Political sociologists and social movement scholars have often commented on the overly broad definition of “political opportunities.” Many have called for specifying the nature of political opportunities especially so as to better operationalize and link political opportunities to policy outcomes and social movement mobilization. Indeed, political opportunity structure has referred to the more static nature of a country’s institutional arrangements (for instance, type of political system, electoral representation, etc.), to the more dynamic kind focusing on the presence of sympathetic party elites, party control of government and agenda setting. Continue reading
Tag Archives: abortion
Several of the commentators on this blog have already raised the issue of how to get beyond the classic framing of “pro-choice” vs “pro-life,” even as others use these characterizations in their contributions as if they were neutral descriptions of the movements mobilized to fight over the legal status of abortion in the US. Joffe alone points out explicitly how misleading these labels are to characterize the movements, and uses the more accurate terms “abortion rights” and “anti-abortion” for the two sides.
But neutral and accurate are not the principles on which one would strategically decide what a movement should be called. Continue reading
Toward a “Pro Lives” Perspective that Values the Lives of Pregnant Women and the Well-Being of Our Nation
By Jeanne Flavin and Lynn Paltrow
As other contributors to this series have observed, “pro life” and “pro choice” do not adequately capture the dimensions and diversity of opinions and experiences that people have with regard to abortion and, as we will make clear, a whole lot more. Drawing upon our own observations formed during decades of gender scholarship and legal advocacy, we join others in their critique of the pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy. As part of that conversation, we offer “pro-lives” as a term that more accurately reflects the values of people on all sides of the abortion debate. Continue reading
Many of the essays in this Mobilizing Ideas dialogue examine the successes and failures of the abortion movements—arguing for example that the anti-abortion movement succeeded by co-opting discourses of “choice” and “women’s health,” organizing through churches, and pursuing incremental change, but was hurt by its violence, extremist rhetoric and attacks on contraception; while the abortion rights movement failed by focusing on “abortion rights” rather than “reproductive justice” and on defensive litigation.
Here, I’d like to highlight a few additional factors that helped determine the successes, failures, and strategic options of the abortion movements: the policy legacies of the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decisions, the relationship of the movements to political parties, and the electoral fortunes of those parties. Continue reading
It is difficult to predict the future of social movements. The political world is in flux; so are the composition and dynamics of the social movements operating in it. This makes it difficult to say with any certainty what movement will succeed during a particular historical moment, let alone predict what may happen to a given movement next. The uncertainty surrounding a movement’s trajectory does not disappear simply because it is an established part of the political landscape. Indeed, some issues have the ability to mobilize segments of the population year after year. Yet, it is difficult to divine what these movements will look like a decade from now. Continue reading
A long-time soldier and sometime general in the battle for reproductive freedom, I have marched, organized rallies, served on boards, testified before legislators, sent letters, signed petitions and founded organizations. Yet, when I look at this field, I’m neither bolstered by our victories nor galvanized by our vision.
According to Gallup, over the last three decades there has been a modest increase in public support for abortion and, paradoxically a decline in number of people who identify as “pro-choice.” But the proof of a movement is in the social conditions it creates and cements: we’re barely keeping our heads up in the wave of anti-abortion legislation proposed and passed in many states. Continue reading
News headlines frequently convey what is alleged to be a major shift in public opinion on abortion. At the beginning of February this year, for example, NBC online news had the headline: “NBC/WSJ poll: Majority for the first time, want abortion to be legal” (February 7, 2013; italics mine). Other headlines convey a polarization on the issue, with one from Gallup in 2011 stating, “Americans still split among ‘pro-choice,’ ‘pro-life’ lines” (Saad 2011; italics mine). The sociological reality, however, is less sensational and indeed less newsworthy if criteria for newsworthiness include the expectation of change and/or conflict. Continue reading
By Carole Joffe
At this 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, both of the social movements most connected to the abortion issue find themselves in a cup half full/half empty situation and, as I shall discuss, both face considerable challenges. But first a note on nomenclature. Given the extraordinary politicization surrounding virtually every aspect of abortion, the very names these movements have used are often contested by others; for example, many who support abortion object that those who oppose abortion have appropriated the term “pro-life”—therefore implying that the former are not. Moreover, in polls many Americans claim to be both “pro-life” and in support of legal abortion. Similarly, the term “pro-choice” has been criticized for its apparent obliviousness to the fact that some women do not have the resources to “choose” abortion. For purposes of this blog, I shall use the neutral terms, “abortion rights movement” and “anti-abortion movement.” Continue reading
By Ziad Munson
The abortion debate has mobilized millions of people and hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States over the last 40 years. What is perhaps most surprising about the battle over abortion, then, is that public opinion toward abortion has remained remarkably and stubbornly stable over this time. According to Gallup polls, approximately 52 percent of Americans today believe abortion should be legal under some, but not all, circumstances—not very different from the 51 percent in 2002, 53 percent in 1992, 52 percent in 1981, or 54 percent in 1975. The ideological debate over abortion during this period has remained stable too: the pro-life movement has focused on the humanity of the fetus, and sees abortion as the killing of a human being; the pro-choice movement has focused on the rights of women, and sees abortion as a woman’s choice necessary for her to retain control over her own body. Continue reading
In anticipation of the fortieth anniversary of Roe versus Wade, Planned Parenthood Federation of America commenced a campaign titled “Not in Her Shoes.” The tagline means that because we are not “in her shoes,” nobody should make health care decisions about another woman’s body. The organization also released a video on the website: “Moving Beyond Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice Labels: You’re Not ‘In Her Shoes.’” Under two minutes in duration, the video includes eye-catching and vibrant graphics. The woman narrator’s soothing voice asks viewers to stop using “labels” pro-choice and pro-life in favor of conversations “based on mutual respect and empathy.” The crux of the video’s argument is that abortion is too complex for dichotomous categories:
Most things in life aren’t simple. And that includes abortion… The truth is these labels limit the conversation and simply don’t reflect how people actually feel about abortion… Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. And they shouldn’t…When it comes down to it, we don’t know a woman’s specific situation. We’re not in her shoes. Continue reading