cover image Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Katha Pollitt. Picador USA, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-62054-7

Even though abortion “is found in virtually every society going back at least 4,000 years,” it continues to be a divisive, controversial issue in the United States. Pollitt (Virginity or Death!), a columnist at the Nation, regards abortion as a fact of life and makes an impassioned, persuasive case for understanding it in its proper context—“the lives and bodies of women” and their families. With wit and logic, Pollitt debunks the many myths surrounding abortion, and analyzes what abortion opponents really oppose: namely, women’s growing sexual freedom and power. She similarly addresses the notion of the “personhood” of the zygote/embryo/fetus and shows how, in spite of its small numbers (“only 7 to 20% of Americans tell pollsters they want to ban abortion”), the anti-abortion movement succeeds by focusing the debate on “life.” As Pollitt explains, objections to abortion have only surfaced within the past 140 years, and she illuminates the “anti-feminist, anti-modern view of relations between the sexes” at the core of today’s opposition, showing how its connection to patriarchal religious institutions provides much of its political power and funding. Finally, Pollitt brings readers up to date on the positive changes she sees in the current pro-choice movement—the growth in the number of women sharing their abortion stories, and in the support for reproductive justice for targeted groups—and offers suggestions of her own. With arguments that are both lucid and sensible, Pollitt successfully reframes the abortion debate to show that, “in the end, abortion is an issue of fundamental human rights.” Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Oct.)