A law professor brings her learned perspective and anecdotal evidence to one of the world’s most controversial topics.
A former Planned Parenthood volunteer, Oberman (Santa Clara Univ. School of Law; When Mothers Kill, 2008) admits her pro–abortion rights stance, but her short book rarely veers toward polemic. Instead, she shows how those on both sides tend to marginalize the women whose lives are already marginalized and that, for those women, “abortion’s legal status hardly mattered.” The author predicts that if the anti-abortion movement continues to gain momentum, laws against abortion won’t stop them or even decrease them. Her approach is somewhat scattershot, but she focuses first on El Salvador, which “has the strictest abortion laws in the world.” Since the passage of an absolute ban in 1998, the abortion rate has not dropped; enforcement is selective and charges are rare, mainly brought upon women in dire circumstances, many of whom have suffered a miscarriage or lack of prenatal care but haven’t submitted to the abortion procedure. Furthermore, writes Oberman, “the rate of abortion in countries with restrictive abortion laws far exceeds that of countries with far more liberal laws, as in the United States.” She suggests that those campaigning hardest to reverse the liberalization of abortion policy are mainly engaged in moral posturing, knowing that the procedure they condemn will not decrease but will be increasingly stigmatized and driven underground—or to the internet, where drugs that can terminate a pregnancy are far safer than the old cliché of the back-alley abortionist. Perhaps the most illuminating part of the book concerns the compassion the author found at Birth Choice, which offers a safe haven for women who keep their babies and where there is “no shame, just love.” There she heard that there are “two kinds of pro-life people. People who are pro-life and people who are antiabortion…and the antiabortion folks are really difficult to work with.”
A brief but sensible entry in the abortion wars.