Bodies on the Line: At the Front Lines of the Fight to Protect Abortion in America
As the courts betray us and our leaders fail us, only we can keep each other safe.
In this powerful, empathetic look at abortion clinic escorting, “one of the most under-covered and crucial, lifesaving, rigorous forms of activism out there” (Rebecca Traister), Lauren Rankin offers real hope—and a real call to action for a post-Roe America.
Incisive and eye-opening, Bodies on the Line makes a clear case that the right to an abortion is a fundamental part of human dignity. And now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade, the stakes facing us all if that right disappears have never been higher.
Clinic escorts—everyday volunteers who shepherd patients safely inside to receive care—are fighting on the front lines by replacing hostility with humanity. Prepared to stand up and protect abortion access as they have for decades, even in the face of terrorism and violence, clinic escorts live—and have even died—to ensure that abortion remains not only accessible but a basic human right. Their stories have never been told—until now.
With precision and passion, Lauren Rankin traces the history and evolution of this movement to tell a broader story of the persistent threats to safe and legal abortion access, and the power of individuals to stand up and fight back. Deeply researched, featuring interviews with clinic staff, patients, experts, and activists—plus the author’s own experience as a clinic escort—Bodies on the Line reframes the “abortion wars,” highlighting the power of people to effect change amid unimaginable obstacles, and the unprecedented urgency of channeling that power.
Praise for Bodies on the Line: At the Front Lines of the Fight to Protect Abortion in America
Longlisted for the Reading the West Book Awards
“Bodies on the Line tells the stories of communities that came together . . . to offer patients comfort and protection . . . The book comes at a critical moment for the constitutional right to abortion in the United States . . . The very need for clinic escort teams is a testament to the inability of current laws to secure safe, comfortable care for patients.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Lauren Rankin, who volunteers at a clinic in New Jersey, skillfully traces the history of clinic escorts and highlights the importance of taking action to protect access to abortion, even once Roe is gone." — Andrea González-Ramírez, The Cut
"Rankin’s research for the book is methodical and exhaustive . . . By not engaging in discursive debates and wild speculation on politics and legislation, Rankin keeps the book focused on the human-level experience of escorts and patients . . . 'For just as long as there has been legal abortion in the U.S., there has been a dedicated and concerted effort to undermine it,' wrote Rankin. Luckily, we have people like Rankin and all the clinic escorts profiled in her book putting their bodies on the line every day." —Carly Willsie, Ms.
"A searing history of the people who have made abortion access possible for decades . . . Bodies On the Line is clear-eyed about the future of abortion access, and what we will have to do for abortion access even when physical abortion clinics are gone. —Kylie Cheung, Jezebel, 1 of 10 Best Books of the Year
"A must-read to understand the physical and emotional labor that comes with the fight to ensure that abortion is both accessible and a human right." —Electric Literature
"This history of abortion clinic escorts in the United States by writer and activist Rankin is timely, engaging, and full of compassion . . . This sweeping history will leave readers wanting to learn more. It is both a celebration of devoted volunteer clinic escorts and a call to action to improve the circumstances under which people seek health care." —Library Journal
"Rankin’s passion for women’s health blazes on the page, and she is adept at connecting disparate events to create a cohesive historical narrative . . . A stunning, compassionate history of an overlooked element within the abortion-rights movement in the U.S." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A powerful tribute to abortion clinic escorts . . . Lucidly written and sharply argued, this is a sobering and timely dispatch from the fight to preserve abortion rights.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Writer and activist Rankin presents a fervent abortion-rights history from the clinic escort’s perspective . . . An ode to her fellow volunteers and a rallying cry for the fundamental rights that now hang so perilously close to abolition." —Booklist
"Important reading with the current challenges to Roe v. Wade." —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
“Lauren Rankin’s passionate defense of women’s reproductive rights is inspiring. She is on the forefront of this incredibly important issue.” ––Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
"Bodies on the Line tells the story of the unsung heroes who have done so much to help women exercise their reproductive rights--clinic escorts. Who they are, why they’re there, and what they have endured is mind-boggling, frustrating, and ultimately inspiring. Americans owe a debt to these volunteer activists who literally put their bodies on the line for those rights.” ––Elisa Camahort Page, co-author, Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All
“Where the law has failed to protect abortion patients, grassroots activists have kept showing up. Bodies on the Line is an impressively reported, compassionate chronicle of what it means to truly support abortion access, and the story it tells couldn’t be more timely.” —Irin Carmon, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Notorious RBG
“Bodies on the Line is a story of the courage, hope, and defiance embodied by generations of clinic escorts and activists—and a timely reminder that the fight for safe and legal abortion has always unfolded not only in courtrooms and legislatures, but in our communities. With this book, Lauren Rankin answers the question posed by so many—‘How did we get here?’—and urges readers to be part of shaping the future of reproductive rights in America.” —Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood and New York Times bestselling author of Make Trouble
"Bodies on the Line is an exciting history of clinic escorting. The people who do this work have helped shape access to abortion in America. While I wish this work and such a book were not needed, everyone needs to know this story and why it matters." —Dr. Jen Gunter, New York Times bestselling author of The Vagina Bible
"Lauren Rankin has written a testament to the humanity that is central to the procedure, and the act, of abortion. She has walked the walk, and shared with other dedicated clinic escorts the fear and the dehumanization, and the threats, that patients face every time they walk into a clinic to receive basic health care. Here, directly from the front lines, are unique and untold stories that broaden our understanding of what it takes today for people to get the care they deserve, what we stand to lose when they can’t, and what we need to do if we’re to see our right to bodily autonomy fully realized. Bodies on the Line is an essential read for this moment of crisis." —Martha Plimpton, actor, activist, and cofounder of A is For
"You're used to reading about the abortion battle in the courts; Lauren Rankin's Bodies on the Line shows you that battle in the streets. With the bone-deep political commitment of an activist, and the keen historical eye of an archivist, Rankin shows how abortion clinics—and the sidewalks in front of them—became some of America's most fiercely contested public spaces. The stories that Rankin collects from five decades of clinic defense provide instruction, both in the dedication of the escorts and in the tactics they used to outsmart their opposition. Bodies on the Line edified me and enraged me—and it also gave me hope." —Moira Donegan, columnist at The Guardian