The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study opened a new exhibit Monday on the history of abortion in the United States in the decades after the Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Plans for the exhibit, titled “The Era of Roe: The Past, Present and Future of Abortion in America,” were altered this year in the wake of the controversial overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, which protected the constitutional right to abortion — through its June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
For the past two years, the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library had worked to prepare an exhibit honoring the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2023. Before the court’s decision in Dobbs, the library had planned to present its “extensive collections documenting the nation’s long and contentious fight for women’s reproductive rights.”
Mary R. Ziegler ’04, exhibit curator and historian of reproductive health at the University of California, Davis School of Law, wrote in an emailed statement that despite the Court’s reversal of Roe Ultimately, the intended purpose of the exhibition remains the same.
“We had planned the exhibit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Roe and to consider what Roe meant, broadly, to the ongoing struggles over reproduction in America,” Zielger wrote. “Now Roe is obviously no more, at least as a matter of black letter law.”
“We decided to turn around by looking back at the era that Roe had defined and considering whether or even when it had ended,” he added. “But the purpose of the exhibition, to bring light rather than heat, and to invite viewers to meet people whose lives had been intimately touched by abortion, did not change.”
Ziegler also wrote that Roe’s flip reinforced the importance of creating the exhibit.
“If anything, in a world where abortion may once again be a crime, it seemed even more important to hear the voices on the issue of abortion that we don’t always give our attention,” he wrote.
The Schlesinger Library exhibit includes a variety of items related to women’s reproductive rights over the past century, including political buttons, postcards, letters, artwork, and images of prominent figures.
The exhibit will be on display at the Schlesinger Library through March 4, 2023. The Radcliffe Institute also plans to hold a conference on the exhibit and the state of abortion in America in January 2023.
—You can contact writer Caroline E. Curran at [email protected]