Alicia Gutierrez-RomineAug 24, 2022
From Back Alley to the Border
Criminal Abortion in California, 1920-1969
University of Nebraska Press 2020
Before 1973's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, abortion in California was illegal for both doctors performing and women seeking the procedure. In From Back Alley to the Border: Criminal Abortion in California, 1920-1969 (U Nebraska Press, 2020), Dr. Alicia Gutierrez-Romine, an associate professor of history at La Sierra University, examines the experiences of doctors and patients in southern California during the mid-twentieth century. For doctors, performing abortions carried a good deal of risk, including extensive sentences of jail time. For women, the procedure was often safe, but not always, and carried risk of infection and even death. Women could use resources like the Pacific Coast Abortion Ring, a network of doctors willing to perform abortions, or even cross the border into Mexico, but every aspect of illegal reproductive medicine carried risks, moreso if patient or doctor were Black or poor. This is a relevant book and Gutierrez provides a window not just into the past, but into a post-Dobbs American future.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.