Drew Halfmann, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain, and Canada

By Pike, Robert M. | Canadian Review of Sociology, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Drew Halfmann, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain, and Canada


Pike, Robert M., Canadian Review of Sociology


DREW HALFMANN, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain, and Canada. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2011, 354 p.

This book was picked for review just a few weeks before Republican congressman Todd Akin revived the American political debate over abortion by observing, with medieval precision, that women who have suffered "legitimate rape" experience biological responses that make pregnancy unlikely. While Akin was condemned by the Republican establishment for his views on the biology of rape, a strict anti-abortion provision has become part of the Republican platform. This stimulated the Toronto Globe and Mail to write a major folio article that points out that "a large class of assertive [anti-abortion] government crusaders" have helped enact "barriers by state legislatures and Congress [which] make it harder for U.S. women to get the procedure today than at any time since 1973." (1) Halfmann who is professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, recognizes this trend in the United States, compares it with increasing abortion access in Britain and Canada, and focuses centrally on the role of contrasting political institutions in the three countries in shaping past and present abortion laws.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, most wealthy democracies liberalized abortion laws dating from the nineteenth century. This was so in Britain, Canada, and the United States (countries which Halfmann considers to have many political, economic, and cultural similarities), but each of them established very different abortion policies. Britain and Canada maintained a bit of the nineteenth century by allowing abortions only if recommended by doctors or hospital committees on medical grounds, or, in Britain, economic necessity. With the contentious 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed early abortions on demand if a woman's doctor agreed to the procedure. Thus, a country with "its history of Puritanism" ... "had established the most liberal reform in the West" (p. 2). In addition, the means of funding the operation, and where carried out, varied as well. Canada only allowed abortions in public or nonprofit hospitals and funded by the state; in the United States the vast majority of abortions were carried out in single purpose clinics divorced from mainstream medicine and paid for by patient or family. About half the abortions in Britain followed the Canadian style and half the American.

These reforms of the "Long 1960s" (the late 1950s to the early 1970s) (2) were, in all three countries, attacked by pro-life movements, which sought to roll them back. In Canada and Britain, these movements "failed miserably." In the United States, as indicated above, "they were more successful" (p. 3). Halfmann suggests that it is facile to seek a direct explanation in the relative size of religious groups opposed to abortion, since about 49 percent of Americans are Catholic or Evangelical compared with 47 percent likewise in Canada; albeit Catholics are proportionately far more predominant in this country (p. 159, table 5-3). Rather, one needs to look at the role of a country's "political institutions," which are "the rules of the game" (p. 5) and form the context for individual and group actions. Some rules include those which establish multiple jurisdictions and the relations between them (federalism), the rules for electing presidents or members of legislatures, and rules for judicial review (p. 5). They also include "policy legacies" such as old-age pensions and the structure of medical care programs (not least their funding). Students of abortion policies, suggests Halfmann, seldom highlight political institutions, but treat them as almost natural occurrences. His aim is to "denaturalize institutions and expose the ways in which they bias politics and policy" (p. 5).

The introduction to Doctors and Demonstrators outlines its themes, concepts, and mode of analysis. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Drew Halfmann, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain, and Canada
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.