Monday, December 26, 2011

A Case of Need

A Case of Need is a novel based on the facts and politics of abortion before Roe vs. Wade.  The book was published in 1968 under the pseudonym of Jeffery Hudson and won an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1969.  In 1993 A Case of Need was re-released under the author's real name, Michael Crichton.

In this book Crichton creates fictional characters that present us with compelling arguments in favor of abortion, both from the medical as well as the practical point of view.  A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Crichton was well acquainted with the fact that illegal abortions were "about 25 times more deadly than they had to be."  Using the format of a novel, Crichton illustrated the ramifications of abortion in the lives of his well drawn characters.  Click HERE to read a summary of the book's plot and of Crichton's opinions on abortion. 

Reading A Case of Need forty-three years after it was written caused me to reflect on current attitudes about abortion.  In certain respects we have come a long way towards realizing that abortion should be a woman's choice based on her overall circumstances.  However, the opposition is still very vocal and has been successful in reclaiming some of the ground gained in the period that followed the writing of Crichton's book.

Although I read A Case of Need from cover to cover, I must admit it was often tough going.  Abortion is, after all, not very entertaining.  The fact that the main character is a pathologist and the plot contains many descriptions of autopsies lent a macabre element to certain parts of the book.  Despite the intrigue created by the pathologist's quest to find out who was really guilty of botching the abortion on the disturbed daughter of a respected heart surgeon, I found myself repeatedly concluding that abortion is a very difficult subject for mass-market fiction.  Perhaps the fact murder mysteries are much more common than abortion mysteries is evidence that abortion is still a highly charged and divisive issue. Kudos to Michael Crichton illuminating and de-mystifying the procedure itself and the  complex social and personal implications that surround it.

A Case of Need is an interesting and worthwhile read, especially if you didn't live through the stormy times in which it was written.

To see blog posts about other books I've read, click HERE.

© 2011, Linda Mason Hood
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