HomeReproductive Rights Research Guide

Reproductive Rights Research Guide

Getting Started:

Begin your research with topics related to reproductive experiences and rights with this guide.

Be sure to contact the Women’s Museum of California in advance of your visit to allow staff enough time to retrieve any items that may be stored offsite and/or have access restrictions.  Please contact collections@womensmuseumca.org with any other research-related inquiries.  

General Archival Collection:

  • San Diego Chapter of NOW

[For more information, contact the Collections Manager at collections@womensmuseumca.org]

At the grassroots arm of the women’s movement, the National Organization for Women is dedicated to its multi-issue and multi-strategy approach to women’s rights. The San Diego Chapter of Now was founded in 1970 and revitalized in 2015. This collection shares the history of this chapter including a digital recording of a reproductive rights rally, pamphlets for reproductive and LGBT rights, and resources from Planned Parenthood of San Diego.


The WomanCare Clinics & Planned Parenthood collection contains materials related to anti-abortion and pro-choice activist efforts from 1986 to 1997. The majority of the collection consists of photographs and other visual materials such as film, negatives, slides, pamphlets, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. A large part of the collection was perhaps acquired from police security records and Planned Parenthood in Riverside and San Diego. These resources portray the development of the feminist health movement in California from the 1970s to the late 1990s.


The collection contains pro-choice materials from local and national organizations including NARAL, CARAL, Catholics for a Free Choice, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Planned Parenthood, The Interfaith Alliance, NOW, and People for the American Way—as well as materials not originating from any specific organization but that nonetheless tie in to the abortion rights movement. The collection also holds a selection of black and white photos from Struggle to Be Borne, a book and exhibit with Fran Adler and Kira Corser in 1987 about the importance of access to prenatal care.

  • Rebecca “Becky” Grothaus Papers

[For more information, contact the Collections Manager at collections@womensmuseumca.org]

Rebecca Grothaus was the founding president of San Diego’s first disabled women’s group, Resource and Education For the Equality of Women with Disabilities (RENEWD). Championed issues about how disabled women are not met with the same opportunities as able-bodied women in the organization even though they face the same issues such as reproductive freedom.

  • Lucy Killea Collection

[For more information, contact the Collections Manager at collections@womensmuseumca.org]

As a former San Diego council member and California Senator, the Dr. Lucy Killea papers include a large collection of personal and professional records, campaign records, photographs, and legislative works documenting election campaign strategies and more broadly, women's political history. Despite being a devout catholic, Senator Killea supported reproductive rights including access to abortion and thus denied communion. This collection holds materials dealing with Killea’s Pro-Choice support.

President of San Diego NOW in 1979, Hrycyszyn advocated for women to gain equality and to demand rights based on women’s humanity. The collection documents national and local politics around sexual and reproductive justice.

Since the 1980s, Sharon Parker has volunteered with various organizations in support of the LGBT community. Parker was also founding co-president of the San Diego Chapter of GLAAD, and served as secretary and co-president for five years with Qualcomm’s Lambda Pride employee LGBT group. The Sharon Parker collection consists of one box of 18 separate folders. Each folder contains several materials of similar genre, such as poetry, periodicals, or pamphlets for various organizations. Although each folder addresses different issues related to women, the theme of the collection is feminism and women’s liberation.

General Library Collection:

The museum houses a variety of books and essays related to reproductive health and justice ranging from menopause to abortion. Below is a list of what the library currently holds.

  • Arditti, Rita. Test Tube Women. United Kingdom: Thorsons, 1984.

  • Bonavoglia, Angela. The Choices we made: 25 women and men speak out about abortion. New York: Random House, 1991.

  • Brodie, Janet Farrell. Contraception and abortion in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Cornell, 1997.

  • Chalker, Rebecca and Carol Downer. A woman’s book of choices: abortion, menstrual extraction, RU-846. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1992.

  • Corea, Gena. The Mother Machine: Reproductive Technologies from Artificial Insemination to Artificial Wombs. New York: HarperCollins, 1986.

  • Davis, Susan E. Women Under Attack: Victories, Backlash and the Fight for Reproductive Freedom. Boston: South End Press, 1999.

  • Denney, Myron. A Matter of Choice: An Essential Guide to Every Aspect of Abortion. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.

  • Ebon, Martin. Everywoman’s Guide to Abortion. New York: Universe Books, 1971.

