Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
Reproductive Rights: Who Decides?
Author: Vicki Oransky Wittenstein
Published January 1st, 2016 by Twenty-First Century Books
Summary: Throughout history, men and women have always found ways to control reproduction. In some ancient societies, people turned to herbs or traditional rituals. Others turned to methods that are still used in the twenty-first century, such as abstinence, condoms, and abortions.
Legislating access to birth control, sex education, and abortion is also not new. In 1873 the US Congress made it illegal to mail “obscene, lewd, or lascivious materials”—including any object designed for contraception or to induce abortion. In some states in the 1900s, it was illegal for Americans to possess, sell, advertise, or even speak about methods of controlling pregnancy.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Margaret Sanger, Mary Ware Dennett, and others began to defy these laws and advocate for the legalization of birth control and for better women’s reproductive healthcare. By 1960 doctors had developed the Pill, but it wasn’t until 1972 that all US citizens had legal access to birth control. And in the landmark decision Roe v Wade (1973), the US Supreme Court ruled that women had a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
Disputes over contraception, sex education, and abortion continue to roil the nation, leading to controversial legal and political rulings and occasionally violence. As society changes—and as new reproductive technologies expand the possibilities for controlling and initiating pregnancy—Americans will continue to debate reproductive rights for all.
About the Author: Before becoming an author, VICKI ORANKSY WITTENSTEIN prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant district attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. She earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Vicki has written a number of science articles and books for the juvenile market, including Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths, which won the 2011 Science Communication Award from the American Institute of Physics. Her book For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation was a Junior Literary Guild selection. Vicki and her husband live in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her website at vickiwittenstein.com.
Kellee’s Review: Wittenstein obviously did her research. Her text is filled to the brim with facts and unbiased information of all sides of the reproductive rights debate. I loved learning about the history of reproductive rights as well as the more details than I knew about the present situation and even information about possibilities in the future. I think Wittenstein did a good job with including primary sources, text features, and some narratives to help move the text along as well.
Ricki’s Review: This is a very comprehensive book that was interesting to read from the beginning to the end! I enjoyed how Wittenstein presented factual information in ways that will engage readers. For instance, she describes the various ways that people of different cultures and time periods believe(d) they can (or could) avoid pregnancy. For instance, you might walk three times around a tree where a pregnant wolf has urinated. This sounds like it would be very difficult to do! This is a great book that students will enjoy. It is a controversial, so I’d probably check with students that they feel comfortable with the content before they sign it out. I don’t believe in censorship, and instead, I believe in allowing students to self-censor when they aren’t comfortable with content. This book is very important for classrooms because it ensures that kids are not in the dark about reproductive issues.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text is such an amazing resource. It will definitely be an asset either as a textbook or resource in a college or high school class that is touching on or researching reproductive rights, women’s rights, or legal proceedings. It is such a wonderful starting point for learning about the history and progression of reproductive rights.
Discussion Questions: What legal case was the biggest turning point for reproductive rights?; How has women’s rights progressed overtime?
Author Guest Post answering “What inspired you to write Reproductive Rights?” and “What was your research process for the book?”
There were so many inspirations for this book, so I will try to limit myself to a few! First, for as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about women’s rights. When I was in college, I co-organized one of the first domestic violence conferences in Philadelphia. Later, as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, I spoke to many women who had been assaulted by their partners. That first-hand experience led me to chair the board of an organization that sheltered women victims. In addition, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s during a time when women were just beginning to enter traditionally all-male professions, such as law and medicine. A good part of this new freedom was due to the availability of the Pill and the legality of contraception and abortion. These reproductive rights helped countless women believe they could achieve advanced degrees and build careers.
More recently, worries about setting the historical record straight sparked my interest in writing about this topic. Over the last decade or so, people have learned much of their worldwide news from short media sound bites flashed across the Internet. For many teens, these bits and pieces about new reproductive rights legislation or video clips of rallies against or for abortion are heard without an historical context. Without history, how can we expect young people to navigate through the minefield of these complex and controversial issues, understand what’s at stake with the hundreds of new laws that limit access to contraception and abortion, and form their own opinions?
For thousands of years—from ancient civilizations, through Colonial America, the development of the Pill, the legalization of contraception and abortion, and the brave new world of reproductive technologies—men and women have always found ways to control reproduction. By viewing reproductive rights through an historical lens, teens can learn that controlling procreation is a human need that is not new. This rich history can inform debate and analysis of availability of, access to, and funding for contraception, sex education, and abortion. Today’s teens are the ones who will be most affected by the laws enacted by our federal and state legislators and argued before our courts. And as new reproductive technologies expand the possibilities for controlling and initiating pregnancy, teens are the future adults who will define what it means to be a parent and under what circumstances. So, in many ways this book was inspired by my desire to lay a roadmap for the next generation of parents.
Most of my research was accomplished inside the New York City Public Library, a building filled with astounding resources and fabulous librarians. I also accessed many scholarly and legal articles online through university research collections, as well as letters, diaries, etc. Often just one article or the mention of an event or name led to the next kernel of information, as I worked to fit all the pieces into the puzzle. In many instances, my research uncovered names and events I had never heard of before. For example, I was astounded to learn about two largely unsung heroines: Mary Ware Dennett, who wrote one of the first pamphlets for young people about sex and paved the way for gutting the laws banning the discussion and use of contraception; and Katharine McCormick, the wealthy suffragist and biologist who funded and oversaw the initial development of the Pill. Another big help was the continual flow of media attention that reproductive rights issues provoke. Newspaper articles about state laws and court cases restricting access to women’s clinics led me to explore and understand the lay of the land today. I read lots of articles about the ways in which laws were restricting access to clinics by persuading women not to have abortions and forcing the closure of clinics.
Unfortunately, the media attention surrounding abortion has overshadowed what it means to be in favor of reproductive rights, as most reproductive health care involves cancer screenings, pregnancy prevention and care, and family planning—services mostly unrelated to abortion. I hope the current presidential debates and the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice shine a spotlight on reproductive rights, and that educators will continue to spur critical discussion of these important issues.
Thank you, Kellee and Ricki, for hosting me today!
We Flagged: “In the United States of the twenty-first century, reproductive health is hotly debated. For example, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for infertile couples raise new ethical and moral issues…”
Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction texts about women’s rights
Mon, Feb 15
Tues, Feb 16
The Book Monsters
Wed, Feb 17
Thurs, Feb 18
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Feb 19
The Nonfiction Detectives
Sat, Feb 20
Ms. Yingling Reads
Mon, Feb 22
The Launch Pad
Tues, Feb 23
Through the Tollbooth
Wed, Feb 24
Thurs, Feb 25
The Pirate Tree
Fri, Feb 26
Teach Mentor Texts
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**