A Handy Resource For Anyone Who’s Paranoid…or Already Threatened
Preparing for a worst-case scenario necessarily involves sounding a little nuts. The entire subculture of “preppers,” or people who stock food, generators, water filters, and sometimes ammunition for an impending apocalypse, seems crazy until you attempt to understand it. Eventually, you realize that though these people behave rationally in many areas of their lives, fear dominates this one particular area. Once you let that fear inside your psyche, you can understand what they’re feeling.
This same dynamic applies Robin Marty’s new book, Handbook for a Post-Roe America. Quite simply, it’s an alarmist book. It insists that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices faces imminent danger. Marty thinks that the legality of abortion and even birth control is as fragile as an antique vase. I doubt this, but Robin Marty has a great deal more knowledge about abortion than I do.
Appropriately for its title, Handbook is mainly a collection of resources. She stuffs her book with facts about the differing legality of abortion in different states, about how abortion rights are protected in states’ constitutions and case law, and about clinics and distances between them across the nation. The book offers extensive information about home abortions, including details about mail-order drugs, making a safe aspiration device at home, building a network of “Janes” in the event that abortion becomes entirely illegal, and much more.
State-by-state lists of physical and internet addresses for clinics, funding centers, and support groups, all of which will help a woman obtain an abortion, take of nearly half of the 300 pages. The remaining text alternates between information delivered in a kind, chipper tone and total doomsaying. Phrases such as “when Roe falls” and “when Roe is overturned” pepper the book, even though the Supreme Court, sometimes with a conservative majority, has declined to overturn Roe v. Wade in the 45 years since its passage. Plus, as an early chapter of Handbook details, many states have passed liberal laws on abortion that will continue to stand should the case be overturned. This means that even without federal protection, a great deal of the population will continue to have the right to an abortion.
But tell that to a woman in North Dakota, or east Oklahoma, or mid-Mississippi who needs one. Even now, with Roe in force, certain states provide incredibly limited access to clinics. Some of them also passed a “trigger law” that makes abortion entirely illegal without the federal protection of Roe. If you can empathize with the fear of a woman trapped in one of these states, forced into one of a few bad options, Marty’s fears already feel like reality.
In states like Iowa and Virginia, the past decade’s curtailment of women’s reproductive health choices have set off alarms. These changes call for a more informed populace. Sometimes that information needs to spread virally rather than traditionally. A book like Handbook for a Post-Roe America, passed from hand to hand, has the potential to help an enormous number of people. It’s a useful book for any feminist, especially one who wishes to make more room for activism in her life. But take its fatalism with a grain of salt.
(Seven Stories Press, January 15, 2019)