Abortion after Roe

Abortion after Roe

Abortion after Roe

Abortion after Roe


Abortion is--and always has been--an arena for contesting power relations between women and men. When in 1973 the Supreme Court made the procedure legal throughout the United States, it seemed that women were at last able to make decisions about their own bodies. In the four decades that followed, however, abortion became ever more politicized and stigmatized. Abortion after Roe chronicles and analyzes what the new legal status and changing political environment have meant for abortion providers and their patients. Johanna Schoen sheds light on the little-studied experience of performing and receiving abortion care from the 1970s--a period of optimism--to the rise of the antiabortion movement and the escalation of antiabortion tactics in the 1980s to the 1990s and beyond, when violent attacks on clinics and abortion providers led to a new articulation of abortion care as moral work. As Schoen demonstrates, more than four decades after the legalization of abortion, the abortion provider community has powerfully asserted that abortion care is a moral good.


In the early 1970s, Heather, an eighteen-year-old student at the University of North Carolina (UNC), went to see Takey Crist, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology (ob-gyn), known on campus as “the sex man.” Heather was pregnant and told Crist about her attempt earlier that year to get a prescription for the birth control pill at the student infirmary. The physician she saw told her that

he didn’t give contraceptives, and that the infirmary
itself didn’t give contraceptives out to unmarried people.
And then he said, did I want to talk about it [her deci
sion to become sexually active], or had I already made
up my mind? And I said that I had pretty much made
up my mind. And he said, “Well, you know, I like sex just
as much as any other normal person.” And then he said,
“It’s like a glass of wine, you don’t guzzle it, in the same
way you don’t use sex to excess.” And I just listened to
him for a few more minutes, or rather, I didn’t listen to
him for a few more minutes. And then I left.

Humiliated and frustrated, Heather gave up on her attempts to seek birth control. After several months of unprotected sex, she became pregnant and ended up in Takey Crist’s office.

Young single women who sought contraceptive advice and sex education during the late 1960s and early 1970s tended to find all doors closed. Lacking training in this area, most physicians felt uncomfortable with issues of sexuality and considered prescribing contraceptives to single women immoral. A 1970 survey by the American College Health Association found that of 531 institutions of higher education, half prescribed contraceptives to their students but less than 10 percent did so for unmarried minors. In many states, North Carolina included, the age of . . .

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