I began writing this blog post a couple of weeks prior to the opening of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in March, Boston Lyric Opera’s third production of the Season, opening. Since then, Emerson College, where I attend graduate school, has come under fire after several unidentified students posted a list of names of students who violated the sexual misconduct policy. As I’m writing this today, the New York Times published an article about Swarthmore College fraternity members historically and presently committing acts of sexual violence that have been repeatedly ignored by the administration.
Since Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, abortion and contraception access have remained politically, religiously, and emotionally charged issues. Though the reproductive rights of women are not specifically addressed in the U.S. Constitution, through critical case decisions the Supreme Court has created legal precedents that define how reproductive rights function in our society today. These rights could include an individual’s right to plan a family, terminate a pregnancy, use contraceptives, learn about sex education in public schools, or access reproductive health services—an extensive list that goes far beyond abortion and contraception access alone. However, these two crucial and controversial aspects of reproductive health can serve as benchmarks for how things have—or have not—changed since 1985.