The Lost History of the Abortion Debate
Harvard University Press 2015
In this podcast I talk with Mary Ziegler, Stearns Weaver Miller Professor of Law at Florida State University College of Law about her book, After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (Harvard University Press, 2016).
Ziegler’s work revolves around Roe v. Wade and uses this landmark American abortion rights case to explore broad questions such as litigation as a vessel for social change and the role the court plays in democracy. To explore these questions, in addition to archival research Ziegler also did over one hundred oral histories. This method has allowed her to go beyond caricatures of people in the pro-life and anti-abortion camps and to delve deeply into their motivations and look at the angles they approached the abortion issue with great precision.
Roe is often seen as a cautionary tale for judicial intervention as described for example by both right leaning Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and left leaning Justice Ruth Bader Ginzburg. Her research reveals, however, that much of the polarization that we’ve blamed on the Supreme Court had little to do with what the court said in Roe. She discusses how the bright line divide between the pro-life and pro-choice movements had not yet coalesced in the 1970s.
Some other topics we discuss are:
–Whether Roe prematurely ended debate about the meaning or scope of abortion rights
–The forces that brought together the political right and the pro-life movement
–Roe as a canvas onto which activists could project different strategic aims