To call Laia Abril‘s A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion and the Repercussions of Lack of Accessa photobook is just wrong. It’s more an archive, an encyclopedia, and exactly what the title describes.

On Abortion begins with a sort of curio cabinet of various methods of contraception and implements employed for historical clandestine abortions; moves into a collection of autobiographical stories from (and about) women who struggled to have abortions due to lack of access in their home countries; and sort of wraps up with stories of women who died due to pregnancy or complications arising from lack of access, and doctors and others who faced legal action for performing abortions.

Sure, there are photographs and archival material throughout, but more than just a “mere” photobook, On Abortion is a document of something I can never understand much about (insofar as, being male, I can never become pregnant, nor can I contemplate or have an abortion), but something that I understand as largely necessary for women in a free society, and that has become increasingly hard to come by in the United States, due to some people’s religious and personal convictions (even people, like our current president, who are similarly uterus-deficient). 

On Abortion definitely has a stance and point of view, one with which I am sympathetic, and one that many of my family members (and, I assume, many readers of this blog) would disagree. That said, the value of the document lies in the breadth of material included from around the word, and if you’re on the fence about Abortion rights, it might help you see the light. That said, most staunch anti-rights advocates could care less about womens bodies, beyond the prurient and power dynamics impulses, and likely won’t change their views one iota due to the book, and if it’s not about changing minds or influencing opinion, then On Abortion is just preaching to the choir.

I think that’s a shame, but I’m not sure a book called A History of Misogyny: On Abortion could really be any more. It’s perhaps useful in a feminist theory or women’s studies program somewhere, but students of such courses, in my experience, are largely already sympathetic. So as good as On Abortion is, I’m not really sure who it’s for.

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Overall, I rate it 4.3 stars.

On Abortion is available direct from Dewi Lewis and at fine booksellers worldwide. Abril’s website has work from a dozen other projects, and is worth a thorough visit, and Abil is currently working on A History of Misogyny, Chapter Two: Rape Culture. I look forward to the follow-up, though I expect it will similarly fail to have an impact outside of already established circles. I’m not sure how to reach people with divergent, deeply held beliefs. I don’t think a book like this is it, but I’m not sure what else is.

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