How Legal Abortion Transformed America

By Edd Doerr | 22 December 2014
Americans for Religious Liberty journal, Voice of Reason

Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation, by David A. Grimes, M.D. with Linda G. Brandon. Daymark Publishing, 2014, 433 pp, $20.76 softcover, $37.76 Hardcover, $00.99 E-book. A review by Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty.

Fully one third of American women will have had an abortion in their lifetimes. Since the Supreme Court recognized, not created, every woman’s constitutional right to have a problem pregnancy terminated, that amounts to about 50 million abortions, without which the US population would be approaching 400 million. Worldwide, in the same 40-year timespan, there have been about 1.4 billion abortions, far too many of them illegal and dangerous, without which world population would be nearly an unsustainable 9 billion, with serious consequences for global climate change and all that goes with it; but that is something beyond the scope of this review.

Meanwhile, the more conservative of our two parties, in the driver’s seat in Congress and most state legislatures, has enjoyed two years of free-ranging attacks on fundamental women’s reproductive rights and health. So publication of this important new book could not be more timely. The primary author is a noted physician and scholar with over four decades of experience studying, providing and teaching in this field, including having headed the Abortion Surveillance Branch of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Every Third Woman is encyclopedic in scope, with 985 endnotes of documentation. Divided into 23 topical chapters, it is immensely easy to follow, a great read. Among many other things, Grimes shows that abortion is far safer for women than carrying a pregnancy to term. He notes that the consensus of psychiatrists and psychologists is that psychological problems stemming from abortions are negligible, a fact that even Dr C. Everett Koop, Reagan’s Surgeon General, had to admit, and notes that giving up a baby for adoption is more traumatic than having an abortion. The book leaves no stone unturned.

Among the author’s conclusions: access to safe, legal abortion is important for the health of American women; opposition to abortion and contraception is a manifestation of misogyny and patriarchalism; spontaneous abortion is common and is a healthy, necessary part of human reproduction; current attacks on safe, legal abortion are designed “to turn women to the back alley once again.”

The only thing that Grimes does not go into is the “theological” case against abortion rights used by anti-choicers to mask their patriarchalism and misogyny. In confronting these arguments it is simple to show that the Bible nowhere condemns abortion. Indeed, the Bible at Genesis 1:27 and 2:7, holding that “God created man in his own image” (which obviously must refer to consciousness and will, rather than flesh, blood and DNA) and “became a living soul” with his/her first breath gibes with the view of scientists that what we call “personhood” is not possible until the cerebral cortex is sufficiently developed to permit consciousness, some time after 28 to 32 weeks of gestation. About 90% of abortions are performed during the first trimester, 99% by 20 weeks, with later ones performed only for serious medical reasons.

This book does not duplicate Katha Pollitt’s equally important Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which I reviewed in VOR No. 129. Both are must read books for all who care about women’s rights and religious liberty. And both are critical of the political inadequacy of the defenders of abortion rights. It easily rates five stars.

Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation

By David A. Grimes, M.D. with Linda G. Brandon
Publisher: Daymark Publishing (September 24, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0990833607
ISBN-13: 978-0990833604

Edd Doerr was president of the American Humanist Association from 1995 to 2003, serving previously as vice-president and board chair under Isaac Asimov from 1985 to 1991. He has been executive director and then president of Americans for Religious Liberty since 1982. A former teacher of history and Spanish, he is the author, co-author, editor, or translator of twenty books, mostly on religious liberty and reproductive rights. He served on the governing body of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from 1973 until 2004 and on the boards of NARAL, the ACLU of Maryland, and the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty. More than 3,000 of his articles, columns, reviews, and letters have been published in The Humanist and many other publications. For over ten years he has been writing a column in the journal Free Inquiry from the Council for Secular Humanism.

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