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Unit information: Reproduction Law, Ethics, and Policy in 2016/17

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Unit name Reproduction Law, Ethics, and Policy
Unit code LAWD30068
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Sheelagh McGuinness
Open unit status Open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to give students the opportunity to gain knowledge and critical understanding of the relationship between law and reproduction in the United Kingdom and internationally. The unit will be grounded in a socio-legal approach; this allows students to think critically and analytically about the historical, cultural, and ethical underpinnings of regulation of reproduction. At the start of the unit the students are introduced to sexual and reproductive health policy and specifically arguments based in reproductive justice. From there we move on to consider specific issues in how we regulate sexual and reproductive health. Although the focus will be on reproduction the unit will give students the opportunity to think critically about the interplay between public and private choices and specifically the place of law in regulating intimate activities. Students will spend much of their time critically assessing the concepts of privacy, liberty, and justice as applied in the sphere of reproduction.

Topics may include:

  • Introduction to Reproductive Justice
  • Critical Race Feminism
  • Feminist Disability Theory
  • Reproduction and Embodiment
  • Deficiencies in Reproductive Choice Frameworks
  • Sex, Bodies, Categorisation
  • Gendered Harms
  • Advocacy & the Reproductive Justice Framework
  • Reproductive Donation
  • Preventing Pregnancy
  • Sex, Intimacy, Contraception, & Disability
  • Sterilisation & Disability
  • The Pregnant Body
  • Options in Childbirth
  • Who should be a parent?
  • Mental Health and Reproduction
  • Reproductive Loss

Intended learning outcomes

Students who have successfully passed this unit will be able to

  • critically assess theoretical frameworks that inform our understanding of the relationship between law and reproduction
  • engage in reasoned debates (both written and oral) and be able to defend their position when challenged with alternative or opposing arguments
  • apply different theoretical frameworks to novel issues
  • summarise and criticise the way in which society regulates reproductive choices and experiences.

Teaching details

10 lectures and 10 two-hour seminars

Assessment Details

Formative assessment:

1 x 1000 word essay

Students are also required to give a poster presentation

Summative assessment:

2 x 2000 word essay (each contributing 50% of the mark)

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit. Oral communication will be assessed formatively in the presentation.

Reading and References

  • Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the meaning of Liberty (Vintage Books, 1997)
  • Bridgman & Millns, eds, Law and Body Politics: Regulating the Female Body (1995)
  • Cook et al (eds) Abortion law in transnational perspective: cases and controversies (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)
  • Fineman The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies (Routledge; 1995)
  • Garland-Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature (Columbia University Press, 1997)
  • Murray & Luker, Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice (Foundation Press, 2015)
  • Silliman et al, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (South End Press, 2004)
  • Smart Feminism and the Power of Law (Routledge, 1989)
  • Smith & Deazley (eds) The Legal, Medical and Cultural Regulation of the Body (Ashgate, Surrey; 2008)