In this groundbreaking work of investigative journalism by the author of The New York Times bestseller Kingdom Coming, Michelle Goldberg exposes a global battle over women’s reproductive rights that pits reformers against an international alliance of fundamentalists, with profound consequences for both individual lives and worldwide development.

Women’s rights are often treated as mere appendages to great questions of war, peace, poverty and economic development. But with networks of social traditionalists, feminists and government bureaucrats struggling to remake gender and childbearing norms worldwide, the battle to control sex and reproduction has become a high-stakes enterprise determining the fate of nations and individuals alike.

In a work of incisive cultural analysis and deep reporting, Michelle Goldberg shows how the emancipation of women has become the key human rights struggle of the 21st Century. The Means of Reproduction travels through four continents, examining issues like abortion, female circumcision and Asia's missing girls to show how the battle over women's bodies has been globalized, and how the United States has, depending on who is in power, alternately advanced and impeded women’s rights worldwide. In reporting that encompasses both dramatic human stories and the rarified realms of international policymaking, Goldberg elucidates the economic, demographic and health consequences of women's oppression, which affect more than simply half the world’s population.

As The Means of Reproduction reveals, the conflict between self-determination and patriarchal tradition has crucial implications for global development. Empowering women is the key to addressing both overpopulation and rapid population decline, helping the third world climb out of poverty and retarding the spread of AIDS. Yet attempts to improve women's status elicit fierce opposition from conservatives who see women's submission as key to their own national or religious identity.

Goldberg reaches back through the last half century to explain how control of women's fertility has been a kind of proxy for other ideological struggles. From the anti-communist genesis of America's attempts to stem population growth in poor countries to the current worldwide attack on women's rights as a decadent Western imposition, Goldberg explores the interplay between the great issues of our time and the politics of sex and childbearing. Finally, The Means of Reproduction shows how women, strengthened by a solidarity that transcends borders, are fighting for freedom.