While this is my personal opinion, I feel like the words ‘abortion debate’ are a bit of a rhetorical trick. Body autonomy isn’t something up for debate by a religious minority. Dead people get body autonomy, living men get body autonomy, and women should get body autonomy too!
The number of countries in the world that deprive women of that right is worrying, and with the move by certain states of the US recently to increase that number further, we thought we’d wade in with some book recommendations on the subject!
Our commenters don’t need to point out that this is written in a biased way, I’m well aware. Consider it an opinion piece. Now here are those recommendations!
Repeal the Eighth
Abortion is illegal in almost every circumstance in Ireland, making it the only democracy in the western world to have such a constitutional ban until some US states recently attempted to overthrow Roe v Wade.
The movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment and make abortion legal in Ireland has grown massively over the last few years. This anthology shares the literature, personal stories, opinions, photography, art and design produced by the movement that catalysed 2018’s momentous referendum.
Featuring prize-winning novelists, critically acclaimed poets, cutting-edge artists and journalists on the front line, this anthology will be the definitive collection of the art inspired by the most pressing debate in contemporary Ireland, and beyond.
Contributors include: Lisa McInerney, Anne Enright, Louise O’Neill, Caitlin Moran, Tara Flynn, Aisling Bea, Sinead Gleeson, Emmet Kirwan.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….
In an America where more and more people are choosing not to have children, it’s hard not to see the parallels between this shocking book and the destruction of female body autonomy in the US.
Poor Your Soul
Late term abortions are often sold to us as selfish decisions by heartless women, but actually this could not be any further from the truth. Poor Your Truth gives a more realistic story of the harrowing decisions some women have to make.
At twenty-eight, Mira Ptacin discovered she was pregnant. Though it was unplanned, she embraced the idea of starting a family and became engaged to Andrew, the father. Five months later, an ultrasound revealed that her child would be born with a constellation of birth defects and no chance of survival outside the womb. Mira was given three options: terminate the pregnancy, induce early delivery, or wait and inevitably miscarry.
Mira’s story is paired with that of her mother, who emigrated from Poland to the United States, and who also experienced grievous loss when her only son was killed by a drunk driver. These deftly interwoven stories offer a picture of mother and daughter finding strength in themselves and each other in the face of tragedy.
Killing the Black Body
Released in 1997, Killing the Black Body isn’t necessarily about abortion but it does have important lessons on why body autonomy should not be handed to government officials.
In a media landscape dominated by racially biased images of welfare queens and crack babies, Killing the Black Body exposed America’s systemic abuse of Black women’s bodies. From slave masters’ economic stake in bonded women’s fertility to government programs that coerced thousands of poor Black women into being sterilized as late as the 1970s, these abuses pointed to the degradation of Black motherhood—and the exclusion of Black women’s reproductive needs in mainstream feminist and civil rights agendas.
Now, some two decades later, Killing the Black Body has not only exerted profound influence, but also remains as crucial as ever—a rallying cry for education, awareness, and action on extending reproductive justice to all women.
When it was released just a year ago, Red Clocks was considered to be highly imaginative speculative fiction. It was certainly never intended as a government manual.
Abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling herbalist, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.
The Girls Who Went Away
There’s a dangerous myth that if all babies were born, they’d be scooped up into loving homes by people who can’t have children and are wishing to adopt, sadly this isn’t the case.
In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade. An adoptee who was herself surrendered during those years and recently made contact with her mother, Ann Fessler brilliantly brings to life the voices of more than a hundred women, as well as the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their stories in gripping and intimate detail.
Translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette.
Sadly those who advocate for forced birth are led by emotion, not science or logic but this book offers a scientific and compassionate view to the debate and is well worth a read.
Dr. Willie Parker grew up in the Deep South, lived in a Christian household, and converted to an even more fundamentalist form of Christianity as a young man. But upon reading an interpretation of the Good Samaritan in a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he realized that in order to be a true Christian, he must show compassion for all people at all times.
In 2009, he stopped practicing obstetrics to focus entirely on providing safe abortions for women who need help the most—often women in poverty and women of color—in the hotbed of the pro-choice debate: the South. He thereafter traded in his private practice and his penthouse apartment in Hawaii for the life of an itinerant abortion provider, becoming one of the few doctors to provide such services in Mississippi and Alabama.
A Spark of Light
And we’re completing our list with a fiction read, because often fiction is the truth within a lie.
The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.
From the UK we can’t do much to change laws in the US, but if you’re also British and think that all people in the UK and Ireland should have the same rights, you can have your say on Northern Ireland anti-choice laws here.
We hope you find some good suggestions there and we’ll be back with more recommendations lists soon. If you want to ensure you never miss any of these, subscribe now.