Abortion and Social Responsibility: Depolarizing the Debate Book

Shrage, L. (2003). Abortion and Social Responsibility: Depolarizing the Debate . 1-171. 10.1093/019515309X.001.0001

cited authors

  • Shrage, L



  • This book argues that Roe v. Wade's six-month time span for abortion "on demand" polarized the American public, and obscured alternatives that could have gained broad public support. As a result, a predictable bureaucratic backlash to legal abortion has ensued that has placed legal abortion services out of reach for women who are poor, young, or live far from urban centers. Explores the origins of Roe's regulatory scheme and demonstrates that it resulted from concerns that have considerably less relevance in today's medical context. Endorses regulatory guidelines, first proposed by the American Bar Association in 1972, which would give states more flexibility in setting the time span for unrestricted abortion. Argues that the standard civil liberty defenses of abortion (i.e. privacy, involuntary servitude, self-defense, religious freedom) offer better support for these guidelines than for Roe's scheme, and that a time span for nontherapeutic abortions shorter than six months can both protect women's interests and advance important public interests. The book also critiques the individualism of "pro-choice" post-Roe abortion rights campaigns for failing to articulate how women's reproductive options depend on access to public services and resources and not only on being let alone. Urges reproductive rights activists to emphasize the interconnections both between social responsibility and respect for human life, and between the Samaritan obligations of pregnant women and those of other citizens. Explores feminist artwork on abortion to extrapolate tools for refocusing the abortion debate on these issues and for contesting the extremist tactics of the "pro-life" movement.

publication date

  • November 1, 2003

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 171