10 Abortion Books to Understand the Roe v. wade

As the Supreme Court reconsiders Roe v. With Wade months shy of his 50th birthday, and likely preparing to rescind it, according to a leaked draft opinion, it’s worth asking how the ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion came to divide our country.

The conflict was not inevitable. While abortion is fraught with universal points of contention – religion and sex, gender and autonomy, life and death – it has not divided any country the way it has in the United States. And in 1975, two years after the 7-2 decision was announced, Roe had generated so little pushback that John Paul Stevens, the first judge appointed to the High Court after the decision, was not even asked to give his opinion at his confirmation hearing. .

It is far too simple to attribute all the division around abortion in this country, as some do, to the fact that we have established our abortion policy through the courts rather than through legislation. Leaders on both sides of the issue have sought to politicize the issue for political gain, drawing on the strains of the American character – our individualism and our feminism, our religiosity and our conservative attitudes towards sex.

As a result, we now find ourselves, half a century after Roe, so divided by it that, as feminist writer Katha Pollitt observed, “abortion is seen as one of those subjects on which people have not only their own opinions, but their own facts. Indeed, in the United States, even the science of abortion is open to debate. Does abortion cause emotional injury to a At what point in pregnancy does the fetus begin to feel pain largely depends on who you ask.

To help understand how we got here, here’s a list of 10 books — five that examine the legal, political, and social foundations of abortion in America, followed by five that explore everything abortion has encompassed since. Roe: issues of violence and stigma, politics and race, medicine and law, philosophy and medicine.


Rooted in the 19th century, this invaluable book is the foundational history of America’s anti-abortion laws. It examines how and why abortion was criminalized, which is essential to understanding the subsequent struggle for its legalization.


Every movement needs its definitive story. And this big book offers both detail and scope as it methodically walks through the half-century struggle for reproductive rights that culminated with Roe. The book is as rigorous as it is monumental.


Primary sources are crucial to understanding how history is made. This book introduces the reader to a wealth of original documents—among them letters, memoranda, and legal briefs—that together informed the war on abortion we know today.


Roe was 11 when the author of this powerful book – a sociologist, not a legal historian – showed that America’s abortion divide grew, above all, out of class distinctions. This observation has profound implications.


This book presents those who led the fight against Roe as they saw themselves, bound less by politics or religion than by values. Wonderfully balanced, the book reminds us that abortion is a sensitive subject for good reason.


This fair and powerful book traces the descent of abortion politics into partisanship and resentment. The author, a law professor, is a preeminent expert on all things Roe.


This book humanizes the evangelical effort to end abortion and describes its profound effect on America’s culture wars. It’s a gripping story.


This incisive book lays bare what it means to provide abortion in America today, and what it requires. It’s a window into much of what abortion affects, including gender and race.


Written by a bioethicist and lawyer, this book presents the existing philosophical arguments for and against abortion. It is also a lucid examination of abortion as it is most often in the country, an act that is both banal and stigmatized.


With insight and provocation, Snead, a bioethicist, examines the questions abortion raises about the meaning of human life.

Joshua Prager is the author of “The Family Roe: An American Story”, a double biography of Roe v. Wade and his complainant, Jane Roe. Written over the course of a decade, the book tells the story of abortion in America through people, not politics.

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