Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Greenhouse and Siegel, Before Roe v. Wade

Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel have published an edited collection Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling.

This book is a wonderful teaching resource. It includes primary sources and commentary by the editors. The selections include accounts by women in the pre-Roe years, including Sherri Chessen Finkbine, who had to leave the country to obtain an abortion when carrying a child with Thalidomide-induced birth defects in 1962. Activists on both sides and statements from religious groups are included. Law teachers will be especially interested in litigation documents and strategy memos in pre-Roe cases, and selections on legislative reform efforts. According to the editors, "Our purpose in presenting original texts reflecting many points of view is to permit readers to come to their own informed conclusions about a consequential, but widely misunderstood, chapter in American social, political, and legal history."

Here's the book description:
The Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion-but the debate was far from over, continuing to be a political battleground to this day. In the decades since the case was decided, the American debate on abortion has moved away from the issues that the justices confronted more than three decades ago. Bringing to light key voices that illuminate the case and its cultural context, Before Roe v. Wade looks back and recaptures how the arguments for and against abortion took shape as claims about the meaning of the Constitution-and about how the nation could best honor its commitment to dignity, liberty, equality, and life.

In this ground-breaking book, Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the Supreme Court for 30 years for The New York Times, and Reva Siegel, a renowned professor and former deputy dean at Yale Law School, collect the most significant historical, cultural, and legal documents which helped shape the Supreme Court's controversial decision.
And here's a summary of the book's contents:
Part I opens with the voices of women seeking abortion in the era of criminalization, as well as public health professionals, doctors, lawyers, and clergy who in the 1960s proposed modest reforms of century-old laws banning abortion. Thereafter, Part I traces the emergence of feminist arguments for repeal of abortion laws, showing how the women’s movement expanded the focus and normative grounds of debate; samples the heterogeneous response of religious institutions of the era; and concludes by showing how the Catholic Church helped mobilize a movement to preserve criminal abortion laws that appealed to secular authority capable of persuading Americans across denominational lines. Part II of the book examines the constitutionalization of conflict in the 1969-72 period. It reconstructs the interplay of legislation and litigation in New York where the state’s 19th century abortion ban was repealed in 1970 and almost reinstated in 1972; and then turns to the conflict concurrently unfolding in Connecticut, where litigation prompted invalidation of the state’s 19th century abortion ban, which the state legislature then promptly reenacted and the federal courts promptly invalidated, in a decision on appeal at the time of Roe. Part II concludes by surveying discussion of abortion in 1972 during the McGovern-Nixon presidential campaigns and the ERA ratification debate in order to sample claims and frames that shaped public understanding of abortion the time of the Court’s decision in Roe. Part III of the book closes with a brief litigation history of Roe, excerpts of the briefs in the case, and the text of Justice Blackmun’s hand-down statement from the bench. An introductory essay and afterword suggest ways in which the documents alter our understanding of the abortion right’s constitutionalization, and of the character of the controversy it engendered.
The table of contents is here. An excerpt is here.