"Dangerous Pregnancies" tells the largely forgotten story of the German measles epidemic of the early 1960s and how it created national anxiety about dying, disabled, and 'dangerous' babies. This epidemic would ultimately transform abortion politics, produce new science, and help build two of the most enduring social movements of the late twentieth century - the reproductive rights and the disability rights movements. At most a minor rash and fever for women, German measles (also known as rubella), if contracted during pregnancy, could result in miscarriages, infant deaths, and serious birth defects in the newborn. Award-winning writer Leslie J. Reagan chronicles for the first time the discoveries and dilemmas of this disease in a book full of intimate stories - including riveting courtroom testimony, secret investigations of women and doctors for abortion, and startling media portraits of children with disabilities. In exploring a disease that changed America, "Dangerous Pregnancies" powerfully illuminates social movements that still shape individual lives, pregnancy, medicine, law, and politics.
Leslie J. Reagan is Professor of History, with affiliations in gender and women's studies, law, media and cinema studies, and medicine, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States 1867-1973 (UC Press) and coeditor of Medicine's Moving Pictures: Medicine, Health, and Bodies in American Film and Television.