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Books, Journals, New Media
July 8, 1998

AbortionAbortion Wars: A Half Century of Struggle, 1950-2000

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 1998;280(2):193-194. doi:10.1001/jama.280.2.193

The title of this book, Abortion Wars, aptly captures an America that just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Roe v Wade with another murder at a clinic providing abortion services. Awareness of history forces us to appreciate that it is "impossible to . . . claim universalized, decontextualized meanings for abortion." The historian Rickie Solinger has contributed this edited volume so that we can reflect upon the complicated strands that led to this place.

Solinger begins in the pre-Roe era describing prosecutions of those providing abortion and clarifying a misconception: most of the morbidity associated with illegal abortions resulted from self-induced procedures, not those performed by "back alley practitioners." In fact, in the four years just prior to Roe v Wade, Jane, an underground collective of lay women in Chicago, Ill, provided more than 11000 abortions without any major complications. The only other route for obtaining an abortion in this period was through the hospital-based therapeutic abortion committee, an experience described as humiliating.

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