Abortion Regret
The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom
by J. Shoshanna Ehrlich and Alesha E. Doan
February 2019, 217pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3984-9
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3985-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Political and moral opposition to abortion practices emerged in the United States in the nineteenth century.

An indispensable resource for students, scholars, and activists concerned about current attacks on abortion rights, this book offers an unmatched account of the emergence, consolidation, and consequences of the antiabortion movement’s paternalistic abortion regret narrative.

Abortion Regret explores the emergence and consolidation of the antiabortion movement’s paternalistic efforts to “protect” women from abortion regret. It begins by examining the 19th-century physician’s campaign to criminalize abortion and traces the contours of the women-protective abortion regret narrative through to the 21st century. Based on interviews, textual analysis of primary sources, and a content analysis of state antiabortion policy from 2010-2015, the authors argue that the contemporary rise of the abortion regret narrative has armed the antiabortion movement with a unifying and compelling strategy to oppose abortion through a woman-centered approach.

In addition to covering the historical origins of our nation’s criminal abortion laws, the book covers topics that include the origins and growth of crisis pregnancy centers, including recent efforts provide perinatal hospice services; an analysis of leading Supreme Court decisions on abortion; the emergence of the “pro-woman/pro-life” antiabortion platform, including its deeply religious roots; the infiltration of this position into the political and legal spheres in the guise of a secular rationale for limiting access to abortion; and an evidence-based rejoinder to the position that abortion harms women.


  • Examines the historical continuity of the abortion regret narrative as a political strategy used to limit women’s access to abortion
  • Asserts that the abortion regret narrative is intimately tied to a gendered and paternalistic construction of women’s divine role as mothers
  • Examines the antiabortion movement’s strategy to place the “grieving” mother at the center of its oppositional narrative
  • Uses interviews, textual analysis of primary sources, and content analysis of state antiabortion policies to trace the growing impact of the abortion regret narrative
  • Examines and reveals the antiabortion movement’s calculated political motivation for using the abortion regret narrative as its primary strategy to oppose abortion rights
J. Shoshanna Ehrlich is professor in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her interdisciplinary scholarship addresses the legal regulation of sexuality and reproduction, with an emphasis on the rights of young women and the emergence of the "pro-woman/pro-life" antiabortion position in the United States. Her books include Who Decides? The Abortion Rights of Minors and Regulating Desire: From the Virtuous Maiden to the Purity Princess. She works with a variety of advocacy organizations committed to securing the reproductive and sexual rights of young women.

Alesha E. Doan is associate professor in the School of Public Affairs & Administration and the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Kansas. Her interdisciplinary research is guided by her interests in gender equity, public policy, and organizations, with a more specialized focus on reproductive policies. Her publications include articles in a variety of journals as well as two books, Opposition and Intimidation: The Abortion Wars and Strategies of Political Harassment and The Politics of Virginity: Abstinence in Sex Education. She has received multiple research grants, fellowships, and awards.


"Abortion Regret: The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom is required reading for activists, students, scholars, journalists, policy makers and anyone trying to confront the ongoing threats to reproductive rights. The book is meticulously researched and tightly argued and exceptionally accessible. Its intersectional lens and interdisciplinary analysis provide a fresh eye on the key Supreme Court decisions in Roe, Casey and Carhart, as well as a critical re-thinking of the anti-abortion movement’s strategies. Ehrlich and Doan focus on the abortion regret narrative, drawing a thread from its 19th century roots in the physicians campaign against abortion to its current iteration. Importantly, their account unmasks the racialized dynamics within the allegedly color-blind regret narrative. They show how that narrative animated the creation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC), and through their interviews with CPC volunteers, that it continues to be the central draw. This material is a genuinely new contribution to abortion research, and the authors handle it with exquisite care. They accord respect to their interviewees, while at the same time critiquing the way their voices have been used to legitimize the narrative and expand it into the policy arena. Drawing on the expertise of CPC volunteers and other women who have experienced abortion regret, it has been systematically and strategically deployed by opponents of abortion who have successfully established it as 'scientific truth.' Despite the fact that it has been de-bunked by mainstream science, it is cited in Supreme Court briefs, state-level abortion restrictions, and has become a center-piece of anti-abortion propaganda aimed at both secular and religious audiences. This book comes at a critical moment, when the attacks on reproductive rights are escalating at a rate not seen before. Ehrlich and Doan’s insights will be a guidepost for abortion rights advocacy."—Marlene Gerber Fried, Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Director, Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (CLPP), Hampshire College

"In this interdisciplinary study, Ehrlich and Doan reveal how the criminalization of abortion has been driven by anxieties about women’s roles in society. Their careful analysis of medical treatises and legal decisions, coupled with interviews with antiabortion crisis pregnancy center volunteers, reveals the disconnect between popular antiabortion discourses about abortion and the actual complexity of women’s lives. This engaging, well-written book explains the saliency of antiabortion politics in the United States and deserves a wide readership."—Karissa Haugeberg, Author of Women against Abortion: Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century
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