Hillary Jordan's When She Woke
takes place in a not-too-distant United States where life is at a premium, valued above a woman's right to choose whether or not to continue her pregnancy. The premise is eerily believable; one can easily envision the circumstances under which abortions become illegal in the future. When She Woke
does what good dystopian literature should: demonstrate where a minor alteration or two in current policies can lead if taken to extremes. The novel also recalls the country's Puritanical past when punishment included public shaming by the community, and Jordan's vision of that humiliation is original and riveting. Much of the plot's appeal is that it all seems so possible; it requires very little imagination to believe that the events depicted could come to pass without much current political or social change.
Before continuing I'd like...
Beyond the Book
The United States started adopting laws restricting abortion in the early 1800s, ultimately outlawing it in most states by the turn of the century. Interestingly, at the time, abortion wasn't proscribed as a moral issue the same way it is today; it was criminalized primarily because it was a dangerous practice with very high mortality rates, before the advent of antiseptics and antibiotics. These laws didn't necessarily stop the abortions from being performed, however. According to an article in The Atlantic, "The American Medical Association's crusade against abortion was partly a professional move, to establish the supremacy of 'regular' physicians over midwives and homeopaths... Nonetheless, having achieved their legal goal, many doctors - including prominent members of the AMA -...