CAHSS Faculty Articles

[Book Review] Toscano on Wilson, 'The Street Politics of Abortion: Speech, Violence, and America's Culture Wars'



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In this multifaceted book, Joshua C. Wilson sets out to accomplish a number of ambitious goals. Based on fifty interviews and secondary and primary source materials, including newspapers, Wilson tells the stories behind three distinct court cases. What these court cases share is that they stem from an actual or perceived conflict of interest regarding people's rights in relation to the physical space around health clinics where abortions occur. Firstly, he attempts to develop these stories through the lens of "movement-countermovement" analysis whereby he analyzes "how directly competing movements interact with one another—and possibly with a more traditional entity like the state—in a dynamic process where each movement in part creates the conditions within which the other acts" (p. 10). At the same time, he sets out to understand what we can learn about these stories regarding questions raised by traditional "legal consciousness" research, including "determining if and how law mattered for those involved in these disputes; how their stories may or may not reproduce, challenge, or amend legal power and state authority; ... and how their conceptions of law affect the ongoing politics of abortion" (p. 111). Lastly, Wilson includes the perspective of a group of participants in these legal conflicts that is often explicitly excluded in traditional legal consciousness research: state legal insiders or legal "elites," specifically lawyers, legislators, and amicus brief authors. Overall, this book achieves the ambitious goals it sets for itself in that it engages with and furthers two types of socio-legal-historical research: movement-countermovement literature and legal consciousness literature. Nonetheless, certain aspects of the conclusions reached by Wilson raise questions and leave room for further analysis.

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