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When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973 Paperback – Sep 21 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (Sept. 21 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520216571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520216570
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,443,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In 1900, women attempted to induce abortions by inserting knitting needles, crochet hooks, hairpins, scissors, chicken feathers and cotton balls into their uteruses. In 1917, black women "pinned their faith on... [the] ingestion of... starch or gunpowder and whiskey." Reagan, an assistant professor of history, medicine and women's studies at the University of Illinois, dedicates her disturbing work on abortion in America before Roe v. Wade to "the lives of... women who died trying to control their reproduction." She chronicles the covert efforts and subsequent prosecution of doctors and midwives, and of unmarried women and their lovers (while married women made up the majority of clientele and were accused of "race suicide," they were pursued less often). Reagan has her work cut out for her: Though the law forbade abortions, she writes, "some late-nineteenth-century doctors believed there were two million abortions [performed] every year." And then, as now, debate raged: though some doctors disagreed, the Journal of the American Medical Association declared itself against abortion in the case of rape since "pregnancy is rare after real rape." For those who take legal abortion for granted, Reagan's work is an eye-opener.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA?Most books written about this subject focus on the post-Roe v. Wade period. Reagan relates heart-wrenching stories of women who survived abortions and those who did not. She includes narratives from physicians, midwives, husbands, and boyfriends. The stories of poisonous potions drunk by women in an attempt to "open up the womb" remind readers that reliable birth control and pregnancy tests are recent developments. The author's research for this book comes from the Chicago AMA archives beginning in the mid-1800s when the organization led the way to criminalize abortion. Reagan utilized court records, police reports, medical literature of the day, and coroners' reports. The result is a scholarly chronicle of abortion in a large city. Containing 112 pages of endnotes and bibliography, and a 20-page index, this is a well-researched, organized, and interesting look at the inception and expansion of women's reproductive freedom as a political issue. After reading it, YAs will be better informed about the complexities of this ever-controversial subject.?Nancy Karst, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on Aug. 19 2002
Format: Paperback
Yet another political diatribe posing as history. The first, primary question to be asked, ANY time abortion is brought up, is: Are we dealing only with the life/well being of the woman, or are we also dealing with the life/well being of her baby/fetus? Virtally every feminist argument in favor of abortion begs this question unapologetically, but if you question them about it, they become defensive, shrill, and their subsequent arguments are laced with ideological rants and euphemisms (words like "choice" and "reproductive freedom," for instance, are virtually meaningless in terms of logical argument--their sole function is to inflame the emotions of the listener).
Leslie Reagan also refers to how common abortion is, as if that had any bearing on whether it is an acceptable practice or not. After all, there was a time when slavery was very common. Domestic violence is also very common. Even if every single woman in America has had an abortion, that has absolutely no bearing on whether the practice is ethical or not. Again, the liberal viewpoint dissolves into a sort of relativism that cannot be penetrated by rational thought.
The quality of a society can be measured by how that society treats its most helpless members. In the United States, more often than not, the "progressive" view is that we have the right to kill them. With that fact in mind, I'm afaid that future generations will look back on our abortion culture with the same revulsion and shame that we now look back on slavery.
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Format: Paperback
Ms. Reagan's book contains a good social history of abortion from its criminalization to the present. However, the book soon turns into a political manifesto and Reagan takes her case overboard in many situations. When reading the Epilogue, one wonders if Ms. Reagan had forgotten that she is a professional historian and not a political lobbyist. Also, she has failed to consider some key issues in the book, mainly the rights of the father to a say in the fate of the unborn child. Surely some men raised their voices in defense of their reproductive rights, but we don't get this from Ms. Reagan's account. From her viewpoint, the mother is the only one who should be able to determine the child's fate, and she is very upset that doctors still have some authority in the determination. Also, anyone who has read the decision of Roe v. Wade would be surprised that Ms. Reagan finds it such a radical development for women. The decision clearly leaves main authority with the physician, and after the first trimester the state has rights to regulate abortion, especially after viability (6-7 months). I argue that Roe v. Wade was actually a conservative decision, and the court left a major opening for overturning it: if anyone can convince the court that the Constitution includes the unborn under the term "person" then the whole decision falls to the ground under the Fourteenth Amendment. I enjoyed the book, and it made me rethink a few things, but I was turned off by Ms. Reagan's blatant partisanship. As a professional historian, she should have been more objective. It is okay for a historian to interject opinions, but Ms. Reagan has taken it to the extreme, and in the process, she has called her own objectivity into question.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the history of abortion in the US. Leslie Regean goes into great detail about the developments of the anti-abortion movement and how this effected women, doctors, and midwives throughout US history. She includes specific stories, court and hospital documents, as well as evidence for the changing roles of reproductive medicine for women. This book is just plain amazing. I cannot stress enough how important it is for all pro-choicers to read this book. You will be reminded of how important it is to keep abortion legal and how our struggles for choice are not through.
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