  • Ferraro, Barbara, Patricia Hussey and Jane O’Reilly. No Turning Back: Two Nun’s Battle with the Vatican over Women’s Right to Choose. New York: Poseidon Press, 1990.

  • Gordon, Linda. Woman’s body, woman’s right: A social history of birth control in America. New York: Penguin, 1977.

  • Hardin, Garrett. Mandatory Motherhood: The true meaning of “Right to Life”. Boston: Beacon, 1974.

  • Hilgers, Thomas. Abortion and Social Justice. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1972.

  • Lader, Lawrence. Abortion II: Making the Revolution. Boston: Beacon, 1974.

  • Lader, Lawrence. Foolproof birth control: male and female sterilization. Boston: Beacon, 1972.

  • Luker, Kristin. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. California: University of California Press, 1985.

  • Maxtone-Graham, Katrina. Pregnant by mistake: the stories of seventeen women. New York: Liveright, 1973.

  • McDonnell, Kathleen. Not an easy choice: a feminist re-examines abortion. Boston: South End Press, 1984.

  • Merton, Andrew H. Enemies of Choice: The right-to-life movement and its threat to abortion. Boston: Beacon, 1982.

  • Messer, Ellen and Kathryn E. May. Back Rooms: Voices from the Illegal abortion era. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

  • Olasky, Marvin and William J. Bennett. Abortion Rites: A social history of abortion in America. Crossway Books, 1992.

  • Radi, Shirey L. Over our live bodies: preserving choice in America. Dallas: Steve Davis Publishing, 1989.

  • Robinson, William J. Practical Prevenception or the technique of birth control. New York: Eugenics Publishing Co., 1929, 1933.

  • Solinger, Rickie. Wake up little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v Wade. United Kingdom: Routledge, 1994.

  • Weddington, Sarah. A Question of Choice. United Kingdom: Penguin, 1993.

  • Welton, K.B. Abortion is not a sin: a new-age look at an age-old problem. California: Pandit Press, 1987.

  • Wicklund, Susan. This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor. New York: Public Affairs, 2007.

Suggested Reading List Outside of the Library:


  • Erdrich, Louise. Future Home of the Living God. New York: HarperCollins2017.

  • McKay, Ami. The Birth House. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.

  • Zumas, Leni. Red Clocks. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018.


  • Bender, Karen. Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion. California: MacAdam/Cage, 2007.

  • Bonavoglia, Angela. The Choices We Made: Twenty-Five Women and Mean Speak. New York: Random House, 1992.

  • Chesler, Ellen. Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

  • Eig, Jonathan. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015.

  • Fessler, Ann. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.

  • Grigg-Spall, Holly. Sweetening the Pill. United Kingdom: Zero Books, 2013.

  • Grimes, David and Brandon, Linda. Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed. North Carolina: Daymark Publishing, 2014.

  • Goldberg, Michelle. The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.

  • Joffe, Carole. Doctors of Conscience. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995.

  • Kaplan, Laura. The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service. Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.

  • Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. California: University of California Press, 1985.

  • Messer, Ellen. Back Rooms: Voices from the Illegal Abortion Era. New York: Prometheus Books, 1994.

  • Nelson, Jennifer. Women of Color and the reproductive rights movement. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

  • Pollitt, Katha. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. New York: Picador, 2014.

  • Reagan, Leslie. When Abortion was a crime. California: University of California Press, 1998.

  • Roberts, Dorothy. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning. New York: Vintage, 1997.

  • Solinger, Ricke. Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe V. Wade. Great Britain: Routledge,1992

  • Watson, Kate. Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Ordinary Abortion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.


  • 1 in 3: These Are Our Stories. Washington DC: Advocates for Youth, 2013.

  • Cockrill, Kate. Untold Stories: Life, Love, and Reproduction. California: CreateSpace, 2014.

  • Norman, Abby. Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain. New York: Nation Books, 2018.

  • Parker, Willie. Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. New York: Atria, 2017.

  • Underwood, Kassi. May Cause Love: An Unexpected Journey of Enlight. New York: HarperCollins, 2017.

  • Wicklund, Susan. This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor. New York: Public Affairs, 2007.

