by Michelle Oberman
Non-fiction (El Salvador / USA), 192 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press, January 2018
Order: Beacon Press
With stories from the front lines, legal scholar Michelle Oberman journeys through distinct legal climates to understand precisely why and how the war over abortion is being fought. Drawing on her years of research in El Salvador—one of the few countries to ban abortion without exception—Oberman explores what happens when abortion is a crime. Oberman reveals the practical challenges raised by a thriving black market in abortion drugs, as well as the legal challenges to law enforcement. She describes a system in which doctors and lawyers collaborate in order to identify and prosecute those suspected of abortion-related crimes, and the troubling results of such collaboration: mistaken diagnoses, selective enforcement, and wrongful convictions.
Equipped with this understanding, Oberman turns her attention to the United States, where the battle over abortion is fought almost exclusively in legislatures and courtrooms. In an era in which every election cycle features a pitched battle over abortion’s legality, Oberman uses her research to expose the limited ways in which making abortion a crime matters. Her insight into the practical consequences that will ensue if states are permitted to criminalize abortion calls attention to the naïve and misguided nature of contemporary struggles over abortion’s legality.