Abortion Literature Review

973 words | 4 page(s)

There is significant variance between different states on the question of abortion. Since the Supreme Court passed its dictate in Roe v. Wade, abortion has technically been legal across the country. Even though this is true, there have also been states more than willing to restrict abortion in ways that are only slightly within the law. For instance, some states have shown a willingness to restrict the operation of clinics that offer abortion services. Others have cut funding or put onerous restrictions on women in order to make those women think twice about their decision to seek an abortion. The literature suggests that the split in how states have dealt with abortion can be explained by a number of different factors impacting the political reality within those states.

Bolan and Katzive (2008) write that when looking at the general abortion trends around the world, there has been a movement toward greater liberalization of those policies. As the authors note in their take on the context of the situation, there is currently a concerted effort to shut down abortion through state-level policy, and these efforts often get the most attention. Even given these highly-publicized trends, there has generally been a movement toward liberalization, with more countries and states expanding the ways in which individuals can get an abortion. The authors posit that the reason for this is a greater emphasis around the world on the impact of abortion restrictions on women’s human rights. What these authors are suggesting, then, is a discursive explanation for why things have changed the way they have changed. Specifically, the authors suggest that when the discourse over abortion has shifted to a conversation over women’s rights, there has been a resulting movement toward greater liberalization in policy.

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Castle (2011) seeks to provide some explanation for why, even in a world where abortion has become more liberalized, there are some states that have pushed for further abortion restriction. Her research reveals in actuality that more liberalized abortion measures might be self-defeating in these places. What this means is that as abortion is liberalized in other parts of the world, the strongest movements against abortion access are strengthened and emboldened. Specifically, it becomes clear that in parts of the Bible Belt—the colloquial name for Southern states—there are strong, organized movements that help to fight against abortion access. The author’s explanation is clear and somewhat easy to understand. According to her, the reason why some states have more restrictive policies is because, in local and state politics, it is possible for anti-abortion interests to have a greater impact. In the Bible Belt, the author argues, there is an interconnectedness in the culture that allows for more political pressure to be exerted. She discusses a number of different groups that can have an impact, including the Catholic Church, the evangelical movement, and others. Because these groups are so connected to the political world, they are able to use their money to influence elections and put pressure on candidates. This sort of cultural connectedness is not present anywhere, which helps to explain why anti-abortion policies have had an easier time in some places than in others.

Finer and Fine (2013) provide an explanation that is much the same, but these authors add something to the discussion to explain why there are critical differences among the different states in their approaches. The authors focus on the idea of a strong women’s rights movement. Women’s rights movements have done an excellent job of raising awareness and countering the conservative narrative about the realities of abortion. While anti-abortion forces have focused on the plight of the fetus, in places where abortion has been protected and expanded, it has often been because of a strongly organized women’s human rights movement. What the authors suggest from their research, in looking at the way that various laws have been passed, is that in states where abortion rights have been successfully rolled back, it is generally because there is not a currently existing women’s human rights structure to counter the narratives from anti-abortion forces. It may also be true that these arguments confuse cause and effect. In places where there is not a strong human rights movement, and women’s rights movement, it may just be true that the overall cultural lean of the place is conservative enough that a strong abortion rights focus would not have the ground to incubate. Regardless, these authors suggest strongly that states with abortion rollbacks have been those states where there is no special interest group organized to fight on behalf of women.

Jacobs and Stanfors (2015) propose something slightly different that might help to explain the lack of a strong women’s human rights movement in places where highly restrictive policies have been put into place. Specifically, these author argue that in parts of the country where there are more restrictions, women are much more likely to use highly available and effective contraceptives. It is perhaps true that women adjust their behavior because they know that an abortion is not an option for them if they happen to get pregnant. It might also be true that in these places, women are not as mobilized against abortion because they are less likely to need an abortion. This is another way of explaining how the embedded cultural power structure has not only served to produce abortion restrictions, but also served to beat down any opposition to these laws.

  • Boland, R., & Katzive, L. (2008). Developments in laws on induced abortion: 1998-2007. International Family Planning Perspectives, 110-120.
  • Castle, M. A. (2011). Abortion in the United States’ bible belt: organizing for power and empowerment. Reprod Health, 8(1).
  • Finer, L., & Fine, J. B. (2013). Abortion law around the world: progress and pushback. American journal of public health, 103(4), 585-589.
  • Finer, L., & Fine, J. B. (2013). Abortion law around the world: progress and pushback. American journal of public health, 103(4), 585-589.

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