What can abortion and divorce laws in other countries teach Americans about these thorny issues? In this incisive new book, noted legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon looks at the experiences of twenty Western nations, including the United States, and shows how they differ, subtly but profoundly, from one another. Her findings challenge many widely held American beliefs. She reveals, for example, that a compromise on the abortion question is not only possible but typical, even in societies that are deeply divided on the matter. Regarding divorce, the extensive reliance on judicial discretion in the United States is not the best way to achieve fairness in arranging child support, spousal maintenance, or division of property—to judge by the experience of other countries. Glendon's analysis, by searching out alternatives to current U.S. practice, identities new possibilities of reform in these areas. After the late 1960s abortion and divorce became more readily available throughout the West—and most readily in this country—but the approach of American law has been anomalous. Compared with other Western nations, the United States permits less regulation of abortion in the interest of the fetus, provides less public support for maternity and child-rearing, and does less to mitigate the economic hardships of divorce through public assistance or enforcement of private obligations of support.
Glendon looks at these and more profound differences in the light of a powerful new method of legal interpretation. She sees each country's laws as part of a symbol-creating system that yields a distinctive portrait of individuals, human life, and relations between men and women, parents and children, families and larger communities. American law, more than that of other countries, employs a rhetoric of rights, individual liberty, and tolerance for diversity that, unchecked, contributes to the fragmentation of community and its values. Contemporary U.S. family law embodies a narrative about divorce, abortion, and dependency that is probably not the story most Americans would want to tell about these sad and complex matters but that is recognizably related to many of their most cherished ideals.
A comprehensive history of abortion in Renaissance Italy.
In this authoritative history, John Christopoulos provides a provocative and far-reaching account of abortion in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy. His poignant portraits of women who terminated or were forced to terminate pregnancies offer a corrective to longstanding views: he finds that Italians maintained a fundamental ambivalence about abortion. Italians from all levels of society sought, had, and participated in abortions. Early modern Italy was not an absolute anti-abortion culture, an exemplary Catholic society centered on the “traditional family.” Rather, Christopoulos shows, Italians held many views on abortion, and their responses to its practice varied.
Bringing together medical, religious, and legal perspectives alongside a social and cultural history of sexuality, reproduction, and the family, Christopoulos offers a nuanced and convincing account of the meanings Italians ascribed to abortion and shows how prevailing ideas about the practice were spread, modified, and challenged. Christopoulos begins by introducing readers to prevailing ideas about abortion and women’s bodies, describing the widely available purgative medicines and surgeries that various healers and women themselves employed to terminate pregnancies. He then explores how these ideas and practices ran up against and shaped theology, medicine, and law. Catholic understanding of abortion was changing amid religious, legal, and scientific debates concerning the nature of human life, women’s bodies, and sexual politics. Christopoulos examines how ecclesiastical, secular, and medical authorities sought to regulate abortion, and how tribunals investigated and punished its procurers—or did not, even when they could have. Abortion in Early Modern Italy offers a compelling and sensitive study of abortion in a time of dramatic religious, scientific, and social change.
One of the most private decisions a woman can make, abortion is also one of the most contentious topics in American civic life. Protested at rallies and politicized in party platforms, terminating pregnancy is often characterized as a selfish decision by women who put their own interests above those of the fetus. This background of stigma and hostility has stifled women’s willingness to talk about abortion, which in turn distorts public and political discussion. To pry open the silence surrounding this public issue, Sanger distinguishes between abortion privacy, a form of nondisclosure based on a woman’s desire to control personal information, and abortion secrecy, a woman’s defense against the many harms of disclosure.
Laws regulating abortion patients and providers treat abortion not as an acceptable medical decision—let alone a right—but as something disreputable, immoral, and chosen by mistake. Exploiting the emotional power of fetal imagery, laws require women to undergo ultrasound, a practice welcomed in wanted pregnancies but commandeered for use against women with unwanted pregnancies. Sanger takes these prejudicial views of women’s abortion decisions into the twenty-first century by uncovering new connections between abortion law and American culture and politics.
New medical technologies, women’s increasing willingness to talk online and off, and the prospect of tighter judicial reins on state legislatures are shaking up the practice of abortion. As talk becomes more transparent and acceptable, women’s decisions about whether or not to become mothers will be treated more like those of other adults making significant personal choices.
Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade continues to make headlines. After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate cuts through the myths and misunderstandings to present a clear-eyed account of cultural and political responses to the landmark 1973 ruling in the decade that followed. The grassroots activists who shaped the discussion after Roe, Mary Ziegler shows, were far more fluid and diverse than the partisans dominating the debate today.
