When Abortion Was a Crime
Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
The linking of the words "abortion" and "crime" emphasizes the difficult and painful history that is the focus of Leslie J. Reagan's important book. Her study is the first to examine the entire period during which abortion was illegal in the United States, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and ending with Roe v. Wade in 1973. Although illegal, millions of abortions were provided during these years to women of every class, race, and marital status. The experiences and perspectives of these women, as well as their physicians and midwives, are movingly portrayed here.
Reagan traces the practice and policing of abortion. While abortions have been typically portrayed as grim "back alley" operations, she finds that abortion providers often practiced openly and safely. Moreover, numerous physicians performed abortions, despite prohibitions by the state and the American Medical Association. Women often found cooperative practioners, but prosecution, public humiliation, loss of privacy, and inferior medical care were a constant threat.
Reagan's analysis of previously untapped sources, including inquest records and trial transcripts, shows the fragility of patient rights and raises provocative questions about the relationship between medicine and law. With the right to abortion again under attack in the United States, this book offers vital lessons for every American concerned with health care, civil liberties, and personal and sexual freedom.
Praise For When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973…
— Thomas Szasz,
"A brilliant account of the era before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. . . .A model of social history, supported by a spectacular wealth of documentary evidence. . . .This well-written book is a stellar, complex, and accessible volume that will stand as the definitive history for years to come."
— Rickie Solinger,
— Katha Pollitt,
— Frank Rich,
— Publishers Weekly
— Jane Hodgson,
University of California Press, 9780520216570, 400pp.
Publication Date: September 21, 1998