Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Reproductive Rights, the Supreme Court, and Institutionalization

The most recent Hobby Lobby decision reminded me of previous cases where the Supreme Court adjudicated whether federal and state funding could be used for abortions (Harris v. McRae and Williams v. Zbaras). In 1980 the Supreme Court heard two cases related to the Hyde Amendment of 1976. The Hyde Amendment is a “rider” type of legislation that prohibits federal funding of abortion when it is medically “unnecessary.” In both cases the Court affirmed the law. Scholars of the abortion debate often view the passage of this law and the Court’s support as a critical historical juncture (Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards, and Rucht 2002; Staggenborg 1989). Both the Hyde legislation and the Court’s affirmation represent the first major anti-abortion successes following the Roe v. Wade case (1973). The Roe v. Wade decision was a landmark success for the abortion-rights movement, and the victory sparked a countermobilization that was strong and effective at challenging abortion rights activists (Meyer and Staggenborg 1996). Given the most recent Hobby Lobby decision, the tangible benefits of Roe v. Wade may come into question.  Continue reading

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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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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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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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From Civil Rights to Women’s Rights to Reproductive Justice

By Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo

In the days before Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all fifty states, a woman’s ability to control her destiny by controlling when she became a parent was a luxury afforded only to those who had income and connections. Forty years later, that’s largely once more true.

Although Roe was celebrated as a victory for the right to privacy—with the court ruling that prior to fetal viability a woman’s healthcare decisions were for her consideration alone—activists failed to fully explain the human rights aspect of the ruling.  By decriminalizing abortion nationwide, the ruling was supposed to allow all women, not just those who were wealthy or well connected, the right to control the size of their families, their personal health and their physical and economic future. This is a matter of fundamental civil rights. Continue reading

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“Not in Her Shoes”: Tactical Changes in Reproductive Rights and Feminist Movements

By Alison Dahl Crossley

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

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Will either Presidential candidate talk about reproductive justice?

A month ago on August 28th, Republican Party leaders officially announced the party’s platform including the proclamation that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” and the plan to ensure no federal funds go to any health care provider that also performs abortions (i.e., Planned Parenthood). And I imagine activists on both sides of the abortion debate were shocked—and breathed a sigh of relief. While some other activists are still wondering if there is a way to talk about reproductive issues in less binary terms. Continue reading

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