The Politics of Abortion in the United States and Canada: A Comparative Study

By Raymond Tatalovich | Go to book overview
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3

The Legislative Response
Abortion in Congress and Parliament

Abortion has been a convulsive political issue for many parliamentary governments. In Germany, it caused a breach between East and West following unification, and then the German constitutional court in 1993 declared the new abortion law to be unconstitutional. In the wake of its successful de‐ mocratization movement, the Polish Parliament in 1993 moved to tighten abortion restrictions, thus undoing a 1956 law that allowed virtually unlimited abortions. Abortion has been a periodic issue in the Parliament of the United Kingdom; it led to popular referenda in Italy and Ireland; and it persists as a divisive issue in the U. S. Congress, the latest episode being legislation (which was vetoed) in 1996 to ban a gruesome procedure known as "partial-birth" abortion, which is performed after the twentieth week of a pregnancy. Is the Canadian Parliament an exception to this pattern?

There is little research on how moral policies affect Canada's lawmaking process. Distinctions among Canadian policies are made on other grounds (Pal 1987; Brooks 1989; Coleman and Skogstad 1991), and abortion is not usually included in those analyses. To extend theoretical insights and empirical findings from European parliamentary contexts to Canada is a fairly straightforward matter. More innovative, however, is the task of evaluating whether the U. S. Congress has operated in a fashion similar to the Canadian Parliament.

First, what is needed are qualitative indexes that evaluate formal procedures and legislative rules in order to signal whether abortion provoked more "abnormal" (as opposed to "normal") deliberations. Second, legislative voting on abortion in Congress and Parliament can be compared to

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