Sarah Blustain

Sarah Blustain is the former deputy editor of the American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Beyond Regret

Simple facts have not proven a useful tool in the fight to uphold abortion rights. Pro-choicers need to craft an emotional counter-narrative that rings true for -- and about -- women.

For several months I've had a worry, one of those that at first seems mad but won't, over time, go away: Sometime in the foreseeable future, anti-abortion forces will make another run at the surgeon general, seeking a warning that abortion is hazardous to women's health. Abortion-rights supporters will be horrified. It is, we will say, not true ; science matters, and the science to support the warning is not there. Besides, the anti-abortionists already tried this and lost. But as evident as it seems that legal abortion, given its 35-year history, is safe, it is not safe to avoid this fight and hope that facts alone will carry the day. Given recent events in the courts and the states, and with a new surgeon general on the horizon, it's time to start getting the science out there -- in forms people want to hear. In 1988 Ronald Reagan directed his surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, to study the safety of abortion for women. Koop found the research biased, and refused to rule, writing in...

The Right Not to Choose

TAP talks to prominent anti-abortion lawyer Harold Cassidy.

The Right Not to Choose TAP talks to prominent anti-abortion lawyer Harold Cassidy. In 1987, Harold Cassidy was the lawyer for Mary Beth Whitehead, a surrogate mother who had contracted to give up a child for adoption and then changed her mind. This was the famous "Baby M case." Years later, he is a prominent lawyer in the anti-abortion movement, and says he is again fighting for the rights of mothers -- but this time he is working on behalf of women who say they were harmed by abortion. He has cases pending in New Jersey, South Dakota, and Illinois, all based on the notion that a woman is so ill informed about what an abortion is, and so pressured by outside forces to abort, that she needs special protections from Harold Cassidy and from the state. Essentially, Cassidy is trying to craft a right to not have an abortion. It is instructive to follow his words, taken from a 2006 exclusive interview with TAP , which explain just how the newest anti-abortion arguments portray women as...


NEW PATERNALISM. I finally reached my friend and coauthor Reva Siegel , who has long seen in her crystal ball up at Yale Law School what only appeared to the rest of the world in yesterday�s �partial birth� opinion from SCOTUS: that the anti-abortion movement reframed its arguments against abortion in ways that seem to protect women while in fact actually constraining them. This is a key new turn in the anti-abortion strategy: to argue that women are natural mothers who would not naturally choose abortion, and therefore need protection from the option. (This strategy is laid out brilliantly in Reva�s newly published lecture .) Writes Justice Kennedy , indulging in some stereotypes straight out of the antis� new playbook: Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child. � While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret...

Consenting Adults

South Dakota voters may have overturned the state's abortion ban last year, but the fight over a companion piece of extreme anti-choice legislation, passed in the same period as the ban, is raging in the courts. On Wednesday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether to allow South Dakota's draconian informed consent law to go into effect. The law would require abortion providers to tell women "that abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," and "that the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota." Whether this is a mandated script or suggested language is one of the central issues of the case. Just why would a woman arriving at a clinic for an abortion need to be told this information? The basic argument that anti-abortion activists pushed -- and the South Dakota legislature...


Kristin Luker's useful history of sex education hits the right notes, until she tries too hard to please all sides.

When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex Since the Sixties by Kristin Luker (Norton, 416 pages, $25.95) From a parent's point of view, it's easy to see how sex education would be a disaster: How can a teacher standing in front of 30 embarrassed pubescent boys and girls do justice to the complicated and personal issues around sex? From a policy point of view, however, sex education is a necessary evil: It offers information that young people need but often don't receive from their parents (who would impart their own values in the process) because too many parents -- by message, example, or default -- teach their children that unprotected and non-monogamous sex is OK, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases notwithstanding. Kristin Luker is right, then, when she argues in her new book When Sex Goes to School that values are at the heart of the debate over sex education. The central purpose of sex education, however, is not to teach values but to cut down on the social costs of...