Other Resources of Interest:

Politics & Law:

Health & Medicine:

Narratives & Essays:


  • Porter, Dawn, dir. Trapped. 2016.
  • Whitten, Diana, dir. Vessel. 2014.
  • Grady, Rachel and Heidi Ewing, dir. 12th & Delaware. 2010.
  • Shane, Martha and Lana Wilson, dir. After Tiller. 2013.
  • Fadiman, Dorothy, dir. When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories. 1992.
  • Fadiman, Dorothy, dir. Motherhood By Choice, Not Chance. 2004.
  • Tamarkin, Civia, dir. Birthright: A War Story. 2017.
  • Tajima-Pena, Renee, dir. No Mas Bebes. 2016.
  • Harman, Toni, dir. Freedom for Birth. 2012.
  • Davis, Brenda, dir. Sister. 2012.
  • Turlington, Christy, dir. No Woman, No Cry. 2010.

Reproductive Rights (abortion, birth control, and eugenics):

United States:

1821: America’s first statutory abortion regulation enacted in Connecticut in order to protect women from abortion inducement through poison administered after the 4th month of pregnancy.

1850sThe leader of the newly formed American Medical Association (AMA) campaigned to outlaw abortion.

  • AMA sought to “professionalize” medicine therefore using legislation to put midwives, herbalists, and healers out of business. Second, some members of the government felt that outlawing contraceptives would lead to a decrease in immoral activity.

1873: The Comstock Act made it illegal to send anything related to birth control or abortion through the mail.

  • Protestant leaders feared losing control of the government to Catholic immigrants. Protestant women were having far fewer children than their Catholic counterparts. This alarmed some legislators and led to the passage of laws outlawing contraceptives and abortion. Forty states and territories passed anti-abortion laws between 1860 and 1880. By 1899, contraceptives and abortion were illegal nationwide.
  • Madame Restell performed abortions until 1878 when she was indicted for violating the Comstock Act.

1916:  As a nurse, Margaret Sanger witnessed firsthand the desperation and determination of women to control their fertility at any cost. Sanger along with her sister Ethel Byrne and fellow activist Fania Mindell open up a birth control clinic in Brooklyn. The police raid the clinic and shut it down. All three women were charged with crimes related to sharing birth control information.

1918-1968: Ruth Barnett performed abortions between 1918 and 1968. Enforcement of abortion laws increased in the 1950s resulting in the incarceration of Barnett in 1954, 1956, and 1968.

1921: Margaret Sanger finds the American Birth Control League, which evolves into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

1927: Buck v. Bell: The Supreme Court upheld a statute instituting compulsory sterilization of the unfit "for the protection and health of the state."

1965: Griswold v. Connecticut: A Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Reversed by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

1966: The National Organization of Women is found.

1967: Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion followed by Hawaii, New York, Washington, and California.

1970: Family Planning Services and Population Research Act enabled millions of low-income women and sexually active adolescents to gain access to needed contraceptive services

1972: Eisenstadt v. Baird: A Massachusetts law criminalizing the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried persons for the purpose of preventing pregnancy violated the right to equal protection.

1973: Roe v. Wade: Texas law making it a crime to assist a woman to get an abortion violated her due process rights.

1976: Hyde Amendment: legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.

1977: Rosie Jimenez, also known as Rosaura Jimenez, is the first woman known to have died due to an illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment was passed. Jimenez died at age 27 in from an illegal abortion in McAllen, Texas.

1989: In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the supreme court affirms the right of states to deny public funding for abortions and to prohibit public hospitals from performing abortions.

  • NOW organizes 30,000 person demonstration for reproductive rights in DC.

1992: Planned Parenthood v. Casey: A Pennsylvania law that required spousal awareness prior to obtaining an abortion was invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment because it created an undue burden on married women seeking an abortion. Requirements for parental consent, informed consent, and 24-hour waiting period were constitutionally valid regulations.

1993: Freedom of Choice Act: declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child; terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or terminate a pregnancy after viability when necessary to protect her life or her health.

1993-1994: Dr. David Gunn becomes the first known doctor killed because he performs abortions. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act is signed into law making it a federal crime to intimidate, injure or interfere with someone trying to provide or obtain reproductive health services.

2004: More than half a million people marched in Washington in support of reproductive and women’s rights. The demonstrators protested George W. Bush administration policies on women’s health, including his stance on funding international family planning and a law he signed banning “partial-birth” abortions.

2016: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: United States Supreme Court case that ruled Texas cannot place restrictions on the delivery of abortion services that create an undue burden for women seeking an abortion.

