Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic

Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic

Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic

Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic


How do feminist identity and abortion politics intersect? Specifically, what does feminism mean to women working to feminist health care and abortion services in the late 1980s and early 1990s? What are the ideological consequences and emotional tolls of doing such work in a hostile socio-cultural environment? Can feminism and bureaucracy coexist productively? How do feminists confront the anti-feminist opposition, from anti-abortion protesters outside to racism within feminist organizations? These are the questions that drive Wendy Simonds' Abortion at Work. Simonds documents the ways in which workers at a feminist clinic construct compelling feminist visions, and also watch their ideals fall short in practice. Simonds interprets these women's narratives to get at how abortion works on feminism, and to show what feminism can gain by rethinking abortion utilizing these activists' terms. In thoroughly engaging prose, Simonds frames her analysis with a moving account of her own personal understanding of the issues. AUTHOBIO: Wendy Simonds is assistant professor in the Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University. She is the author of "Women and Self-Help Culture: Reading Between the Lines" (Rutgers University Press) and co-author of "Centuries of Solace: Expressions of Maternal Grief in Popular Literature."


When Roe v Wade made abortion legal in this country, I was ten years old. I have no memory of the event. And though I have never had an abortion myself, abortion is part of my personal history. I think this statement is true for all women. We are all somehow enmeshed in a story about sexuality, about omissions, about clandestine pleasure, about bodily integrity and denial, and about exposure to feminist and anti-feminist ideologies. Maybe it sounds like a cliché after all these years, but the feminist slogan from the 1970s, "the personal is political," continues to ring true.

I don't think each woman's story is particularly unusual, but we rarely tell our stories, so they come to seem peculiar, private, and, very often, embarrassing. This book tells a story about abortion workers who negotiate for themselves a feminist sensibility that justifies what they do and that enables them to envision a better world. My experiences talking with them and watching them on the job have led me to conclude that everyone ought to take a holistic approach to procreative issues; we need to look into our pasts (both our individual and our collective histories) and to pull all the strands of the "story" together in order to imagine productive developments for the future.

Of Sexuality and Silences

Not long after I learned to read, my mother gave me a book called How Babies Are Made. I think I must have been about five or six years old. She said I should read the book in my room and then we would discuss it. My mother looked serious; this was clearly not an ordinary book. It told the tale of . . .

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