The definitive history of abortion in the United States, with a
new preface that equips readers for what’s to come.
When Abortion Was a Crime is the must-read book on abortion
history. Originally published ahead of the thirtieth anniversary of
Roe v. Wade, this award-winning study was the first to examine the
entire period during which abortion was illegal in the United States,
beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and ending with that
monumental case in 1973. When Abortion Was a Crime is filled
with intimate stories and nuanced analysis, demonstrating how
abortion was criminalized and policed—and how millions of women
sought abortions regardless of the law. With this edition, Leslie J.
Reagan provides a new preface that addresses the dangerous and
ongoing threats to abortion access across the country, and the
precarity of our current moment.
While abortions have typically been portrayed as grim "back
alley" operations, this deeply researched history confirms that
many abortion providers—including physicians—practiced openly and
safely, despite prohibitions by the state and the American Medical
Association. Women could find cooperative and reliable practitioners;
but prosecution, public humiliation, loss of privacy, and inferior
medical care were a constant threat. Reagan's analysis of previously
untapped sources, including inquest records and trial transcripts,
shows the fragility of patient rights and raises provocative
questions about the relationship between medicine and law. With the
right to abortion increasingly under attack, this book remains the
definitive history of abortion in the United States, offering vital
lessons for every American concerned with health care, civil
liberties, and personal and sexual freedom.