Cover

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Frontmatter

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

I have been working on this book for so long that it feels like its unfinishedness is what I am, a book in waiting. I thought I would knock it out in five years after my first book, tops. It took thirteen. Working as the sole author, particularly on a long, complicated research project, can be very isolating. I began to lose hope of ever finishing it...

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Introduction: Struggling Through Life

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pp. 1-24

Abortion became a public problem in the United States during the antebellum era, and it has been a site of struggle ever since.1 It has been an enduring pathway for conflict and a critical vector for exerting pressure on ways of living. Rhetoric about abortion is, therefore, not only about fighting over the practice, but also about fighting through it...

Part I

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Chapter 1: When Abortion Became a Political-Economic Problem

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pp. 27-48

Consonant with abortion’s being something we fight through, not just over, one of the first things historians note about abortion is that it has been consistently leveraged as a way of addressing issues that exceed the “immediate medical act”: fertility rates, civil rights, immigration, disabilities, alcoholism, free speech, medical expertise, federalism, global development1...

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Chapter 2: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Secrets of Life

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pp. 49-66

To understand the relevance of medicine to rhetoric about abortion, an account is needed of how medical knowledge production is entangled with memory work and biopolitics. The previous chapter established the principal biopolitical mentality of early physicians, subsequent mutations of which will be analyzed in the next chapters...

Part II

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Chapter 3: “White Man’s Plague”: Anti-Malthusian Memory Work at the Fin de Siècle

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pp. 69-100

From the 1880s through the first decade of the twentieth century, U.S. medical rhetoric on abortion enacted a spare, unimaginative declension of the previous generation’s rhetoric that nonetheless is invaluable for understanding anti-Malthusianism. Faced with the failure of law to curtail abortion, this generation of physicians clung to increasingly worn tropes...

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Chapter 4: “More Wisdom in Living”: Neo-Malthusian Memory Work at Midcentury

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pp. 101-133

For anti-Malthusians, the answer to the question Sanger asks in the above epigraph would be “neither.” Contraception could not provide protection from abortion because the disease fundamentally was a desire for small families; birth control indicated the same moral lethe, but in a less dramatic and dangerous way...

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Chapter 5: “The Lesser of Threatened Evils”: Therapeutic Amnesias

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pp. 134-168

Contrary to conventional wisdom, abortion has always been legal in the United States, although regulation, in law and in practice, has varied widely from minimal to all but banned. To this point I have examined what physicians did and wrote about criminally induced abortions but another discourse on abortion is essential to consider if one is to understand...

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Conclusion: Seeking Immunity

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pp. 169-184

The real open secret of abortion was that women’s ultimate control over pregnancy was incurable. As a governing mentality, abortion control proved an enduring failure, but that was its greatest strength rhetorically because incessant contestation was capacitated through the very incurability of the practice. An “endemic plague” of criminal and therapeutic acts...

Notes

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pp. 185-218

Bibliography

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pp. 219-244

Index

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pp. 245-257

Backcover

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