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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcastthat takes big ideas in civic life and democracy and turns them into action items for everyday citizens.

Nov 11, 2021

The Social Contract and Our Bodies

The pandemic has given us a glimpse into the ways our health is woven into the social contract. The high number of deaths from COVID are the result of the government’s failure to collaborate with international organizations and with our own state lawmakers. We leaned on essential care workers, many of whom are people of color. And yet, they often lacked PPE, challenging what it really means to be “essential.”

The Inequality of Health

Racism is a preexisting health condition in the United States. COVID unveiled the institutional and infrastructural inequalities that have existed in our healthcare system for decades, which we see with the alarming rates of death among Black and Latino children. These inequalities and social stereotypes affect every corner of healthcare. For example, Black adults are 2 to 6 times more likely to suffer an amputation than a white adult, especially for common conditions like diabetes.

Women’s Health

Increasingly, aspects of women’s health, such as reproduction, pregnancy, abortion, birth, and motherhood have been criminalized in the United States. Criminalization especially affects Black and brown women so that medical care has become a weapon to turn health issues like a stillbirth into a criminal offense. However, in creating these sorts of precedents, all women—regardless of race—are then subject to suffering under this weaponization of healthcare, which we see happening across the country right now.


Michele Goodwin is a Chancellor’s Professor at the University of California Irvine and founding director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy. She is the recipient of the 2020-21 Distinguished Senior Faculty Award for Research, the highest honor bestowed by the University of California. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, as well as an elected Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Hastings Center (the organization central to the founding of bioethics). She is an American Law Institute Adviser for the Restatement Third of Torts: Remedies.

Goodwin has won national awards for excellence in scholarship, outstanding teaching, and committed community service. Gov. Paul Patton of Kentucky commissioned her a Colonel, the state’s highest title of honor for her outstanding contributions to K-12 education. She’s the recipient of the Be The Change Award, the Sandra Day O’Connor Legacy Award by the Women’s Journey Foundation, and was named Teacher of the Year by the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association in 2018. Goodwin received a commendation from the United States House of Representatives for Outstanding Teaching

You can follow Michele Goodwin on Twitter at @michelebgoodwin