It seems unthinkable that citizens of one of the most powerful nations in the world must risk their lives and livelihoods in the search for access to necessary health care. And yet it is no surprise that in many places throughout the United States, getting an abortion can be a monumental challenge. Anti-choice politicians and activists have worked tirelessly to impose needless restrictions on this straightforward medical procedure that, at best, delay it and, at worst, create medical risks and deny women their constitutionally protected right to choose.
Obstacle Course tells the story of abortion in America, capturing a disturbing reality of insurmountable barriers people face when trying to exercise their legal rights to medical services. Authors David S. Cohen and Carole Joffe lay bare the often arduous and unnecessarily burdensome process of terminating a pregnancy: the sabotaged decision-making, clinics in remote locations, insurance bans, harassing protesters, forced ultrasounds and dishonest medical information, arbitrary waiting periods, and unjustified procedure limitations.
Based on patients’ stories as well as interviews with abortion providers and allies from every state in the country, Obstacle Course reveals the unstoppable determination required of women in the pursuit of reproductive autonomy as well as the incredible commitment of abortion providers. Without the efforts of an unheralded army of medical professionals, clinic administrators, counselors, activists, and volunteers, what is a legal right would be meaningless for the almost one million people per year who get abortions. There is a better way—treating abortion like any other form of health care—but the United States is a long way from that ideal.
David S. Cohen is Professor of Law at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law in Philadelphia and is the coauthor of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism (2015).
Carole Joffe is Professor in the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, and is the author of Dispatches from the Abortion Wars (2010) and several other books on abortion provision.
"The authors present the actual experience [of abortion], and in doing so reveal the courage, intelligence and determination of patients, often dismissed as confused or selfish, and providers, often attacked as heartless and greedy."
— Washington Post
"Obstacle Course is a provocation and guide for more a robust engagement within medical anthropology on abortion politics, laws, and care. . . . This book is accessibly written for audiences moved by stories about the everyday stakes of health care politics and will be an invaluable resource for use in anthropology, sociology, history, legal studies, gender studies, public health, and ethics courses."
— Medical Anthropology Quarterly
"Cohen and Joffe detail with painstaking and often heartrending clarity the intersectional gauntlet of obstacles that many seeking an abortion must navigate."