Cover image for Roe v. Wade : the abortion rights controversy in American history
Roe v. Wade : the abortion rights controversy in American history
Publication Information:
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c2001.
Physical Description:
xi, 315 p. : illustrations.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 345.73 HUL 1 1

On Order



The issue of abortion has sharply divided America. The bitter debate over Roe v. Wade - in the courts, legislatures, press and streets - has grown ever more ferocious since the Supreme Court's landmark decision in 1973. For years pro-choicers have applauded Roe as a guarantee of women's rights, while pro-lifers have condemned it as the work of an activist and atheistic Court. Now it looms at the centre of a growing political storm, as a new president, and old Court, and a divided Congress reconsider Roe's status in the wake of the controversial 2000 elections.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Studies of abortion issues are common, but mostly partisan. With a deliberately (and rather successfully) even hand, law professor Hull and history professor Hoffer (coauthors of Impeachment in America) set out to answer one central question: how did abortion become illegal in America? Before Anthony Comstock's 1870s "anti-vice" campaigns, government was relatively uninvolved with women's pregnancies, which were seen as private. Our modern Congress, on the other hand, tries to legislate what doctors can tell pregnant women and even attempts to micromanage the actual abortion procedure by trying to outlaw certain techniques. By examining the roles of as many players as possible religious authorities, politicians, judges, doctors, activists, lawyers, etc. Hull and Hoffer piece together the story and explain the relevant legal workings. In another context, constitutional language might seem too dull, but with the abortion issue at center stage for so many Americans, this very scholarly work is also a page-turner. Legal terms (undue burden, class action suits, injunctions) are cleanly explained in a few concise sentences when they first appear. To orient the uninitiated, the authors interweave brief biographies of key figures (e.g., Thurgood Marshall and Antonin Scalia). No footnotes interrupt the flow: anything readers need to know is worked into the narrative. Important sources are reviewed in an excellent bibliographic essay at the end of the book. The most recent addition to the lively Landmark Law Cases and American Society series, this remarkable volume should be popular with law scholars and lay readers alike. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Major events in history are seldom simple: they echo the past and reverberate into the future in unexpected ways. These books offer examples of this complexity. Hull and Hoffer edit University Press of Kansas' Landmark Law Cases series; Hull teaches law and history at Rutgers University-Camden, and Hoffer is a University of Georgia historian. Their Roe v. Wade study begins with three chapters on U.S. abortion history: its nineteenth-century criminalization; the effect of improving birth-control methods in the twentieth century; and state-level legal changes in the 1960s. The authors then analyze the decision itself and trace the continuing battles of the next three decades, including the landmark Webster and Casey decisions. The book closes with thoughtful discussion of what this "never-ending story" reveals about American values and recent U.S. history. Linenthal, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor of religion and American culture, explores another "never-ending story": the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Linenthal specializes in memorialization; his previous books include studies of U.S. battlefields, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution's ill-fated Enola Gay exhibit. But his work on Oklahoma City demanded a broader scope. He opens with a description of the events of April 19, 1995, the wide impact of this disaster through the media, and conflicting explanations: Did the bombing shatter American innocence (yet again), or stand in a long tradition of American violence? Linenthal describes alternative narratives (progressive, redemptive, and toxic) that residents used to make sense of the horror, explores how grief was experienced (and sometimes medicalized), discusses "the memorial vocabulary of American culture," and describes Oklahoma City's memorial design process. For many, in Oklahoma City and elsewhere, the meaning of this tragic bombing remains "unfinished." --Mary Carroll

Choice Review

There are plenty of books on Roe v. Wade, but this one carves out its own niche. Books specifically on Roe include accounts that are firsthand, journalistic, legalistic, political, empirical, and sociological. There are also countless books that explore various elements of the broader topic of abortion from all sorts of disciplines and offering conflicting perspectives. This volume is a legal-historical study emphasizing that the Roe decision of 1973 does not mark the start of the abortion rights controversy, but rather stands as a landmark event in a controversy with a history that spans this nation's history. In six chapters Hull (Rutgers Univ., Camden) and Hoffer (Univ. of Georgia) trace how abortion came to be a crime, the impact of the birth control movement, the reform effort during the decade preceding Roe, the Roe decision, the attacks on Roe through the Webster case of 1988, and the impact of the 1992 Casey decision. An epilogue follows the changes during the Clinton years. The analysis is sensitive to women's history, cultural changes, and the politics of medicine. Following the style of "Landmark Law Cases Series," a bibliographic essay substitutes for footnotes--making it most appropriate for a general audience and undergraduates. S. Behuniak Le Moyne College

Library Journal Review

Hull (law and history, Rutgers Univ.) and Hoffer (history, Univ. of Georgia) here explain how abortion in the United States came to be criminalized in the 19th century, decriminalized in the 20th century's Roe v. Wade case (1973), and the subject of court and legislative battles ever since. They also offer clear and detailed discussions of the court decisions and legislative efforts that promoted or impeded abortion rights, including the strategies of lawyers and backgrounds of parties and judges. Also discussed are how many social forces feminist, paternalist, misogynist, racist, and others have affected abortion law. This study considers many fascinating aspects of abortion in the United States, including the connection between eugenics and banning abortion and the relationship between the contraceptive-rights and abortion-rights movements. The authors conclude with a bibliographic essay and a chronology of events. While there are hundreds of books on various aspects of abortion in society, this one does an unusually good job of covering the full legal history from Colonial times to 2001. It is crammed with information but remains very readable and a good source for student papers. Highly recommended for high school, academic, and public libraries. Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.