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Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America [Paperback]

By Marvin Olasky (Author) & William J. Bennett (Preface by)
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Item description for Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America by Marvin Olasky & William J. Bennett...

After spending a year at the Library of Congress and the History of Medicine Library of the National Institutes of Health, Olasky has written an in-depth analysis of the history of abortion in America. This text ends in 1962 because many accounts of the recent abortion battles have been written. Olasky was commissioned by Americans United for Life to complete this study.

Publishers Description

The pre-Roe v. Wade history of U.S. abortion is little understood by most Americans. Opponents of abortion often look at those good old days as a golden age in which abortion was rare and criticism of the practice was adamant. On the other hand, advocates of legalized abortion criticize the bad old days of "back-alley abortionists" but argue that through nearly all our nation's history most Americans accepted the right of abortion. Both sides simplify the past and make assumptions favorable to their current stand; both need a greater grasp of the past regarding this crucial issue.

Were abortions commonplace in early U.S. history? What types of women received abortions in post-Revolutionary America? Who opposed it then and later, and how and why? To what effect? What led to Roe v. Wade?

In this remarkable and controversial work, Marvin Olasky has written an in-depth analysis of the history of abortion in America. Part One describes the three groups of women who were having abortions through the mid-nineteenth century. Part Two examines the failures and limited successes of anti-abortion Americans as they tried to develop a societal mind-set in which abortion was condemned. Part Three carries the story into the twentieth century, examining the moral transition among physicians and the impact of changing values and economic pressures.

The story recounted here is not a simple one. Individual cases described in the historical record sometimes hinge on nuances of evidence rather than overt principles. But it is a story that must be told if we are to go beyond provocative bumper stickers and placards. This is not a book that will please all readers. Instead, it is a fully documented history that tells the truth about abortion in America while clearing away misunderstanding with the established views of both sides in the abortion wars. Most importantly, it surveys and interprets the subject within the framework of the historic Judeo-Christian value system, which provided the basis of American institutions and culture.

The result of extensive study, including many, many hours of painstaking research in the Library of Congress, this brilliant work will radically impact the abortion debate. A great book dealing honestly with the foremost moral crisis of our day.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America by Marvin Olasky & William J. Bennett has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Booklist - 11/15/1992 page 567

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Crossway Books
Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 25, 1992
Publisher   Crossway Books/Good News
Edition  New  
ISBN  0891076875  
ISBN13  9780891076872  

Availability  0 units.

More About Marvin Olasky & William J. Bennett

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Marvin Olasky (PhD, American Culture, University of Michigan) is the editor-in-chief of World Magazine. He has been interviewed numerous times by the national media as the developer of the concepts of compassionate conservatism and biblically objective journalism and is the author of twenty books.

Marvin Olasky currently resides in Austin, in the state of Texas.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America?

An Early American Quilt of Death  Mar 19, 2009
While not a history scholar, I would consider myself an amateur student of history. As I read and study history, I purposely aim for breadth. Focusing on one specific area of historical reading gives good depth, but often that depth is obtained with blinders to other formative areas that impacted that particular area of study. It is for that reason that I read a variety of histories--theological, religious, national, regional, political, ecclesiastical, military, and topical. Because of that broad base I may not have depth of knowledge in a particular area, but I tend to be pretty well versed in the big-picture.

With that understanding as background, I was surprised to realize how little I knew about the history of abortion in America. To be perfectly frank, the entry point of my mental reference for abortion has always been Roe v. Wade. My typical thinking has been that Roe v. Wade came as a direct result of the feminist movement and so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. In a way it did, but as Marvin Olasky points out in this book, the history tells a much deeper story.

The history which Olasky terms "an early American quilt of death," begins in colonial America in 1629. Of course, records are scarce and the connection between them can easily be misinterpreted, but Olasky links together early court testimonies that weave a sordid tale of infanticide and pregnancy concealment. The crimes appeared to be rare, but were common enough that laws were enacted to legislate against them and prescribe punishments for them. It is interesting that the men involved were often held more culpable than the women.

While tracing the history of abortion in America is the backdrop, the author has a purpose in mind. His desire is to show the relationship between legislation and abortion. The goal of the book is to show that legislation, while necessary, is not the primary deterrent for abortion. As abortions increased exponentially in antebellum America, legislation began to proliferate. In the post-war years, zealous application and enforcement of the new laws began to have an effect, but at best, the effect was limited and temporary.

Through the use of historical records, Olasky shows that abortions are only decreased through a combination of legislation and compassionate prevention. Unlike politically liberal methods of prevention (birth control and sex education), Olasky's methods are primarily related to prenatal care such as crisis pregnancy centers, job training for single mothers and halfway homes for mothers in trouble.

Not only does this book provide historical context to the abortion question, it is also for those who have a sincere desire to see the number of abortions in America reduced. Political conservatives who are frustrated with the current rollback of pro-life legislation can take comfort in the fact that legislation is, at best, only part of the solution. Legislation can only be minimally impacted by most people, but anyone can directly impact the life of unborn children and troubled mothers by volunteering at a local crisis pregnancy center or providing some other kind of prenatal care. It will make a difference--history bears it out.

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