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Defining Moments

Roe v. Wade

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The abortion debate in America is incendiary—it’s an issue that leaves every citizen taking sides. The catalyst for this contemporary social, religious, and political issue was a landmark 1973 Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. The decision touched off a firestorm of controversy that burns white-hot to this day.

Defining Moments: Roe v. Wade presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion. It also explores the event’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Roe v. Wade decision, the events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with Roe v. Wade
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: Roe v. Wade are below:

  • Study the history of abortion in America, including early movements to change anti-abortion laws
  • Describe the rise of the feminist movement in the U.S. and how pro-choice views and reproductive rights fit with feminist beliefs
  • Compare and contrast the religious and philosophical foundations of pro-life and pro-choice positions
  • Explain the origins of the Roe v. Wade case in Texas and its legal progression to the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Discuss the Supreme Court’s majority ruling and dissents on the case
  • Summarize the cultural and political impact of Roe v. Wade
  • Survey other fronts in the debate, including sex education, contraceptive use, and RU-486
  • Review the public relations and political strategies employed by pro-life and pro-choice groups in the ongoing fight over abortion
  • Discuss subsequent legislative and judicial actions—in individual states and in the U.S. Congress—that pertain to the Roe decision
  • Propose ways to find “common ground” in the abortion debate


“[Readers] of all ages will find Roe v. Wade an engaging book for reference, personal inspiration, or browsing. The strength of this work is that the entries move past the utilitarian to become critical examinations of source material. I highly recommend it for purchase by public and academic library reference collections, women’s studies department reference collections, and personal use. … [The] book makes for informative, emotional, and inspiring reading.”

—Feminist Collections, June ’09

“Succinct and objective, Hillstrom’s text offers a narrative history of the Supreme Court case, the challenges it has faced, and the current debates on abortion. Valuable primary sources from Robert Bork, Justice Rehnquist, Anna Quindlen, and others offer insight into the judicial system and personal experience to guide student debate.”

—School Library Journal, Curriculum Connections, Spring ’09

“[Roe v. Wade] focuses on providing objective and authoritative resources for a better understanding of a pivotal event and its repercussions. … For an overall view of the legal and moral implications of abortion and the laws relating to it from an objective viewpoint, this work is a valuable asset. Although some parts, such as the ‘Primary Sources’ section and the glossary, are useful for reference purposes, the volume will probably be most valuable for those who are seeking a better understanding of the abortion controversy and how we got to where we are today in that controversy.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2009

“Hillstrom provides readers ‘with an objective, historical overview’ of the 1973 Supreme Court decision and ‘its impact on the political, cultural, and social landscape of the United States.’ In doing so, she presents students with an invaluable reference for reports. … Hillstrom’s writing is concise, objective, and engaging throughout. She clearly defines unfamiliar terminology and convincingly defends her use of the terms ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ as widely accepted by these groups.”

—School Library Journal, Dec ’08

“While not the first to explore the landmark case, this book is the most current, documenting facts not available to [earlier publications]. … Recommended for general collections.”

—Library Journal, Aug ’08

“[In this] text, students and general readers will find an objective, historical overview of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and its impact on the political, cultural, and social landscape of the U.S.”

—Reference & Research Book News, Aug ’08

“Inviting and appealing to middle- and high-school users. … Although there are plenty of books on Roe v. Wade for this level, this one is balanced, readable, and up-to-date. … Titles in the Defining Moments series will be useful in school and public libraries.”

—Booklist Online, July ’08