Date of Completion

Spring 5-7-2021

Thesis Advisor(s)

Shareen Hertel

Honors Major

Political Science


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Other Political Science | Political Theory | United States History | Women's Studies


Medical policies have resulted in violence that has a formal role in regulating the reproductive rights of women of African descent in the United States from the Jim Crow era (circa 1965) to present day (2021), resulting in significantly racialized reproductive health disparities regardless of social or economic influences. This thesis explores why reproductive violence against African-American women persists, regardless of women’s own class and educational background. I have focused on the potential impact of two structural components that I hypothesized contributed to the perpetuation of reproductive violence against Black women and persistent health disparities. The two factors explored in the thesis are: 1) the lack of Black representation in this field of medicine and 2) the devaluing of Black pain. My project employs a historical lens to analyze whether reproductive violence has varied over time both in nature (i.e., severity of violence, and mechanisms of bias and manipulation) and in outcome (i.e., changes in the demographic characteristics of women affected). Such an analysis of reproductive rights has contributed to my contemporary understanding of the roots of ongoing disparities in reproductive health outcomes—particularly racial bias and discrimination (perpetuated by physicians, teachers, and healthcare practitioners), both of which stem from structural racism.