Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America

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Good News Pub, 1992 - Religion - 318 pages
2 Reviews

The pre-Roe v. Wade history of U.S. abortion is little understood by most Americans. Opponents of abortion often look at those good old days as a golden age in which abortion was rare and criticism of the practice was adamant. On the other hand, advocates of legalized abortion criticize the bad old days of "back-alley abortionists" but argue that through nearly all our nation's history most Americans accepted the right of abortion. Both sides simplify the past and make assumptions favorable to their current stand; both need a greater grasp of the past regarding this crucial issue.

Were abortions commonplace in early U.S. history? What types of women received abortions in post-Revolutionary America? Who opposed it then and later, and how and why? To what effect? What led to Roe v. Wade?

In this remarkable and controversial work, Marvin Olasky has written an in-depth analysis of the history of abortion in America. Part One describes the three groups of women who were having abortions through the mid-nineteenth century. Part Two examines the failures and limited successes of anti-abortion Americans as they tried to develop a societal mind-set in which abortion was condemned. Part Three carries the story into the twentieth century, examining the moral transition among physicians and the impact of changing values and economic pressures.

The story recounted here is not a simple one. Individual cases described in the historical record sometimes hinge on nuances of evidence rather than overt principles. But it is a story that must be told if we are to go beyond provocative bumper stickers and placards. This is not a book that will please all readers. Instead, it is a fully documented history that tells the truth about abortion in America while clearing away misunderstanding with the established views of both sides in the abortion wars. Most importantly, it surveys and interprets the subject within the framework of the historic Judeo-Christian value system, which provided the basis of American institutions and culture.

The result of extensive study, including many, many hours of painstaking research in the Library of Congress, this brilliant work will radically impact the abortion debate. A great book dealing honestly with the foremost moral crisis of our day.

"This book reflects a passionate concern for the unborn, and a passionate concern for American democracy. It is history that provides a useable past that can help us today in addressing constructively a great question that the Supreme Court has presumed to 'settle' by judicial fiat. From that past, Marvin Olasky constructs the vision of a different but promising future. It is a vision that must be engaged by all who know that the pro-life cause is a life-long commitment." --Richard John Neuhaus, Editor in Chief of First Things

"Marvin Olasky has produced a fascinating study of abortion qua social rite, and it is undeniably sui generis. As an a posteriori analysis it is encyclopedic in the depth and expanse of its research, and as sheer reading pleasure it is by turns amusing, chilling--and always informative. For this truly monumental work, scholars of the abortion conflict throughout the world owe Professor Olasky an unrequitable debt." --Bernard Nathanson

"Abortion Rites is a fascinating work which dispels the many myths clouding abortion history. It is, for pro-life activists, a sobering account which requires giving up some cherished notions of 'the good old days.' But at the same time it recounts strategies to limit abortion violence that were successful for pro-life advocates of previous generations--proven advice we should consider. This book belongs on the shelf of everyone interested in the abortion debate." --Frederica Mathewes-Green

"If Marvin Olasky was startled at what his research revealed, it surprised me even more. Imagine Members of Congress taking famous women to New York for abortions--120 years ago. Imagine a time, less than 100 years ago, when the age of consent for girls was seven in one state, and fourteen or less in 35 others. This book is loaded with fascinating information. Most surprising, however, is Professor Olasky's conclusion about the pro-life movement. From his unique historical treatment, his perspective was fresh and encouraging." --Robert P. Dugan, Jr., Director, Office of Public Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals

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Review: Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America

User Review  - Pat Ennis - Goodreads

Dr Olasky's historical account of abortion in the US is detailed and enlightening. And his vision for future progress of the pro-life cause is compelling and provoking. Strongly recommend this book for anyone concerned about abortion in the US. Read full review

Review: Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America

User Review  - Bob - Goodreads

The pro-life movement likes to argue not only that the social consensus and laws opposed abortion prior to Roe v. Wade but also that abortion occurred on a relatively limited scale. The pro-choice ... Read full review

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About the author (1992)

Marvin Olasky is Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a Senior Fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is the author of more than a dozen books of history and policy analysis, and the editor of "World, " a weekly news magazine from a Christian perspective. He has been an adviser to George Bush since 1993.

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