Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights

Description of the course

This course will provide you with an overview of the field of reproductive health and rights and help you to develop the skills required to analyze, evaluate, and advocate for evidence-based reproductive health policy. We will focus primarily on the aspects of reproductive health that relate to fertility control: unintended pregnancy, contraception, and abortion. The struggle to gain control over fertility has a controversial history, both in the United States and around the world, and is no less divisive in today’s political and social climate.

Like many other policy areas you will encounter during your time at the LBJ School, the reproductive health and rights policies we see today have been shaped by multiple disciplinary perspectives and a wide variety of players and stakeholders. To become adept at evaluating, designing, and arguing for responsible and just reproductive health policy, you must build a strong foundation of knowledge and develop the skills necessary to apply and communicate that knowledge. This class is designed to help you to do both those things.

By the end of the semester you will have had the opportunity to:

1) Understand the evolution of family planning programs and develop an appreciation of the inequities ingrained in historical trajectory of reproductive health policies.

2) Get comfortable with the biological processes underpinning human capacity for reproduction and fertility control.

3) Become familiar with the most important research in key reproductive health and rights topic areas and develop in-depth knowledge of your particular area of interest.

4) Critique and synthesize evidence to evaluate reproductive health policies and apply your knowledge to make policy recommendations.

5) Practice writing effectively on a reproductive health issue, both for a policy audience and for the general public.

6) Master the art of testimony––i.e. presenting oral arguments in favor of or against a policy under legislative or judicial consideration––to design and deliver a concise, compelling, and scientifically supported case for your point of view.

The course format will be weekly seminars involving a mix of mini-lectures, discussion of assigned readings, policy analysis exercises, and presentations from guest speakers.

Requirements and expectations

Student progress will be evaluated on the basis of performance along four criteria: (1) participation in class discussion and observations on weekly reading throughout the semester; (2) a 1000-word max. policy memo on an assigned reproductive health topic; (3) an 800-word max. op-ed on a reproductive health topic of the student’s choice; and (4) a 5-minute oral testimony on a topic of the student’s choice.

The policy memo will be a mid-term assignment. The op-ed and testimony will be a final assignment and may both involve the same topic or each a different topic.


Students are not expected to purchase any texts for this course. All assigned readings will be provided via Canvas. Students should expect to complete approximately 40 pages of reading per week. The reading load for this course is intentionally moderate: the emphasis is on thoughtful reflection rather than simply making it to the end of an assigned number of pages. Other media, including videos and websites may also be assigned.

Instruction Mode