Lina-Maria Murillo

Assistant Professor

Drop-in hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 -10:30 a.m., or by appointment

In 2016, I earned a PhD in Borderlands History at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Before that I earned an MA in history from UTEP in 2011 and earned a BA in History and Raza Studies from San Francisco State University in 2007. Currently, I’m completing my first history manuscript titled "Fighting for Control: Reproductive Care, Race, and Power in the U.S-Mexico Borderlands." In it, I examine the clinics, organizations, and institutions that helped foster access to reproductive care along the border in the twentieth century. This history reveals the tensions between advocates for population control and those committed to greater reproductive care for the majority Mexican-origin women in the region. My study focuses on three institutions, Planned Parenthood and Clinica La Fe in El Paso, and FEMAP in Ciudad Juárez, shining a light on the unknown history of abortion, population control, and Chicana activism that comprised the movement in region.

I am working on two other projects concurrently. The first is tentatively titled, Making Gilead: White Demographic Decline and the End of Democracy. In this book, I highlight how “fears of white demographic decline” have translated into a hostile legal and social environment for pregnant women and people in the last two centuries. I trace the rhetoric of “race suicide” in the early 20th century to “white genocide” in the twenty-first century by examining demographers and other social scientists concerned with declining birthrates among the so-called white population in the United States. In the last few decades, we’ve witnessed how white fears of a disappearing Western civilization via its population—one they see overrun by Black and Brown migrants and their children—has framed whites’ willingness (and in some cases eagerness) to sidestep or destroy democratic ideals as they fight their impending “genocide.” 

I also started writing a biography of the little-known abortion rights activist Patricia Maginnis, who in the years before Roe v. Wade established an organized abortion network across the U.S.-Mexico border. This biography centers Maginnis in the creation of NARAL (National Association for Repeal of Abortions Laws) and in facilitating the work of other abortion referral services like the National Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion and Abortion Counseling Services. I also look at the underground abortion specialists that dominated this illegal economy in border towns across Mexico’s northern territories. In this transnational tale, I show how everyday people on both sides of the national divide risked their livelihoods and lives to secure women’s autonomy and reproductive freedom. 

During 2021, Associate Professor, Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz (GWSS and Communication Studies) and I collaborated on “Reproductive Justice in the Heartland: Mothering, Maternal Care, and Race in Twenty-First Century Iowa,” a book chapter in Maternal Theory: Essential Readings edited by Andrea O’Reilly, which has now become the foundation for our own edited collection focused on reproductive justice advocates’ activism and health care provision in Iowa. This idea emerged from our joint directorship of the “Maternal Politics and Reproductive Justice” Obermann working group launched in 2019. This past year, we received the Obermann Center’s Humanities for the Public Good “Humanities Lab Development Award” to produce a humanities reproductive justice course bringing together students, faculty, staff, and community partners in 2024.

My research has been supported by several grants and fellowships, including from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Albert J. Beveridge Grant for Research in the History from the American Historical Association (AHA), and the Boston Medical Library Fellowship in the History of Medicine at Harvard University, among others. I was also awarded the James N. Murray Faculty Award for teaching at the University of Iowa.


Lina-Maria Murillo teaches the following courses at Iowa:

  • GWSS:1001 Introduction to Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies
  • SJUS:2250 History of Social Justice Movements
  • GWSS:2650 Global Reproduction
  • HIST:1040 Latina/o/x History from Conquest to the Present
  • HIST/LATS:3217 History of Latina/o/x Immigration



Commentary and popular writing

Research areas
  • History
  • Borderlands
  • Women's Health and Reproduction
  • Reproductive Justice
  • Latina/Latino/Latinx
  • Social Justice Movements
Lina-Maria Murillo

415 Jefferson Building (JB)
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States