Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History.

Position:Book review

Dellapena, Joseph W. Dispelling the Myths of Abortion. Durham, N.C.: Carolina academic press, 2006; www.cap-press.com.

This book of 1,097 pages covers over 1,000 years of abortion history in England and America, with special emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It presents an accurate unbiased account of the history of abortion in order to provide a thoroughly flesh look at that history, reaching several unorthodox conclusions without taking sides on the merits of the abortion debate. Getting the history right is central to getting constitutional interpretation right.

An attempt to get at the true history of abortion in England and America is important because Justice Blackmun, drawing on the work of law professor Cyril Means, structures the argument of the majority in Roe v. Wade around the history of abortion law. This argument was later buttressed by the work of historian James Mohr. Means and Mohr created a new orthodox history of abortion designed to sustain the constitutional right to abort. This new orthodoxy proclaimed four Theses as summarizing the "true" history of abortion in England and America: (1) Abortion was not a crime "at common law" (before the enactment of abortion statutes in the nineteenth century); (2) Abortion was common and relatively safe before the statutes were enacted; (3) Abortion statues were enacted to protect the life of the mother rather than the life of the embryo or fetus; (4) The moving force behind the nineteenth-century statues was the male medical profession's efforts to suppress competition from (largely...

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