Movements, Parties, and Polarization around Abortion in the Decades before and after Roe

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM
Missouri Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Reva B. Siegel, Yale University Law School
Fierce conflict over abortion in the United States is often attributed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe. This paper explores the abortion conflict in the decades before and after Roe, analyzing continuities and shifts, as new advocates entered the debate and reframed it in response to their own distinctive interests and concerns. From this perspective we can see that conflict over abortion was escalating before the Supreme Court ruled—in significant part because of the interaction of movements and political parties.  Appreciating the dynamics of conflict before the Supreme Court’s decision raises questions about the logic of the abortion conflict in the decision’s aftermath, shedding light on the ways that Roe’s meaning was forged, not only in the struggles of single-issue movements, but in the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, evangelical challenges to “secular humanism,” and the competition of the national political parties for voters.  The paper invites further research on the role that party realignment played in making “Roe” the locus of political polarization in late twentieth-century America.
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