Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide

Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide

Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide

Abortion: A Documentary and Reference Guide

Synopsis

This thought-provoking reference work explores the evolution of America's heated abortion debate in a selection of over 40 primary documents from the 19th century to the present day. The guide includes not only key laws and court cases that have determined abortion policy, but also political speeches, medical essays, theological writings, newspaper advertisements, magazine articles, and popular books that offer insight into America's changing attitudes towards women, race, the medical field, and the role of government in its citizens' personal lives. Each document is preceded by an introduction and is followed by analysis to help readers understand its significance and historical context.

Today abortion is America's most contentious political and religious rallying point. Yet 150 years ago it was a virtual non-issue, quietly performed for centuries by women and mid-wives. What changed? This thought-provoking reference work explores the evolution of America's abortion debate in a balanced selection of over 40 primary documents by doctors, feminists, religious leaders, politicians, extremists, and judges from the 19th century to the present day. This guide not only examines the key laws and court cases, like Roe v. Wade and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, that have determined abortion policy, but offers insight into America's changing attitudes towards women, race, the medical field, and the role of government in its citizens' personal lives. Memoirs of early abortion providers, excerpts from popular women's self-help books, the complete text of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, and personal writings from key liberal and conservative figures on both sides of the debate provide a more complete picture of an issue that is deeply personal, deeply divisive, and anything but clear-cut. A straightforward and accessible book, ideal for both students and general readers looking to expand their understanding of one of the most complicated, and still unresolved, issues of our day.

Each excerpt is preceded by a brief explanation of its significance and followed by author analysis to help readers understand its implications and the historical context in which is it was written. Readers gain direct access to America's most important legal papers and transcripts on abortion, complimented by a well rounded view of the public beliefs and sentiments that have fueled abortion debates. Suggestions for further reading conclude each chapter, perfect for research or to guide interested readers in their search for material. The front matter includes a Timeline of major events in abortion history, and the back matter, offers a Bibliography of 50 titles on abortion and over 30 Web links.

Excerpt

As the United States entered the twenty-first century, the sands of abortion politics were shifting in a discernible way. Both states and the federal government were crafting novel restrictions on abortion access, testing the Supreme Court’s resolve to protect a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. Then, in 2006, President George W. Bush received word of not one, but two, departures from the Supreme Court. After some controversy, the President’s nominees were confirmed by the Senate, and in early 2007 Justice Samuel A. Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts took their places on the nation’s highest court.

Later that year, the new court heard Gonzales v. Carhart, the product of a 10-year battle over a single abortion procedure used in the latter half of pregnancy. By a five to four decision, the majority (which includes the court’s two newest members) ruled to uphold the federal ban despite the fact that the ban did not include an exception to preserve a woman’s health. This decision marked not just another chapter in the epic of abortion politics, but a sea-change in the court’s more than 30-year history of preserving a woman’s health before the state’s interest in fetal life.

Following that ruling, state legislatures ushered in a myriad of abortion restrictions. From mandates requiring that abortion facilities purchase ultrasound equipment to state-level abortion procedure bans, the states where abortion practice is not widely supported have pursued a roll-back of abortion access not seen since the early twentieth century.

This text seeks to put these recent abortion policy changes into a larger historical context. By placing recent primary source documents alongside older documents, the reader is invited to take a step back from contemporary events, which appear to those who are invested in them to be unique, and entertain the broader spectrum of abortion history in America. Looking broadly across time allows the reader to discern certain patterns and nuances that may not be readily observable to the contemporary activist or attentive layperson.

One lesson to be drawn from the documents I have selected for this text is that abortion has been a common medical practice in Western civilization. And despite the rancorous contemporary debate over abortion policy in contemporary America, this country’s policies appear neither stable nor predictable. With 200 years of history in this policy terrain, our nation has not settled on an abortion resolution that has much longevity.

Another lesson here is that, as with other issues that stir the conscience of our citizens, the topic of abortion inspires vitriolic and ideological debate. And although our institutions of science and religion have not uncovered a consensus policy, our policymakers often argue in terms that sound both unyielding and extreme. The trouble with that is, most average Americans’ views on abortion are neither unyielding nor extreme.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.