Abortion and woman's choice: the state, sexuality, and reproductive freedom.

Petchesky RP
New York, Longman, 1984. 404 p. (Longman Series in Feminist Theory)

The abortion issue is examined from a combined feminist and Marxist perspective. The Marxist's position, that the right to choose an abortion is a necessity under present social conditions and that society must be transformed so that the sexual division of labor disappears and society collectively shares the responsibility of child rearing, is accepted. However, the feminists position, that even after the transformation of society women must retain control over their own bodies rather than surrendering their rights to the collectively, is also accepted. The history of abortion is examined in the contexts of primitive societies and early European societies and in reference to the rise of Malthusianism theory. Differing attitudes toward abortion express the social conditions existing at various times and places. The focus is then shifted to the US, and the rise of the birth control movement and its gradual subjugation by the medical elite is described. Public pressure lead to an accomodation between the state and populist's agendas and in 1973 abortion was legalized. The 1973 decision supporting abortion was not a victory for women but a victory for the medical profession; it gave physicians, not women, the right to make abortion decisions. The subsquent rise in the number of white teenage abortions is examined. The increased rate of abortion among teenagers should not be viewed as an evil but rather as evidence that teenagers now have the choice of either marrying or not marrying. An unwanted pregnancy no longer prevents them from pursuing their educational and career goals. Abortion becomes more common, becomes a choice, and alternative, only when women have educational and career opportunities. Abortion is not a necessary evil; it is a necessary good. The rise in the abortion rate is an indirect indication that women have gained power. The rise of the profile movement is then described. This movement, although aimed at abortion, is, in reality, a reaction to the increased power of women and of the poor in US society. The concluding chapter is devoted to a discussion of the concept of reproductive freedom in reference to Marxist and feminist positions.

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