In the early years after the decision, advocates on either side of the abortion battle sought common ground on issues from pregnancy discrimination to fetal research. Drawing on archives and more than 100 interviews with key participants, Ziegler’s revelations complicate the view that abortion rights proponents were insensitive to larger questions of racial and class injustice, and expose as caricature the idea that abortion opponents were inherently antifeminist. But over time, “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion” positions hardened into “pro-choice” and “pro-life” categories in response to political pressures and compromises. This increasingly contentious back-and-forth produced the interpretation now taken for granted—that Roe was primarily a ruling on a woman’s right to choose.
Peering beneath the surface of social-movement struggles in the 1970s, After Roe reveals how actors on the left and the right have today made Roe a symbol for a spectrum of fervently held political beliefs.
Evangelium Vitae, or "The Gospel of Life," Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical, addresses practical moral questions that touch on the sacredness of human life: abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, and capital punishment. Tackling major moral and cultural ideas, the Pope urged "all men and women of good will" to embrace a "culture of life" instead of the prevailing "culture of death." In this book, scholars from a wide range of disciplines—law, medicine, philosophy, and theology—and various religious perspectives discuss and interpret the Pope's teachings on these complex moral issues.
The opening essays establish a context for the encyclical in the moral thought of John Paul II and examine issues of methodology and ecclesiology. A second group considers the themes of law and technology, which are crucial to the way the encyclical views the specific matters of life and death. The final section turns to the specific topics of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, medical experimentation, and capital punishment.
Seeking to promote discussion between the ideas of the encyclical and other points of view, this volume does not attempt to endorse Evangelium Vitae but rather to illustrate its relevance to both private choice and public policy. It will serve as a foundation for further dialogue and allow others to approach the pontiff's thought with new awareness and insight.
Scientific breakthroughs have led us to a point where soon we will be able to make specific choices about the genetic makeup of our offspring. In fact, this reality has arrived—and it is only a matter of time before the technology becomes widespread.
Much like past arguments about stem-cell research, the coming debate over these reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) will be both political and, for many people, religious. In order to understand how the debate will play out in the United States, John H. Evans conducted the first in-depth study of the claims made about RGTs by religious people from across the political spectrum, and Contested Reproduction is the stimulating result.
Some of the opinions Evans documents are familiar, but others—such as the idea that certain genetic conditions produce a “meaningful suffering” that is, ultimately, desirable—provide a fascinating glimpse of religious reactions to cutting-edge science. Not surprisingly, Evans discovers that for many people opinion on the issue closely relates to their feelings about abortion, but he also finds a shared moral language that offers a way around the unproductive polarization of the abortion debate and other culture-war concerns. Admirably evenhanded, Contested Reproduction is a prescient, profound look into the future of a hot-button issue.
John Riddle uncovers the obscure history of contraception and abortifacients from ancient Egypt to the seventeenth century with forays into Victorian England—a topic that until now has evaded the pens of able historians.
Riddle’s thesis is, quite simply, that the ancient world did indeed possess effective (and safe) contraceptives and abortifacients. The author maintains that this rich body of knowledge about fertility control—widely held in the ancient world—was gradually lost over the course of the Middle Ages, becoming nearly extinct by the early modern period. The reasons for this he suggests, stemmed from changes in the organization of medicine. As university medical training became increasingly important, physicians’ ties with folk traditions were broken. The study of birth control methods was just not part of the curriculum.
In an especially telling passage, Riddle reveals how Renaissance humanists were ill equipped to provide accurate translations of ancient texts concerning abortifacients due to their limited experience with women’s ailments. Much of the knowledge about contraception belonged to an oral culture—a distinctively female-centered culture. From ancient times until the seventeenth century, women held a monopoly on birthing and the treatment of related matters; information passed from midwife to mother, from mother to daughter. Riddle reflects on the difficulty of finding traces of oral culture and the fact that the little existing evidence is drawn from male writers who knew that culture only from a distance. Nevertheless, through extraordinary scholarly sleuthing, the author pieces together the clues and evaluates the scientific merit of these ancient remedies in language that is easily understood by the general reader. His findings will be useful to anyone interested in learning whether it was possible for premodern people to regulate their reproduction without resorting to the extremities of dangerous surgical abortions, the killing of infants, or the denial of biological urges.
In 1990, a suburban Chicago race for the Republican Party nomination for state representative unexpectedly became a national proxy battle over abortion in the United States. But the hard-fought primary also illustrated the overlooked importance of down-ballot contests in America’s culture wars. Patrick Wohl offers the dramatic account of a rollercoaster campaign that, after attracting political celebrities and a media circus, came down to thirty-one votes, a coin toss to determine the winner, and a recount fight that set a precedent for how to count dimpled chads. As the story unfolds, Wohl provides a rare nuts-and-bolts look at an election for state office from its first days through the Illinois Supreme Court decision that decided the winner--and set the stage for a decisive 1992 rematch.
