Our Bodies, Our Blog

Seize Back the Political Discourse on Life

By OBOS |

by Sheila Jasanoff

For any woman who grew up as I did in the decades of expanding women’s rights, the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization lands as a monumental act of antidemocratic backsliding. A high court of six men and three women, representing a small slice of this nation’s intellectual, moral, and gender diversity, has handed down a decision that rolls back 50 years of growing control by women over their bodies, selves, and life choices. It ignores advances in science and technology that have reshaped how we think about reproduction and the meaning of life, as well as the degree of control we feel entitled to exercise over aspects of biology that differentiate females from males. Grounding a decision in a perverse historicism—as if one can write into law attitudes toward life crafted centuries before current biological and social understandings—is a form of anti-intellectualism that has no place in democracies committed to protecting the lives and liberty of all their citizens.

That said, we who dissent from Dobbs must not fall into the traps laid by this Supreme Court and the cheering pro-life lobby by framing abortion solely as a biological choice. This is not a moment to be pressing for the right to terminate pregnancies per se, let alone for technological workarounds such as the morning after pill or medicated abortions, despite their practical appeal. We need more urgently to seize back the political discourse on life that has empowered this court to present a massively retrograde decision as if it stands on moral high ground.

The “life” the Supreme Court and its supporters presume to speak for is a life stripped of connection, purpose, and meaning. Dobbs reduces the cultural complexity of pregnancy, motherhood, and family to the right of each individual conceptus to be born alive. This reductionism flies in the face of women’s claims to equal opportunity, though they bear the greater burden of procreating and, often, of nurturing.

Rights, moreover, are not static principles, like preserved specimens pinned forever to the text of an aging parchment. Rights evolve. They are reframed in keeping with our knowledge, our capabilities, and our aspirations. It is this dynamism, the freedom to reimagine liberty and equality as knowledge advances and technologies change, that we must reclaim from Dobbs’ illiberal framing of what life truly means.

Where then to begin? Let us note, first, that Dobbs cuts against the grain of contemporary gender politics and visions of human progress in the Americas and the West. One after another socially conservative, majority Catholic country has moved in recent years to liberalize abortion laws to give more voice to women: Italy, Ireland, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile. European countries have long recognized that respect for developing fetal life need not be tied to punitive abortion laws. Germany is a case in point. Under German law, life begins at the moment of conception and the country’s Basic Law decrees that human integrity is inviolable. Nonetheless, Germany acknowledges that legal abortions are necessary to safeguard women’s health and well-being and recently eliminated a Nazi-era ban on providing information about abortion services. In the Netherlands, effective family planning and liberal abortion laws coexist with strikingly low numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

These powerful currents of liberalism demonstrate a growing unwillingness in progressive societies to let the biology of reproduction dominate women’s autonomy. They show that we can insist on modern rights: to have children we want and can care for, to not have children if that is our choice, and to takeback the night from the darkness of Dobbs through a politics that is both pro-choice and, in the fullest sense, pro-life.

Sheila Jasanoff is the Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Spreading the Word about Medication Abortion Via the Mail: An Urgent Priority for 2022

By OBOS |

By Aziza Ahmed and Timothy RB Johnson

Our Bodies Ourselves is a long-time supporter of greater access to medication abortion via the mail and outside the formal medical system. This includes greater use of “self-managed abortion with pills” (defined as accessing abortion outside of the mainstream medical system). It is exciting that we now have an effective technology for early abortion in the form of pills, and that activist networks are organizing across the country to enable more women to obtain these pills, even if they … More

An "Our Bodies Ourselves: Then & Now" 50th anniversary event in November 2019 in Newton, MAAn "Our Bodies Ourselves: Then & Now" 50th anniversary event in November 2019 in Newton, MA

Watch Our Bodies Ourselves Virtual Events!

By OBOS |

Each year, Our Bodies Ourselves participates in various events that feature or celebrate the history, legacy, and ongoing work of OBOS. This past year, due to Covid-19, the events were held virtually. While we’ve missed seeing some of you in person, we’re glad that many of the events were recorded and can now be watched from home!

