Book Review: Abortion: History, Politics, and Reproductive Justice After Morgentaler

Author:Canadian Association of Law Libraries
Date:November 07, 2019

Several times each month, we are pleased to republish a recent book review from the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its reviews cover both practice-oriented and academic publications related to the law.

Abortion: History, Politics, and Reproductive Justice after Morgentaler. Edited by Shannon Stettner, Kristin Burnett & Travis Hay. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017. vi, 372 p. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7748-3574-9 (paper) $34.95.

Reviewed by Megan Siu
Community Development & Educational Specialist
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA)
In CLLR 43:3

Abortion: History, Politics, and Reproductive Justice after Morgentaler is a carefully crafted collection of essays that detail the historical and contemporary context of abortion and reproductive rights in Canada. The essays are organized into four thematic parts titled “History,” “Experience,” “Politics,” and “Discourse and Reproductive Justice,” respectively.

The essays in part 1 each discuss social issues that dominated the abortion discussion at different points in Canadian history. For instance, Niitsitapi midwifery practices were dismissed as illegitimate due to a lack of official accreditation. Women and girls who sought out abortion services were judged as being responsible for their own problems. The first few essays, far from easing the reader into the underlying social issues surrounding abortion, move directly to the heart of the matter and set the tone for what comes next.

Part 2 is a whirlwind tour through the political movements surrounding abortion. The essays follow the emergence of Canadian feminism alongside the simultaneous rise of the pro-choice versus anti-abortion debate. Readers will note the re-categorization of abortion and reproductive rights as they move from a criminal issue, to a political issue, and, finally, to a healthcare issue. A look at the inconsistency between laws that support a woman’s right to abortion and the service or disservice provided by medical professionals highlights the unequal treatment of women and women’s bodies.

Part 3 takes a more in-depth look at the legal side of abortion in Canada, including the liberalization and decriminalization of abortion, as well as a comparison of how abortion is treated in Canada versus the United States, and shifts in the anti-abortion movement. The essays specifically talk about section 251 of...

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