Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America

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by David S. Cohen and Carole Joffe

University of California Press

7/27/2021, paperback

SKU: 9780520385665


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.


"A disturbing account of the impact on women and their medical providers of the unremitting attacks on the right to abortion. There are many books about abortion politics, but none that makes such powerful use of real women's voices to show us what happens when a constitutional right becomes an obstacle course." --Linda Greenhouse, author of Becoming Justice Blackmun

"This blistering chronicle of the real consequences of abortion restrictions exposes the work of a vicious hazing system that degrades and delays women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights. Yet the vivid storytelling of patients, medical personnel, and volunteers in this book makes it an uplifting testament to all who refuse to surrender women's freedom." --Katie Watson, author of Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Ordinary Abortion

About the Contributors:

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.