Winner of the NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language Although Roe v. Wade identified abortion as a constitutional right in1973, it still bears stigma-a proverbial scarlet A. Millions of Americans have participated in or benefited from an abortion, but few want to reveal that they have done so. Approximately one in five pregnancies in the US ends in abortion. Why is something so common, which has been legal so long, still a source of shame and secrecy? Why is it so regularly debated by politicians, and so seldom divulged from friend to friend? This book explores the personal stigma that prevents many from sharing their abortion experiences with friends and family in private conversation, and the structural stigma that keeps it that way. In public discussion, both proponents and opponents of abortion's legality tend to focus on extraordinary cases. This tendency keeps the national debate polarized and contentious, and keeps our focus on the cases that occur the least. Professor Katie Watson focuses instead on the cases that happen the most, which she calls ordinary abortion. Scarlet A gives the reflective reader a more accurate impression of what the majority of American abortion practice really looks like. It explains how our silence around private experience has distorted public opinion, and how including both ordinary abortion and abortion ethics could make our public exchanges more fruitful. In Scarlet A, Watson wisely and respectfully navigates one of the most divisive topics in contemporary life. This book explains the law of abortion, challenges the toxic politics that make it a public football and private secret, offers tools for more productive private exchanges, and leads the way to a more robust public discussion of abortion ethics. Scarlet A combines storytelling and statistics to bring the story of ordinary abortion out of the shadows, painting a rich, rarely seen picture of how patients and doctors currently think and act, and ultimately inviting readers to tell their own stories and draw their own conclusions. The paperback edition includes a new preface by the author addressing recent cultural developments in abortion discourse and new legal threats to reproductive rights, and updated statistics throughout.
Scarlet A is written in a clear, engaging, and accessible style. While it was written and marketed with a general audience in mind, bioethics students and scholars alike will find much to appreciate. Watson's interdisciplinary approach makes for an interesting and novel perspective. The emphasis on ordinary abortion is a particularly important innovation for bioethics, which has all too often focused on extraordinary cases. Watson ends the book with a simple charge to her readers: 'Let's keep talking.' I have no doubt that this important book will inspire readers to do just that. * Mara Buchbinder, Hastings Center Report * Katie Watson is not afraid to acknowledge the moral complexities of abortion, even as she affirms the legal right to access it. Her writing is lively and clear, but she never underestimates readers' ability to engage in serious moral thinking. Watson will make you think about abortion in new, unforgettable ways. * Lisa H. Harris, University of Michigan * At last, a new, important, and powerful effort to improve the national abortion debate: in this book, bioethicist and lawyer Katie Watson initiates a rich conversation about the morality of ordinary legal abortion in the context of unwanted pregnancy. This illuminating book builds on the narratives and vocabulary of women's lived experience in deciding about abortion. It will captivate anyone willing to attend to the complexity and ambiguity of such decisions. * James F. Childress, University Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia * Watson provides an important perspective of abortion that isn't regularly shared * that of a 'routine' and commonly performed procedure. She deftly explores why women often have this procedure and yet don't speak of it openly. The more perspectives we explore and the more we open our minds to various ways of looking at this topic the more readily we can come to a meaningful understanding. I would encourage anyone * In this refreshingly accessible book Katie Watson, invites readers to a conversation about 'ordinary abortion'-that is, the vast majority of abortions that take place in the U.S. With immense intelligence and sensitivity, and considerable wit, Watson offers new ways to think about this complex issue, and, importantly, urges readers to continue this conversation with their neighbors and friends. * Carole Joffe, University of California, San Francisco * The book is a thoughtful and engaging consideration of one of this country's most controversial words: abortion. * The Chicago Tribune * As a guide to the various ways of thinking about abortion, Scarlet A is readable and respectful - and therefore, in its own quiet way, revolutionary. * New York Times * [E]xcellent ... Watson has a gift for explaining complex arguments in a simple, easy to understand manner. ... Watson's book is an important contribution to the growing literature on abortion stigma and the moral case for abortion, and its accessible language will make it an excellent text for classrooms and book clubs. Watson's writing style is personal and engaging, making the book a pleasure to read. The ideas it contains are complex and subtle, but the writing is direct and honest. * Anu Kumar, Conscience * In this brilliant new book, Watson draws on legal proceedings, bioethics literature, and personal experience; offers cultural and literary analysis; and uses her unique vantage point as a lawyer, bioethicist, and medical educator to develop a thought-provoking and thoroughly fresh perspective on one of the most divisive moral issues of our time. * Mara Buchbinder, Hastings Center Report * The role this book plays in bringing ordinary abortion to the fore, telling its story and casting the spotlight on its many beneficiaries, is invaluable to anyone involved in or looking to join the debate about abortion in the 21st century. * Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal *