Monday, March 12, 2012

Killers for Life

now finished: Intimate Wars by Merle Hoffman
now reading: Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior & President by Ari Hoogenboom
now listening: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

I found this Merle Hoffman book especially interesting what with all the fracas over birth control in the national media of late. Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Board Room is a so-so memoir in the personal-life-recollection parts, but a fascinating inside look at this country's power structures in the history-of-abortion-reality parts. To be even more precise, it's a look at how those power structures affect people who don't have anywhere near as much power, including women who need abortions. And it's a look at what it took to make Choices, her clinic in New York, a reality.

I recommend Intimate Wars because I think more people need to take an unflinching but realistic look at abortion. In the book, Merle Hoffman specifically does not try to downplay anything, including the reality of abortion, which helps all the more to drive home her point that the "other side" (i.e., the anti-choicers outside her clinic who threaten her staff and make bomb threats while calling themselves "pro-life") are very much engaged in the business of lying about the reality of abortion. If they can make up some grisly picture and convince everyone this is what abortion looks like, they rally people to their side. Who needs facts when you can have grisly wedge issue titillation?

She details how much violence and threat of violence she and other clinics faced in the 1980s and 1990s, a history that must not be forgotten. If those anti-choicers get their way, there is such a terrible lot of violence, either against abortion providers (when abortion is legal) or against women's bodies (in back allies and other butcheries, when abortion is not legal).  

Bonus:  Merle Hoffman has traveled to Russia a few times (including when it was the Soviet Union) and there are interesting looks at what was going down there vis-a-vis women's health as well.

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