A new, timely book written by two University of New Mexico political science professors examines the critical issue of abortion politics. 

Johns Hopkins University Press has just published, Regulating Abortion: The Politics of U.S. Abortion Policy, by Deborah R. McFarlane and Wendy L. Hansen.  

Nearly one in four women in the United States undergo an abortion during their lives. In Regulating Abortion, McFarlane and Hansen uncover the history of the complex web of regulations surrounding abortion in the United States and shed light on the stark reality of this heavily regulated and politically divisive health care service. 

“When we began this research in 2016, we had no idea that American abortion policy would be completely upended before we finished our book," McFarlane said. 

Photo of book regulation abortion

McFarlane and Hansen delve into the historical development of abortion regulations since Roe v. Wade. They explore the underlying reasons for the extensive regulation of what they assert is a routine and safe medical procedure. The authors examine the multitude of factors that influence state-level abortion policies, including party affiliation, religion, the representation of women in legislatures, and political contributions. 

"State abortion regulations have been a moving target since the 1980s, with an overall increase in abortion restrictions, accelerated by partisan politics and the 2022 overturn of Roe v Wade," Hansen said.

By demonstrating how these factors shape the landscape of abortion regulation across different states, they also reveal the varying methods and justifications used to either restrict or protect abortion access, with a particular focus on the disproportionate impacts on women of color.

Regulating Abortion skillfully navigates the challenging landscape of abortion restrictions, shining light on the many ways in which abortion care is marginalized and contributes to health inequities in the United States,” UNM Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Ob/Gyn and Family Planning Eve Espey said. “This thoroughly researched work is essential for the reader seeking a nuanced understanding of the genesis and impacts of state and federal abortion restrictions.”

The recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned long-standing precedents. McFarlane and Hansen provide timely insights into the implications of this ruling and how it further amplifies the disparities among states in regulating abortion. 

They hope Regulating Abortion becomes an essential resource for understanding the influences driving this divide, and can offer a comprehensive analysis of U.S. abortion policy contextualized by relevant Supreme Court decisions and a comparative exploration of abortion regulation in Western Europe.

Regulating Abortion: The Politics of U.S. Abortion Policy is available for pre-orders now.