A compelling political page-turner, Down Ballot takes readers behind the scenes of a legendary Illinois election.
Halkias’s analysis combines telling fragments of contemporary Athenian culture, Greek history, media coverage of abortion and the declining birth rate, and fieldwork in Athens at an obstetrics/gynecology clinic and a family-planning center. Halkias conducted in-depth interviews with one hundred and twenty women who had had two or more abortions and observed more than four hundred gynecological exams at a state family-planning center. She reveals how intimate decisions and the public preoccupation with the low birth rate connect to nationalist ideas of race, religion, freedom, resistance, and the fraught encounter between modernity and tradition. The Empty Cradle of Democracy is a startling examination of how assumptions underlying liberal democracy are betrayed while the nation permeates the body and understandings of gender and sexuality complicate the nation-building projects of late modernity.
In Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance, John M. Riddle showed, through extraordinary scholarly sleuthing, that women from ancient Egyptian times to the fifteenth century had relied on an extensive pharmacopoeia of herbal abortifacients and contraceptives to regulate fertility. In Eve’s Herbs, Riddle explores a new question: If women once had access to effective means of birth control, why was this knowledge lost to them in modern times?
Beginning with the testimony of a young woman brought before the Inquisition in France in 1320, Riddle asks what women knew about regulating fertility with herbs and shows how the new intellectual, religious, and legal climate of the early modern period tended to cast suspicion on women who employed “secret knowledge” to terminate or prevent pregnancy. Knowledge of the menstrual-regulating qualities of rue, pennyroyal, and other herbs was widespread through succeeding centuries among herbalists, apothecaries, doctors, and laywomen themselves, even as theologians and legal scholars began advancing the idea that the fetus was fully human from the moment of conception.
Drawing on previously unavailable material, Riddle reaches a startling conclusion: while it did not persist in a form that was available to most women, ancient knowledge about herbs was not lost in modern times but survived in coded form. Persecuted as “witchcraft” in centuries past and prosecuted as a crime in our own time, the control of fertility by “Eve’s herbs” has been practiced by Western women since ancient times.
Translated from the Russian by Diane Nemec Ignashev
The central character in Ludmila Ulitskaya’s celebrated novel The Kukotsky Enigma is a gynecologist contending with Stalin’s prohibition of abortions in 1936. But, in the tradition of Russia’s great family novels, the story encompasses the history of two families and unfolds in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the ruins of ancient civilizations on the Black Sea. Their lives raise profound questions about family heritage and genetics, nurture and nature, and life and death. In his struggle to maintain his professional integrity and to keep his work from dividing his family, Kukotsky confronts the moral complexity of reproductive science. Winner of the 2001 Russian Booker Prize and the basis for a blockbuster television miniseries, The Kukotsky Enigma is an engrossing, searching novel by one of contemporary literature’s most brilliant writers.
The abortion fight has long been a crucible of political tactics, with both sides employing strategies ranging from litigation to civil disobedience to outright violence. Anti-abortion activists have arguably been more tactically innovative than their pro-choice peers. Opposition and Intimidation looks at how their use of political harassment fits—or doesn't—with more conventional political efforts in the struggle over abortion.
Alesha Doan's insightful interviews and observations powerfully portray anti-abortion activists' relationship to the objects of their protest. Her portrait is augmented by thorough quantitative analysis of harassment's role within the movement's multitiered strategy—a strategy that Doan shows has forced a decline in the availability and popularity of abortions. Using her unique study of the anti-abortion movement as a model, Doan extends her findings to propose a novel and valuable theory of the new politics of harassment.
"An interesting and sophisticated account. Seamlessly weaves narrative and analysis, tying local action to national strategy. Explores uncharted territory in the abortion controversy and expands our understanding of political action."
—Deborah R. McFarlane, University of New Mexico
"For 40 years, abortion politics have been endlessly fascinating to American scholars and journalists alike because they generate unique political phenomena that challenge traditional theories of political behavior. In this book, Doan goes straight to the heart of the matter by describing, evaluating, and explaining one of the most characteristic and complex of these phenomena—political harassment. In a well-written narrative that weaves qualitative and quantitative data, she gives us the first scholarly look at this political tactic, whose relevance and use go well beyond American abortion politics."
