10 Books About 'Roe v. Wade' To Give You Historical And Political Context On The Groundbreaking Supreme Court Decision
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement announcement last Wednesday has most of America speculating about the future of the Supreme Court. Among pro-choice Americans, one of the biggest fears is that a Republican-appointed justice may assist in getting Roe v. Wade overturned.
In 1973, the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, recognizing that the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Yet, in the forty years since the ruling, abortion has remained a highly-charged and controversial issue. A women's right to choose is still very much restricted and under attack. Despite the fact that 70% of Americans do not wish to see the case overturned, abortion is still one of the most divisive issues in politics today.
But Roe v. Wade has much larger implications than simply a woman's ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion. The case opened up a new era of liberation for women, providing legal confirmation of the idea that women should be able to have power over their own bodies. It also explored issues of privacy in healthcare that are relevant to any person, regardless of reproductive status. Roe v. Wade was a major victory for women's rights, and an important building block in the fight for equality.
So, if you're wondering what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned, here are some books that will give you some background on the case and demonstrate just how important it is.
'Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights' by Katha Pollitt
In this exceptional and urgent book, Katha Pollitt makes a compelling argument for why abortion is a moral right. Taking on anti-choice arguments and exploring the restrictions around abortion, Pollitt makes an airtight case for why women should have the right to choose.
'Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling' by Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel
Linda Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the Supreme Court for 30 years for the New York Times, and Reva Siegel is a renowned professor and former deputy dean at Yale Law School. In this fascinating book, the two writers explore the arguments that circled the decision in Roe v. Wade. This books provides fascinating cultural and political context for the decision. You can even get a free PDF version courtesy of the Yale Law School library.
'Abortion & Life' by Jennifer Baumgardner
In Abortion & Life, author and activist Jennifer Baumgardner explores "how the most controversial and stigmatized Supreme Court decision of our time cuts across eras, classes, and race." Filled with beautiful photographs, this book shares abortion stories from women, imbuing the discussion with necessary compassion and humanity.
'The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade' by Ann Fessler
What was life for women like before Roe v. Wade? This book provides important and harrowing information about the 1.5 million women who gave up their babies for adoption before abortion was legalized. The Girls Who Went Away exposes the tragic circumstances and the punitive double-standards that affected these women for their entire lives.
'The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service' by Laura Kaplan
OK what about the women who did get an abortion before Roe v. Wade? This book takes you into a secret organization that helped over 11,000 women get abortions in the years before Roe v. Wade. This books discusses a powerful moment in history that will absolutely stun you.
'Crow After Roe: How "Separate But Equal" Has Become the New Standard in Women's Health and How We Can Change That' by Jessica Mason Pieklo and Robin Marty
On the other side of the coin, this book explores what happened after abortion was made legal by Roe v. Wade, and how the court's ruling has been systematically undermined in attempts to prevent women from accessing abortions. Authors Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo expose how each of these repressive laws were designed specifically to challenge Roe v. Wade and create a reproductive health system that denies women (and especially marginalized women) control.
'Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice' by Loretta Ross, Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Elena R. Gutiérrez, and Elena Gutierrez
This book discusses the women of color in the foreground of the fight for reproductive rights, showing how they have historically led the charge for greater access. The authors stress the urgency for "innovative strategies that push beyond the traditional base and goals of the mainstream pro-choice movement," arguing for inclusivity and specificity. This is an important read as you work toward upholding reproductive rights.
'How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex' by Cristina Page
In this fiery read, Cristina Page shows how the pro-choice movement has established basic freedoms, and how the anti-choice movement is working to unravel those freedoms—not just by restricting abortion but also by preventing access to contraception. Page demonstrates how the ability to plan when and if to have children has transformed our society, and why it is an essential human right.
'Roe v. Wade' by Marian Faux
This book provides an historical, inside account of the court case itself, and the arguments that have surrounded it. If you want to learn more about the case itself and what went into its preparation, this is the book to pick up.
'The Boundaries of Her Body: A Shocking History of Women's Rights in America' by Debran Rowland
The Boundaries of Her Body zooms out and shows you the history of women's rights from the Mayflower Contract through the 20th century. Drawing on legal and historical sources, Debran Rowland gives you a great historical context for Roe v. Wade, providing a fascinating look at the building blocks that have shaped the debates about women's rights that we're still having today.