Preface to the 1990 Edition
What has the white, male lawgiver to say to any of us? To those of us who love life too much to willingly bring more children into a world saturated with death?
Abortion, for many women, is more than an experience of suffering beyond anything most men will ever know; it is an act of mercy, and an act of self-defense.
Abortion conflict refuses to go away. From a Supreme Court justice to the popular press, a chorus of voices in the United States in 1989 declared abortion "the most politically divisive domestic legal issue of our time."1 When this book was first published, abortion was still commonly referred to in the press, with some condescension, as a "social issue." Today it stands squarely in the middle of politics, signifying one’s position on a liberal-conservative continuum and signaling shifts in institutional power arrangements. The question is why the abortion debate persists, why it becomes such a charged site for struggles over not only changes in family, gender, and sexual relations in America society and their cultural meanings, but the terms of public disorder.
Abortion and Woman’s Choice aims to provide a holistic understanding of abortion from a feminist perspective, including the history of its practice and state policies to contain it; the social, economic, and cultural conditions under which women utilize it; and the legal, moral, and political battles that surround it. I have always thought that abortion acquires political volatility in periods when the social position of women generally is under siege. This is because the abortion decision epitomizes the capacity of individual women and women collectively to control fertility and to control the consequences of heterosexual sex—especially, in the present, for young, unmarried women. Today I would emphasize two interrelated problems that have surfaced since the book was first written: (1) the ascendancy of fetal politics and imagery in abortion discourse; and (2) the uses of that discourse, through the law and the media, to play out the class and race politics of the neoconservative state.