—Chris Mooney, University of Illinois at Springfield
"The book contributes to political theory and knowledge by adding new empirical data gathered from interviews with those in the front lines of the struggle over abortion. The author refines and develops a category of unconventional political participation—political harassment of nongovernmental actors—and explains why it is particularly effective in undermining the rights of women seeking abortions, as well as the rights of abortion service providers."
—Nikki R. Van Hightower, Texas A&M University
Alesha E. Doan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas.
After the fall of the state socialist regime and the end of martial law in 1989, Polish society experienced both a sense of relief from the tyranny of Soviet control and an expectation that democracy would bring freedom. After this initial wave of enthusiasm, however, political forces that had lain concealed during the state socialist era began to emerge and establish a new religious-nationalist orthodoxy. While Solidarity garnered most of the credit for democratization in Poland, it had worked quietly with the Catholic Church, to which a large majority of Poles at least nominally adhered. As the church emerged as a political force in the Polish Sejm and Senate, it precipitated a rapid erosion of women’s reproductive rights, especially the right to abortion, which had been relatively well established under the former regime.
The Politics of Morality is an anthropological study of this expansion of power by the religious right and its effects on individual rights and social mores. It explores the contradictions of postsocialist democratization in Poland: an emerging democracy on one hand, and a declining tolerance for reproductive rights, women’s rights, and political and religious pluralism on the other. Yet, as this thoroughly researched study shows, women resist these strictures by pursuing abortion illegally, defying religious prohibitions on contraception, and organizing into advocacy groups. As struggles around reproductive rights continue in Poland, these resistances and unofficial practices reveal the sharp limits of religious form of governance.
The ability to identify and abort fetuses with certain genetic abnormalities is among the most recent and most important of medical advances. In this book, one of the world's leading medical geneticists, Harry Harris, discusses the promise and the perils of the new techniques. Dr. Harris writes with great clarity; he explains technical concepts and terms so well that a layman can follow his account with little effort. This book will serve as an excellent introduction to a large and growing literature.
Dr. Harris begins by explaining methods of prenatal diagnosis and the kinds of disease that can, at present, be identified in utero. He identifies technological limitations of the procedure and also discusses certain theoretical factors that limit its future applicability. The book concludes with a long and balanced examination of ethical issues entailed by the practice of selective abortion. The author limits discussion of his own opinions in favor of evaluating the main contemporary positions and exploring the basis of controversy. He makes clear, however, his own view that there are clear advantages to the technique and clear limitations and that there will always be gray areas in which decision must be painful and individual—unaided by pat moralizing.
*Winner of the James S. Donnelly, Sr. Prize 2022*
In Ireland, 2018, a constitutional ban that equated the life of a woman to the life of a fertilized embryo was overturned and abortion was finally legalized. This victory for the Irish feminist movement set the country alight with euphoria. But the celebrations were short-lived - the new legislation turned out to be one of the most conservative in Europe. This book tells the story of the ‘Repeal’ campaign through the lens of the activists.
The authors trace the shocking history of the origins of the eighth amendment, which was drawn up in fear of a tide of liberal reforms across Europe. They draw out the lessons learned through the decades and from the groundbreaking campaign in 2018, which was an inspiring example of modern grassroots activism. They also recount the tensions between a medicalized approach and reproductive justice approach to abortion, as well as the harsh effect of the campaign on the health of activists.
Grounded in a radical feminist politics, this book is an honest and inspirational account of a movement that is only just beginning.
A Wall Street Journal Top Ten Book of the Year
A First Things Books for Christmas Selection
Winner of the Expanded Reason Award
“This important work of moral philosophy argues that we are, first and foremost, embodied beings, and that public policy must recognize the limits and gifts that this entails.”
—Wall Street Journal
The natural limits of the human body make us vulnerable and dependent on others. Yet law and policy concerning biomedical research and the practice of medicine frequently disregard these stubborn facts. What It Means to Be Human makes the case for a new paradigm, one that better reflects the gifts and challenges of being human.
O. Carter Snead proposes a framework for public bioethics rooted in a vision of human identity and flourishing that supports those who are profoundly vulnerable and dependent—children, the disabled, and the elderly. He addresses three complex public matters: abortion, assisted reproductive technology, and end-of-life decisions. Avoiding typical dichotomies of conservative-liberal and secular-religious, Snead recasts debates within his framework of embodiment and dependence. He concludes that if the law is built on premises that reflect our lived experience, it will provide support for the vulnerable.
“This remarkable and insightful account of contemporary public bioethics and its individualist assumptions is indispensable reading for anyone with bioethical concerns.”
—Alasdair MacIntyre, author of After Virtue
“A brilliantly insightful book about how American law has enshrined individual autonomy as the highest moral good…Highly thought-provoking.”
—Francis Fukuyama, author of Identity
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