JAMES W. REED
Roe v. Wade
Beginning in the 1970s, historians and social scientists published a great deal on the birth-control movement in the United States, a subject that had been neglected. They were seeking perspective on the issues raised by profound changes in society that rendered problematic the gender system and family values of previous generations. It is no fluke that these scholars began to write the history of the effort to promote the separation of sex from procreation during the same decade that Congress removed contraception from the practices and information prohibited by the national obscenity laws ( 1971), and the Supreme Court ruled that married couples had a constitutionally protected right to practice contraception ( 1965), that the unmarried had a similar right of "privacy" ( 1972), and that pregnant women had the right to induced abortions performed by physicians during the first trimester of their pregnancies ( 1973). The Court's affirmation of a limited right to "abortion on demand" in Roe v. Wade followed a decade of intense political struggle and judicial action at the state level, and Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion, was self-consciously attempting to forge a consensus in areas of human behavior and public policy where conflicts were literally lethal and threatened the social order. 1 In turn, much of the vitality of the scholarship on reproductive history that coincides with changes in the law sprang from the self-consciousness of women. Feminist scholars raised the consciousness of their disciplines by insisting that "the personal is political," and that gender, no less than class or race, ought to be recognized as a potent social fact. 2
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Publication information: Book title: The Politics of Abortion and Birth Control in Historical Perspective. Contributors: Donald T. Critchlow - Editor. Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press. Place of publication: University Park, PA. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 22.
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