Category Archives: Roe at 40

Roe at 40: Round Two

In our second round of essays on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, contributors dig further into the discursive issues surrounding reproductive movements and the implications of political and policy legacies.  Many thanks to our distinguished contributors:

Myra Marx Ferree, University of Wisconsin, (essay)
Jeanne Flavin
, Fordham University, and
     Lynn Paltrow, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (essay)
Drew Halfmann, University of California, Davis (essay)
Zakiya Luna, UC Berkeley (essay)



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Framing the Fight

By Myra Marx Ferree

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


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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


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More than Roe: Are Researchers Ready for Reproductive Justice?

By Zakiya Luna

The long-term consequences of reproductive movements post-Roe are varied, but one of the most important has been the coalescing of the movement for reproductive justice. When I first wrote about reproductive justice on this blog, the US was in the midst of a major political debate over who would be elected president. While the economy was a major focus, reproduction, once again, was a key issue raised. Republican candidates in races throughout the country took public stances including disagreeing with mandated health care coverage of birth control  and made inaccurate and shocking remarks about social problems such as rape. Responses to these ideas sparked various resistances by individuals and organizations that mobilized celebrity support to “draw the line” on the War on Women as it became dubbed.  Although these comments were not the only reasons for his re-election, President Obama remained in office. I wondered which candidate would talk about reproductive justice. The question I raised remains in some ways but now I pose it to fellow researchers of reproductive movements: who will talk about reproductive justice? Continue reading


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Don’t Forget Parties and Policy Legacies

By Drew Halfmann

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

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Roe at 40: Long-Term Trajectories of Reproductive Movements

Inspired by the recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and recent media reports of stronger support for legal abortions under all or most circumstances, we have asked scholars and activists to address the long-term trajectories of reproductive movements.  How have the tactics and strategies of the movements changed over time?  How has the framing shift from reproductive rights and health to reproductive justice affected who is getting involved in these issues now?  What are the important changes in opportunities, resources, demographics, etc., and how have the movements failed or succeeded in addressing these changes?  Contributors have situated responses to these questions within the larger topic of long-term movement trajectories.  We are posting 9 great contributions now and several more later this month.  Many thanks to our all-star cast of contributors (below) and to Zakiya Luna, Kristin Luker, and Jill Adams for helpful insights during the planning stages of this essay dialogue.

Erika Bachiochi, Pro-Life Author and Speaker (essay)
Alison Dahl Crossley, UC Santa Barbara (essay)
Michelle Dillon, University of New Hampshire (essay)
Sujatha Jesudason, CoreAlign, UC San Francisco (essay)
Carole Joffe, UC San Francisco (essay)
Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check (essay)
Ziad Munson, Lehigh University (essay)
Jon O’Brien, Catholics for Choice (essay)
Deana Rohlinger, Florida State University (essay)

As always, we invite you to join the dialogue by posting your reactions to these essays in the comments sections.

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, and Dan Myers


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40 Years Later: Let’s Get Honest about Abortion, Roe, and Women’s Equality

By Erika Bachiochi

Last month, Time magazine hit a nerve in both pro-life and pro-choice camps with its front cover story pronouncing that pro-lifers were winning the abortion wars—after having lost big on January 22, 1973.  With reportedly more than 90 new abortion regulations passed by 24 governors since 2010, there is little doubt that the incrementalist strategy championed by leading pro-life organizations like Americans United for Life is gaining ground.

Still, misunderstanding about the contentious issue abounds, and mainstream polling agencies and media outlets seem to care little about getting the facts straight.  Continue reading


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Moving Forward or Standing Still? The Battle Over Abortion in the 21st Century

By Deana Rohlinger

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


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Refreshing the Movement

By Sujatha Jesudason

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


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40 Years of Stability in American Attitudes toward the Legalization of Abortion

By Michele Dillon

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

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