors research project is in its ambition to combine three types of literatures. Settler colonialist literature tends to focus on theory and history, while reproductive justice literature focuses on how movements are organized, and comparative policy analysis literature tends to shed light on the inner workings and decisions of institutions. By bridging methods of policy analysis with theoretical frameworks and historical contextualization, my final honors project will shed new light on social justice movements more broadly.