That said you'd think I didn't really like the book and there you would be wrong. This book is tremendous. It pulls together historical aspects of sexual and reproductive rights, and knowledge and legislation on this topic, focusing not only on abortion but on birth control and education leading up to the landmark case of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Before I was a librarian, I was a high school health teacher. Just about every other page of Jane Against the World gave me some new information that I should have known as I was teaching about reproduction to my students or elaborated on known details. The author, Karen Blumenthal, said in her notes that she started the project as a look at abortion through the history of the famous lawsuit Roe v. Wade. But she found as she was trying to understand Roe she realized she needed to understand how the lawsuit came about and about the laws that preceded Roe. Before she knew it she was enmeshed is a larger story about women's rights, reproductive rights, racial discrimination, medicine, and religion. It is amazing that the book wasn't twice as it is.
My daughter and I had a heart-felt conversation about abortion and reproductive rights after I finished Jane Against the World. She is a genetic counselor who sometimes delivers information to her patients about the genetic condition of their fetus that cause couples to consider aborting. These patients have that option because they live in a state where abortions are available and considered a viable health treatment. But she reminded me that all of her patients have health insurance and have gone through the testing to determine genetic conditions. Many women in the USA and the world do not have the money or the option to do this. Even today if abortions were made illegal, women with money would obtain them while women with fewer financial resources would be left to suffer back-room abortions or carry a pregnancy to term against their will. The hypocrisy of the situation is deplorable. While many right-to-lifers rail against abortion they also do not want people to receive free birth control. It is quite maddening.
Every high school and public library must purchase a copy of this book. It is excellent.
What I liked about the book:
- It is very readable and thorough.
- It is an excellent research tool with over 60 pages of chapter notes, a long bibliography, a timeline of reproductive rights, and an index.
- The story doesn't stop when Roe passed. A whole section covers what has happened around abortion rights since its passage.
- At times I did feel like the book got down pretty deep into the weeds of all the details. Occasionally I found myself speed-reading through those sections. I was interested but not that interested. But by in large, the book is an excellent research tool and a fascinating read in its own right.
Source: print edition checked out from my public library.