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Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Movements

Tracy A. Weitz and Carole Joffe

Subject Politics
Sociology » Social Movements, Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

Key-Topics body

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Abortion is one of the most contested social issues in the US. Despite its recognized status as a polarizing force in politics, a relatively small number of sociologists have studied the social movements that sustain the abortion debate. As a result, the topic of abortion social movements, while widely written about by journalists, is often under-theorized. The following review summarizes the study of movements supporting and opposing abortion rights as studied by sociologists and other social scientists, predominantly in the US, with some attention to the changing international dimensions of this debate. Social movements that take up the issue of abortion are often thought of as resulting from the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113) recognizing a constitutional right to abortion. However, social contestation over abortion predates this decision with two periods of high social movement activity: the physician anti-abortion movement of the mid-1800s and the abortion rights reform/repeal movement of the 1960s. A number of scholars, most notably Mohr (1978) and Luker (1984) , argue that the early physician anti-abortion movement was part of a larger professionalizing project within organized medicine. Formally trained physicians sought to rid the profession of practitioners without such training, as well as lay-midwives who were the main providers of abortion ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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