Reproductive Rights in California:

1909: Driven by the desire to apply science to social problems, California passed the third sterilization bill in the nation.

1921: California had accounted for 80% of the sterilizations nationwide. There were about 20,000 forced sterilizations in California between 1909 and 1963. [Cohen, Elizabeth; Bonifield, John (March 2012). "California's dark legacy of forced sterilizations"CNN.]

1967: Abortion is classified a felony in 49 states and washington DC. Dr. Leon Belous is convicted for referring a woman to an illegal abortionist-- a case leading to 1969 California Supreme Court decision in favor of the right to choose abortion.

1973-1976: Madrigal v. QuilliganWorking-class Mexican-origin women had been coerced into postpartum tubal ligations minutes or hours after undergoing cesarean deliveries.

  • The plaintiffs charged that their civil and constitutional rights to bear children had been violated, and that between 1971 and 1974 they had been victims of unwanted operations.

1979: Assemblyman Art Torres, chairman of the Health Committee, introduced a bill to the legislature to repeal the state’s sterilization law.

1993: ACCESS was founded by clinic escorts who witnessed the many barriers women were facing – especially young or poor women – to actually obtain an abortion. The vision for ACCESS was not only to provide information and practical support on all aspects of reproductive health, but to build a community actively working to meet the real needs of women.

1996: The California Supreme Court rules that a 1987 law requiring women under 18 to obtain parental consent or judicial bypass for an abortion violates the California Constitutional right to privacy.

2004: Federal Judge Phyllis Hamilton strikes down the Partial-Birth abortion Ban Act on the grounds of unconstitutionally vague language, undue burden on the woman, and the lack of a provision protecting the woman’s health only life.

2005: California became one of the first states to prohibit the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery, and recovery after childbirth.

2012: California has taken another step forward to protect the health of incarcerated women this time by prohibiting shackling throughout pregnancy.

2013: California Law adds Nurse Practitioners, midwives, physician assistants as abortion providers

2016: California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act went into effect. This means that all licensed crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in California will have to post signage that helps a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy know all of her options for getting the information she needs.

Reproductive Rights in San Diego:

1963: Planned Parenthood began its work in San Diego as an informational booth in Balboa Park founded by an Episcopal reverend. There are now 12 health centers in San Diego County and serve about 100,000 people each year.


  • The San Diego Chapter of NOW is founded by Lillian Poltere, Eleanor Bevege, Helen and Bill Hawkins and a new revitalized chapter started in 2015.
  • Women in San Diego had limited access to abortion services through the California Therapeutic Abortion Act of 1967.


  • Bishop Leo T. Maher excommunicated individuals who publicly admitted being a member of NOW or supported a woman’s right to choose abortion.
  • Anne Radlow organized 20 catholic NOW members who all attended a Sunday Mass wearing Pro-Choice buttons and attempted to receive holy communion.
  • WomanCare and Planned Parenthood of San Diego were targeted for threats from the anti-abortion supporters after Roe v. Wade passed.


  • San Diego WomanCare and the Birth Control Institute reported escalating harassment at their clinics.
  • Both clinics were invaded by anti-choice activists resulting in the Patient Escort Program.
  • As the reproductive choice movement was under attack nationally, the Birth Control Institute is under attack by arson.
  • The Back Alley Abortion Rally is organized as a reminder of the increased mortality and morbidity rates when safe, legal abortion is inaccessible.
  • Crisis Pregnancy Centers are growing by providing inaccurate medical information in regards to abortion.


  • San Diego women and men participate in the March for Reproductive Rights in Los Angeles.
  • The Pregnancy Privacy Rights Organization is established when Pamela Rae Stewart is arrested for fetal neglect. NOW calls for greater access to prenatal care and the protection of woman from government persecution.
  • Now leaders oppose a law for minors that requires them to identify and obtain permission from parents for abortion services, as it leads to unsafe abortions.
  • “Pledge-a-picket” organized to protect against members of Operation Rescue at WomanCare Clinic. Money raised is used for low-income women to access abortion services.


  • Pro-Choice march & rally organized.
  • Candlelight memorial for Dr. Gunn by San Diego Pro-Choice community.
  • Bubble ordinance established protecting women visiting clinic form protestors.
  • NOW members picketed outside St. Brigid’s Church as Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry spoke inside.
  • Memorial service held by NOW in Hillcrest for those killed and wounded in the Brookline Massacre.