Thanks to my roving male feminist spy (that’d be my dad) for the heads up about this new book about the shaping of the discourse about abortion in the years leading up to 1973’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. The book, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Linda Greenhouse and Yale Law professor Reva Siegel, and it is currently out in hardcover.
The book relies heavily on primary sources, offering a glimpse into the lives and minds of the people who were talking about abortion and agitating for abortion rights in the decade before Roe. Greenhouse and Siegal collected letters, educational pamphlets, affidavits and hundreds of other documents to reconstruct the landscape of the American cultural and legal discussion around abortion in the 1960s and early 1970s.
According the Yale Law Report, the book contains reprints of everything from 60s-era Women’s Lib speeches and sex-ed pamphlets to “instructions circulated to thousands of women by The Society for Human Abortion about how to get an abortion in Japan.”
Remembering what the American cultural and legal landscape looked like before abortion is a powerful way to remind ourselves why it’s so important to protect and expand the rights we have won. If you’re interested in reading about life in America pre-Roe, I highly recommend The Girls Who Went Away: A Hidden History of the Girls Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Years BeforeRoe v. Wade and When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine and Law in the United States, 1867-1973.