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Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe V. Wade Paperback – August 31, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Both sides of the debate over legal abortions have invoked the images of the "back-alley butcher" and the coat hanger as a portrayal of abortionists in the years before the Roe v. Wade decision. Anti-abortionists use these symbols to portray abortionists as greedy, exploitative, and less than professional, while supporters of choice invoke them to warn of the jeopardy in which women's lives would be placed if abortion were recriminalized.

But the truth about pre-Roe abortion is often quite different. Carole Joffe interviews 45 health-care professionals who either provided safe abortions or access to them in those years, focusing on, as she puts it, "the mounting frustrations with anti-abortion legislation that led otherwise highly conventional physicians to various degrees of law breaking and law bending" and the impact that decision had on their personal and professional lives. These people got involved because they could not stand by while women suffered from poverty or health complications; for many, it was more a matter of profound internal religious questioning. "I felt the solution to God's problems, in the world, was through faith," says one doctor. "Through faith in God we'd find a way to solve these problems... God wasn't going to solve all our problems. We've got to solve them ourselves." Doctors of Conscience is a solid, well-rounded portrayal of several people who came to such decisions; as an informed document, it offers much clarity and insight into a highly controversial issue.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the lingering image of "back-alley butchers" performing abortions in the era before the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized the procedure, not all doctors who provided abortion were incompetent or greedy. Joffe, a sociology professor at UC-Davis, interviewed 45 doctors?35 men, 10 women?who either performed illegal abortions or engaged in related activities such as providing backup medical services to patients and campaigning for legalization. She found her respondents to be competent, caring and motivated by conscience and compassion for women with unwanted pregnancies. The doctors' experience prior to Roe convinced them of the imperative need for legalization, and in the years after 1973, they not only faced harassment from the antiabortion movement but also engaged in a broader struggle?hospitals yielding to antiabortion pressure and shutting down services, hostile landlords, isolation and stigmatization within the medical community. Today some 84% of U.S. counties lack abortion facilities. Joffe's urgent report outlines the role the medical community could play in improving abortion services.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Reissue edition (August 31, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807021016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807021019
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,461,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carole Joffe is a professor at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California-San Francisco, and a professor emerita of sociology at the University of California-Davis. She is the author of several books.

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on February 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book makes it clear that the Doctors who provided abortions when the procedures were still illegal risked their medical credentialing and professional standing. If they had been discovered, including by an office worker, they could have lost that license or gone to jail. Wanting women to have control over our own lives and access to health care was illegal

And today, my generation finds itself in an interesting paradigm. Because while the state officially allows the performance of abortion, protestors take it upon themselves to hunt and terrorize the doctors who perform this procedure. This climate has chilling repercussions because 86 percent of American counties now lack a medically licensed abortion provider. Wanting women to have access to health care places their lives physically at risk.

With all of the news stories about clinic protests and doctor shootings, it's easy for American citizens to become discouraged, feeling like extremists are winning. But this book gave me effective 'pain relief' by reminding me that we are not alone. There are doctors wanting us to obtain health care.
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By Leilag on February 13, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a must read for anyone involved- or interested- in keeping abortion safe and legal. Anti choicers like to pretend women didn't die from illegal or self induced abortion prior to Roe v. Wade- this book proves the desperation of women faced with an unwanted pregnancy. These brave doctors provided abortion to women knowing they were risking their careers. Now that I think about it, this is also a great book for anti choicers. Learn the real facts from doctors and their patients. Learn why women choose abortion and why it must remain safe and legal.
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