Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights
Feiwel & Friends, February 2016
books for young people
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Imagine that you’re sixteen years old and still in school.

Now imagine that you have just discovered that you’re pregnant.

What are you going to do?

From the 1870s until well into the twentieth century, buying birth control was illegal in the United States. And until the early 1970s, abortion was illegal in most states as well.

Desperate women sought illegal abortions from anyone who offered them or dangerously tried to end their pregnancies themselves. Tens of thousands of women were injured or maimed, and thousands died.

Women’s rights advocates, doctors, lawyers, and ordinary people fought religious and cultural traditions and often put their own reputations and freedom on the line to change the laws.

Ultimately, the decision came down to the nine men on the United States Supreme Court. On January 22, 1973, the court’s ruling in the case Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in every state.

Jane Against the World takes readers on an emotional and riveting journey through the intense fight for reproductive rights and one of the most controversial and divisive rulings in U.S. history—one that continues to reverberate today.

This eye-opening book is the perfect tool to facilitate difficult discussions and awareness of a topic that is rarely touched on in school but affects each and every young person.

This journalistic look at the history of abortion and the landmark case of Roe v. Wade is a necessary book.

awards and honors
A Mighty Girl Best Book of 2020
Booklist Editor's Choice
CCBC Choices List 2021
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
New York Public Library Best Book of 2020

book extensions
Discussion and Activity Guide for Jane Against the World

"The Rights of Women," Maggie Reagan, Booklist, 15 Feb 2020

"How Do You Explain the History of Reproductive Rights to Teenagers?" Elizabeth Rusch, The New York Times, 20 Feb 2020

Learn more of the story behind the research for this book in the video by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas bestowing the 2020 James Madison Award on Karen Blumenthal.

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights
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“Though it doesn't seem like a radical thought, a woman's right to decide what happens to her own body, her pregnancy, and her reproductive organs has been a centuries-long debate in the U.S. In her latest work of nonfiction for young adults, Sibert-nominated Blumenthal (Six Days in October, 2002) plunges headfirst into the murky waters surrounded by not just the complex history of the Roe v. Wade landmark case, but of the century in American history that led to the ruling. In measured but powerful chapters, she lays out the facts, diving into the restrictions — and shady medical practices — surrounding not only abortion but birth control, sterilization, and sexual education. In highlighting key figures, Blumenthal is clear to distinguish important work from darker histories—she doesn't leave out Margaret Sanger's association with the eugenics movement—offering a full picture of a complicated issue. She lingers, too, on the uneasy future of Roe v. Wade, once thought to be the final word on the subject. But what makes this book a cut above is her enduring recognition of the fact that reproductive rights restrictions have always been a way for people in power to further racist, classist agendas. Thoroughly sourced and accompanied by black-and-white photos and "Pregnant Pause" sidebars, this essential guide, which gives voices to vulnerable populations, demands to be heard.” —Booklist, starred review, Maggie Reagan
An account of the tumultuous struggle for abortion rights in the United States. Blumenthal kicks off her narrative with a thrillerworthy scene: the 1972 raid by Chicago police on the eponymous “Jane,” an underground abortion referral service. The book then pulls back to offer an engaging history of developments in reproductive rights that contributed to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Along the way there are brief biographies of key figures—some as famous (or infamous) as Anthony Comstock and Margaret Sanger, some virtually unknown but no less fascinating—placed within a nuanced context and punctuated by “Pregnant Pause[s]”: occasionally humorous, sometimes infuriating, often poignant sketches detailing the history of biological knowledge, birth control techniques, legal issues, popular opinion, and religious proclamations. A deep dive into the circumstances, personalities, deliberations, and compromises involved in Roe v. Wade (along with the frequently overlooked companion cases) takes up a dozen chapters, followed by a brief consideration of the consequences, backlash, and steady succession of laws and court cases chipping away at the decision. An epilogue brings the discussion up to the appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Blumenthal’s bibliography demonstrates the depth of her research, including online, archival, and primary sources. This riveting book, enhanced by historical photographs, also addresses racial bias, the eugenics movement, and other critical related subjects. Gripping reading; necessary for every library serving teens. (glossary, timeline, significant Supreme Court cases, bibliography, notes) —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“You might assume abortion has always been a partisan issue, but this is not so. In the 1960s and ’70s, Blumenthal writes, ‘attitudes toward abortion tended to be determined more by one’s religion than by one’s political affiliation.’ Even religious denominations were not monolithic. Many congregations saw abortion ‘as a medical problem, not a religious or political issue,’ according to Blumenthal, and people of faith helped thousands of women obtain illegal abortions. Blumenthal writes with a strong, clear and engaging tone, and I found myself swept up in the back story of Roe. ... Blumenthal has done her job well: presenting the history, and leaving readers to wrestle with what the future may hold for families facing unwanted pregnancies.” (Elizabeth Rusch, The New York Times)
“In comprehensive detail, Blumenthal (Bonnie and Clyde) traces the complicated battle for reproductive rights in the U.S. from the late 1830s to today’s continued challenges. The centerpiece of the book is a scene-by-scene exposition of both hearings by the Supreme Court of the landmark Roe v. Wade case, in which Blumenthal sensitively illuminates the Supreme Court Justices’ struggles with the moral, medical, and legal aspects of abortion. The author also brings to life key figures in many arenas, including women faced with unwanted pregnancies who agreed (sometimes anonymously) to enter the legal fray, as well as doctors, clergy, and lawyers who actively helped or hindered either side. Closing chapters, entitled “Pushback: 1992–2000” and “Restrictions 2000-2016,” and the epilogue note the many ways in which reproductive rights continue to be vigorously contested. Written in clear, accessible language, as lively as it is thorough, the book presents the issue as far more nuanced and complex than the often sharply divided “pro-choice” and “pro-life” stances it is often boiled down to. Extensive back matter includes a glossary, timeline, wide-ranging bibliography, and notes. Ages 12–up.” —Publishers Weekly

Texas Roe Files
As part of my research, I asked the State of Texas for a copy of its legal files related to Roe v. Wade. Because the case is decades old, the files should be public record. In fact, author David Garrow had acquired a copy back in the 1990s on microfilm.

Getting copies of these records turned out to be more difficult than I expected. You can read about that here.

Ultimately, the state redacted the files it provided to me. So I had David Garrow's more complete microfilm digitized in a searchable form and I am sharing the files here. 

The documents are not in any particular order and include multiple copies of the Supreme Court ruling. Eventually, I hope to have an index. In the meantime, if you are looking for something specific, email me through this website and I will try to help.

Texas Roe Files, Part 1   Texas Roe Files, Part 6
Texas Roe Files, Part 2   Texas Roe Files, Part 7
Texas Roe Files, Part 3   Texas Roe Files, Part 8
Texas Roe Files, Part 4   Texas Roe Files, Part 9
Texas Roe Files, Part 5    

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