CAHSS Faculty Articles

[Book Review] Toscano on Schoen, 'Abortion after Roe: Abortion after Legalization'



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With this book, Johanna Schoen attempts to fill a gap in the historical narrative of legalized abortion in the United States: namely, the experience of providing abortion in the context of the politicalization of abortion after Roe. Schoen, who writes from a clear position of support for reproductive rights, tells the story of how the provision of abortion has changed through the years and the impact of this medical service on the physicians, staff, clinic owners, and patients (although she explicitly excludes Planned Parenthood from this history). In this narrative, Schoen weaves together information she has gleaned from papers held by individual abortion providers and oral history interviews with aggregate data regarding abortion and the changing political and legal context within which abortion care has operated throughout the decades since Roe. What this book delivers is a nuanced account of abortion care since Roe that is "grounded in personal stories and local histories to illustrate the lived consequences of the politics of reproductive rights" (p. 22). Schoen does not shy away from the moral complexity of abortion care, and her call for a more honest and public discussion is idealistic and admirable. However, even as her work demonstrates certain insights that shed light on the tactics of the creation of anti-abortion rhetoric, Schoen neither explicitly ties these insights together nor does she recognize the naivety in her call for open and honest communication in our current political climate. While some of her work here may be co-opted by anti-abortion forces in their drive to frame the debate around abortion, it is still, nonetheless, full of useful and unique information.

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