My major interests are the history of women and medicine, the history of reproductive rights, and the history of sexuality. My research traces women’s health and reproductive care through the twentieth century. My first book, Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare, examines the role which birth control, sterilization, and abortion played in public health and welfare policies between the 1920s and the 1970s.
In 2002, I shared my research on the history of eugenic sterilization in North Carolina with a journalist from the Winston Salem Journal. North Carolina's sterilization program ran from the 1920s to the 1970s and led to the sterilization of more than 7000 people. The paper ran a week-long series of articles on the subject (http://www.journalnow.com/specialreports/againsttheirwill/) which ultimately resulted in an official apology by the governor of North Carolina. In 2007, I designed an exhibit on North Carolina’s eugenic sterilization program which opened that year in the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. In 2014, North Carolina began to pay restitution to sterilization victims – the first state in the country to take such a step. You can follow some of the stories here:
My second book, Abortion After Roe, which won the William H. Welch Medal for the best book in the history of medicine by the American Association for the History of Medicine, traces the history of abortion since legalization. Abortion is--and always has been--an arena for contesting power relations between women and men. When in 1973 the Supreme Court made the procedure legal throughout the United States, it seemed that women were at last able to make decisions about their own bodies. In the four decades that followed, however, abortion became ever more politicized and stigmatized. Abortion after Roe chronicles and analyzes what the new legal status and changing political environment have meant for abortion providers and their patients. It sheds light on the little-studied experience of performing and receiving abortion care from the 1970s--a period of optimism--to the rise of the antiabortion movement and the escalation of antiabortion tactics in the 1980s to the 1990s and beyond, when violent attacks on clinics and abortion providers led to a new articulation of abortion care as moral work. More than four decades after the legalization of abortion, the abortion provider community has powerfully asserted that abortion care is a moral good.
For the past decades, I have worked with abortion providers to preserve the history of legal abortion in the United States and to use historical analysis and insights to help preserve access to abortion care. My current work explores ethical frameworks in defense of the right to decide over life and death in abortion care, neonatology, and at the end of life.
With Kim Mutcherson from the Rutgers Law School at Camden, I am co-directing the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis Life and Death Seminar from 2019-2021. https://rcha.rutgers.edu/current-project/project-description-2019-2021
In my spare time, I volunteer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where I am a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Counsel for Quality and the Ethics Committee and work on improving end of life conversations between clinicians, patients, and caregivers.
- 512:104 US Development II
- 512:391 History of Medicine in Film
- 512:225 Sexuality in America
- Health, Culture and Society
- History of Medical Ethics
- Colloquium: Women&Gender: Sexuality
- Colloquium: History of Medicine
- Readings: Women's and Gender History
- Abortion Since Roe (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press: 2015).
- “Re-Assessing Eugenic Sterilization: The Case of North Carolina,” in A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era, ed. by Paul Lombardo (University of Indiana Press, 2010).
- "Birth Control in Public Health," in Silent Victories: The History and Practice of Public Health in the Twentieth Century America, ed. by John Ward and Christian Warren, (Oxford University Press, 2007): 279-303.
- “From the Footnotes to the Headlines: Sterilization Apologies and Their Lessons,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC 3, no. 3 (Sept. 2006).
- Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare in the Twentieth Century, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
- “Between Choice and Coercion: Women and the Politics of Sterilization,” Journal of Women’s History 13, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 132-56.
- American Historical Association
- Organization of American Historians
- American Association for the History of Medicine
- National Abortion Federation
- Berkshire Conference for the History of Women
- American Society for Bioethics and Humanities