Call For Abstracts: Undue Burdens: Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy in the Long Eighteenth Centur

deadline for submissions: 
August 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Fiona Brideoake, Ula Lukszo Klein, and Nicole Garret
contact email: 

Undue Burdens: Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy in the Long Eighteenth Century 

Eds. Fiona Brideoake, Ula Lukszo Klein, and Nicole Garret  


In the wake of the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v Wade, feminists around the globe but especially in the United States are asked to consider the right to abortion, as well as access to reproductive healthcare and contraceptives. Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health (2022) requires a response from eighteenth-century scholars for what it asserts about the period and what it ignores. The eighteenth century is the century deemed by many scholars, mostly famously Michel Foucault, to be one of the genesis of the nation-state explicitly concerned with the disciplining of bodies, where reproduction, nursing, and the upbringing of children became matters of governmental, medical, and social discourses. The eighteenth century also figures as an important precedent for Justice Alito, whose majority opinion points to an “unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion” (Dobbs 25) to justify his decision to overturn the decision that made abortion a constitutional right based on the right to privacy. His decision is explicit that pregnancy and abortion are not guaranteed under the right to privacy—that they are, in fact, matters of national interest rather than personal choices. Alito’s egregious disregard for actual historical fact and his selective sourcing of historical materials demands a response from scholars of women’s history and feminist writers working in this time period. 


This collection seeks essays that explore the social figuration and political genesis of reproduction as a monitored and legislated concept crucial to the maintaining of the body politic—a body politic that was often thought of in Europe and European colonial cultures as white, Christian, and heteronormative. This collection seeks to both critically explore these topics while also actively pushing against them by considering how poor, queer, non-European, non-white, Indigenous, and enslaved womxn understood and fought for their own bodily autonomy. We solicit essays that consider these issues from an intersectional, feminist perspective, and that discuss texts, events, people, and places in the transatlantic, eighteenth-century context. We additionally welcome essays that overtly discuss the Dobbs decision and other contemporary debates on reproductive rights in the 21st century through an eighteenth-century lens. We aim to create a collection that will give a greater understanding of how eighteenth-century contexts inform today’s debate and what we can learn from them.  


Suggested topics include but are not limited to the following:  


  • Abortion 

  • Pregnancy 

  • Child loss/miscarriage/stillbirth 

  • Infanticide 

  • Legislating reproductive rights 

  • Slavery, reproduction/rape/pregnancy, 13th amendment 

  • Medical framing of abortion, (un)wanted pregnancies, connections to orgasm, gender binaries, and the sexed body 

  • Abortifacients in the eighteenth century  

  • Reproduction and the body politic; lineage; creation of nuclear family as crucial to a healthy body politic/nation; connection between the political and the domestic 

  • Dangerous/high risk/deathly pregnancies & risk to mother’s health (ex. Ectopic pregnancy; dangers of childbirth) 

  • Anxieties about fertility/infertility/passing on diseases 

  • Inability to carry pregnancy to term 

  • Contraceptive methods 

  • Older mothers; “geriatric mothers”; pregnancy and advanced maternal age 

  • Death of mother and/or infant in childbirth and father’s decision/choice of “who to save” 

  • Role of surgeons and male midwives 

  • Infertility/inability to have children  

  • Gender nonconforming people and pregnancy/birth/loss 

  • Male infertility/sterility 

  • Men responding to child loss, miscarriage, etc. 

  • Forced Sterilization 

  • Replacement theories 

  • Connections between 18th century discourses and today’s moment 


We already have the interest of at least one university press, and we are currently working to contact other presses as well. 


Those interested in being a part of this collection should send a 200-300 word abstract, along with a brief biographical statement, to: 

Ula Klein,  and/or Nicole Garrett, and/or Fiona Brideoake, 


Deadline: August 15, 2023