Below is a list of events available to stream:

In October, OBOS co-founder Wendy Sanford published her powerful new memoir, “These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship Across Race … More

Screenshot of women in Brazil protesting for abortion rightsScreenshot of women in Brazil protesting for abortion rights

Celebrating “Nossos Corpos por Nós Mesmas” and Transnational Feminist Health!

By OBOS |

After more than two years in the making, the first volume of “Nossos Corpos por Nós Mesmas,” has arrived! The book, a Brazilian Portuguese adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” covers topics including anatomy and sexuality, birth control, abortion, body image, safer sex and violence against women. The book was translated and adapted through a joint collaboration between the Coletivo Feminista Sexualidade e Saúde (CFSS), the Research Group on Translation Studies at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the translation … More

A bottle of Descovy for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)A bottle of Descovy for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)

In the Fight Against HIV, Gendered Assumptions Have Deadly Consequences

By OBOS |

By Charlotte Babbin

In October 2019, the FDA approval of the new HIV-prevention drug Descovy was met with great excitement by doctors, HIV researchers, and many people at risk of HIV infection. Descovy functions as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), medicine taken to prevent HIV infection. The second ever drug approved for PrEP, in research trials, Descovy reduced kidney and bone health side effects.

Not everyone, however, applauded the approval of this drug. To many people’s disappointment, Descovy was not approved for use … More

Banner reading "UNITED FOR 🌢 PERIOD PARITY".Banner reading "UNITED FOR 🌢 PERIOD PARITY".

Period Poverty is a Human Rights Issue. Period.

By Guest Contributor |

by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

What is period poverty?

Let’s talk about period poverty. Period poverty occurs when menstruators cannot access the menstrual products, underwear, and pain medication they need to maintain their menstrual health due to a variety of factors, such as cost, stigma, and gender discrimination. Globally, there are 1.8 billion people who menstruate and 500 million people who do not have the ability to maintain their menstrual health.

Menstrual health is a human rights issue. All those who menstruate have the right to the knowledge, … More

Stopping Keystone: A Victory for Native Women’s Health

By Guest Contributor |

By Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

In early June, after more than ten years of conflict, the Keystone XL oil pipeline project was halted by TC Energy, the company behind the project. This is a victory for Indigenous communities and environmental activists. However, the fight for justice is not over.

The destruction of tribal lands is fueled by the assault on Indigenous peoples’ — especially indigenous women’s — bodies. While the halting of the Keystone pipeline is an important step, many challenges remain: the Murdered and Missing Women … More

Logo for Our Bodies Ourselves TodayLogo for Our Bodies Ourselves Today

Celebrate Pride Month with a #GiveOUTDay donation to Our Bodies Ourselves Today!

By Guest Contributor |

by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone 

Our Bodies Ourselves Today, a new online platform featuring up-to-date information about health, sexuality, and well-being, is set to launch in 2022. The platform is being created by the Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights at Suffolk University in partnership with Our Bodies Ourselves. The post below was written by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone, an intern on the project.

Our Bodies Ourselves Today is running a #GiveOUTDay campaign throughout Pride Month! The OBOS Today platform will be a global, world-class resource … More

close up of antidepressant pillsclose up of antidepressant pills

When Antidepressants Leave Lasting Damage: Living with Post-SSRI/SNRI Sexual Dysfunction

By Guest Contributor |

by Emily Grey

My clitoris is now no more than an inert and sensation-less nub of flesh. I am unable to feel attraction, arousal or orgasm.… The effects of losing my sexuality have been absolutely devastating to my relationships and mental health. I have been robbed of an essential aspect of my humanity.” – Emily, age 24, PSSD 2 years

Sexuality is an integral part of our lives, central to our identity, our quality of life, and the ways we connect with other human beings. So what … More

addyi prescriptionaddyi prescription

False or Misleading Claims: More Problems with Addyi

By Guest Contributor |

by Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot

The so-called “pink Viagra” drug Addyi (flibanserin) is in the news again. This time, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer, is being called out by the FDA for making “false or misleading claims about the risks associated with Addyi.”

OBOS has previously written about how the health risks of the drug outweigh its benefits. The FDA approved Addyi in 2015, after Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer, engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign designed to convince people that it was only fair … More