Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States

By Myra Marx Ferree; William Anthony Gamson et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Historical Context

If Germany and the United States have reached somewhat similar compromises on abortion policy, they have arrived there by quite different historical paths. 7 In this chapter we trace the paths by which law and policy were shaped in each country over the past century. Perhaps the most fundamental difference is that Germany went through intense debates on abortion in the first third of the twentieth century while the United States witnessed what Luker (1984) aptly labeled a “century of silence. ”

Abortion emerged (or, in the case of Germany, reemerged) as a controversial public issue in the last third of the twentieth century. We will review the “critical discourse moments”that have occurred in both countries during the contemporary period. Critical discourse moments are events that stimulate news articles and commentary in various public forums–in this case, especially legislative actions and court decisions. 8 These events sometimes change the discursive opportunity structure and, therefore, necessarily require the would-be players to interpret the event in terms of their preferred frame and, in some cases, to reevaluate their discursive strategy.


PROLOGUE

UNITED STATES

In the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century, abortion was largely unregulated in the United States, especially before “quick

____________________
7
Rucht (1994, Chapter Eight) provides a fuller comparative history. Other good historical accounts for the United States are available in Burns (2002), Luker (1984), and Solinger (1998) and for Germany in Jochimsen (1971) and Grossman (1995).
8
For a discussion of the concept of critical discourse moments, see Chilton (1987).

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Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • Glossary xix
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Two Related Stories 3
  • Chapter Two - Historical Context 24
  • Chapter Three - Methods 45
  • Part II - Major Outcomes 59
  • Chapter Four - The Discursive Opportunity Structure 61
  • Chapter Five - Standing 86
  • Chapter Six - Framing 105
  • Part III - Representing Different Constituencies 129
  • Chapter Seven - Representing Women's Claims 131
  • Chapter Eight - Representing Religious Claims 154
  • Chapter Nine - Representing the Tradition of the Left 179
  • Part IV - The Quality of Abortion Discourse 201
  • Chapter Ten - Normative Criteria for the Public Sphere 205
  • Chapter Eleven - Measuring the Quality of Discourse 232
  • Chapter Twelve - Metatalk 255
  • Chapter Thirteen - Lessons for Democracy and the Public Sphere 286
  • Methodological Appendix 305
  • References 325
  • Index 339
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