Review of Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights
by Karen Blumenthal
High School    Roaring Brook    373 pp.    g
2/20    978-1-62672-165-4    $19.99

Multiple legal, social, religious, and medical strands comprise the history of reproductive rights in America. Blumenthal, in her trademark straightforward journalistic style (Tommy: The Gun That Changed America, rev. 7/15; Bonnie and Clyde, rev. 1/19), creates a narrative that not only presents a comprehensible overview of the facts but also establishes the historical culture in which those facts existed. Blumenthal incorporates well-chosen case studies and numerous sidebars (each unfortunately titled a “Pregnant Pause”) — such as charts reporting the historic trend of deaths related to abortion or the changing positions of major religious groups. These reveal the misogyny (until the midpoint of the twentieth century, unmarried women could not legally buy contraceptives); racism (women of color were often sterilized without their knowledge); and classism (overwhelmingly white, financially stable women were, and are, able to get abortions) that influenced the issue of unwanted pregnancies for a century and a half. In addition, she outlines the unexpected consequences, including social pressures, mass media coverage, and death, that some women faced when trying to obtain abortions before the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, as well as the limits that have been imposed on the law since the 1973 decision. Blumenthal’s impeccable research is revealed in the extensive back matter (including documentation, a subject bibliography, a timeline, and a glossary) that completes this compelling book.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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