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Abortion and the Law in America
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With the Supreme Court likely to reverse Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision, American debate appears fixated on clashing rights. The first comprehensive legal history of a vital period, Abortion and the Law in America illuminates an entirely different and unexpected shift in the terms of debate. Rather than simply championing rights, those on opposing sides battled about the policy costs and benefits of abortion and laws restricting it. This mostly unknown turn deepened polarization in ways many have missed. Never abandoning their constitutional demands, pro-choice and pro-life advocates increasingly disagreed about the basic facts. Drawing on unexplored records and interviews with key participants, Ziegler complicates the view that the Supreme Court is responsible for the escalation of the conflict. A gripping account of social-movement divides and crucial legal strategies, this book delivers a definitive recent history of an issue that transforms American law and politics to this day.


'Mary Ziegler's thorough and impeccable research has established her as the premier historian of abortion in the post-Roe era. By giving equal attention to activists on both sides of the struggle, her scholarship offers an essential grounding for anyone who seeks to debate the issue as a newly-constituted Supreme Court now considers whether to alter the established precedents that have governed American law for the last quarter-century.'

David J. Garrow - Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Liberty and Sexuality

'Mary Ziegler’s Abortion and the Law in America makes a dramatic call for less reliance on the Supreme Court to resolve the abortion debate. Instead, politicians, grassroots, activists, attorneys, and ordinary voters must assume responsibility for the intense political and cultural polarization that has occurred over abortion. She sets the context for any resolution of this issue in a magnificent legal history of abortion that should be required reading for everyone - not just legal scholars - concerned about our future as a unified democracy.'

Donald T. Critchlow - Katzin Family Professor, Arizona State University, and author of Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government

'Mary Ziegler's Abortion and the Law in America offers a fascinating analysis of the often shattering divisions in our nation over a woman’s right to choose. Ziegler shows that national debates over this issue have focused not only on what the Constitution means, but also on often bitter policy disagreements over the rights of the poor, the right to health care, the rights of teenagers, the right to religious liberty, and the rights of women. In a world in which Roe may soon be overturned, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand where we are headed.'

Geoffrey R. Stone - Edward H. Levi Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Chicago, and author of Sex and the Constitution

'This is an exhaustive - and fascinating - account of how we got to where we are today. A 'must have' for anyone wanting to know how and why abortion has polarized America.'

Kristin Luker - University of California, Berkeley

'Mary Ziegler understands the 'on the ground' history of the politics of Roe, and its connection to the evolving abortion rights jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, better than anyone else. Abortion and the Law in America shows that this story is far more complex than we imagine it to be, and that the abortion fight is likely to continue regardless of whether the Court overturns its landmark decision. As Americans have debated abortion, they have also debated and disagreed on a host of other issues concerning women's health, poverty policy, family structure, and even the standards for evaluating evidence and science. The abortion debate, she shows, has both mirrored and furthered the collapse of consensus in the larger culture.'

Kenneth W. Mack - Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History, Harvard University

'Few scholars know the history and law of abortion as well as Mary Ziegler. In this compelling book, she demonstrates how much we miss by continuing to view abortion through the prism of that 'clash of absolutes' pitting the constitutional right to choose against the constitutional right to life. In fact, she demonstrates, almost since Roe v. Wade was handed down, foes and advocates have fought about the costs and benefits of abortion, as well as rights to it. Abortion and the Law in America is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the vanishing line between science and spin, social movements and their legal strategies, and the role of the Supreme Court in the past - and future - of one of our most intractable conflicts.'

Laura Kalman - Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

'Ziegler is one of the foremost historians of abortion law in America, and this book will prove indispensable for anyone interested in the subject.'

I. Glenn Cohen - James A. Attwood and Leslie Williams Professor of Law, Harvard University

'For decades, the views of US Supreme Court Justices have dominated scholarly and popular conversations about abortion in the United States. In Abortion and the Law in America, Mary Ziegler offers a fresh take on the enduring debate; she centers the perspectives of activist organizations and grassroots tacticians in struggles over reproductive rights. Ziegler’s analysis of on-the-ground developments shows us that the Court is but one of many drivers of conflict and change in the unpredictable battle over Roe v. Wade.'

Tomiko Brown-Nagin - author of Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, Winner of the Bancroft Prize

'Mary Ziegler’s Abortion and the Law in America skillfully captures the trench warfare not only between pro-choice and pro-life forces over the future of Roe v. Wade, but within the contending legal and political camps on both sides of the fight. By mapping the shifting behind-the-scenes strategies adopted by cause lawyers in conjunction with allied legislators and advocacy groups to either sustain or subvert Roe, as they played out across a succession of related Supreme Court rulings, Ziegler provides one of the best guides we have to our uncertain constitutional future.'

Kenneth Kersch - Professor of Political Science, Boston College

'Mary Ziegler’s latest book offers an impressively detailed, even-handed history of the policy debates and legal developments that continue to shape abortion policy. This is the essential one-volume guide to the history behind current headlines. No matter what happens with Roe, Ziegler’s perceptive analysis, based on extensive primary source evidence, explains why the nation’s polarizing debate over abortion policy will likely remain far more complicated and intractable than partisans on either side imagine.'

Daniel K. Williams - author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade

'Mary Ziegler’s fine book shows that opposing sides in fights over abortion disagree about much more than constitutional principles. Even when the battle focuses on costs and benefits of abortion rather than constitutional rights, deep mistrust between activists on opposing side - reflected in disputes over basic facts relating to the science and regulation of abortion, in disagreements about which sources of information and expertise are reliable, and even in harsh assessments of opponents’ character and integrity - thwarts any hope of compromise.'

Ann Southworth - University of California, Irvine

'This is essential reading for anyone interested in abortion politics and law. We think abortion is a battle of principle, but as Ziegler shows again and again, both sides of the debate are also waging a war of facts and empirical evidence. This book will be eye-opening for everyone, even the most knowledgeable people in the field.'

David S. Cohen - author of Obstacle Course and Living in the Crosshairs

'No one knows more than Mary Ziegler about the history of the abortion controversy in the United States, and no one has thought more deeply about the subject. In this book, she shows how that controversy has evolved and, in the process, has revealed basic differences between the two sides about everything from the nature of the family to what counts as scientific knowledge. Ziegler’s account is nuanced and complex, and it highlights just how much work remains for defenders of women’s reproductive rights.'

David A. Strauss - Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School

'… Mary Ziegler meticulously charts the twists and turns of abortion law over the past 47 years, paying special attention to the organized groups on each side.'

Katha Pollitt Source: The Washington Post

‘Ziegler's rich and readable analysis ... will be welcome by students and scholars alike.’

Helena Silverstein Source: Law and Politics Book Review

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