Picks and Pans Review: Articles of Faith

updated 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Cynthia Gorney

Twenty-five years after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision secured American women's right to legal abortion, freelance journalist Cynthia Gorney has written an encyclopedic history of the painful and costly battle over the abortion question. Based on exhaustive research and more than 500 interviews, Articles of Faith provides a panoramic overview of litigation and legislation, medical ethics, and the personal experience of thousands of women.

The book also narrows its scope to focus on how the issue played out in one heartland city, St. Louis, and on two representative combatants in this fiercely fought struggle. Gorney follows Judith Widdicombe, a registered nurse who was involved in the "underground" that guided women to competent doctors before the procedure was legal, and later ran Missouri's first authorized abortion clinic. And she gives us an equally sympathetic portrait of Samuel Lee, a Roman Catholic theology student moved by conscience and religious beliefs to join the Right to Life movement.

Readers may find themselves wishing that this highly emotional conflict could be mediated by the impressively sane, fair-minded author of this important book. (Simon & Schuster, $27.50)

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