Politics and the Courts: Toward a General Theory of Public Law

By Barbara M. Yarnold | Go to book overview

3
Contextual Variables: Region

CASE STUDY 4: REGION VERSUS POLITICS IN FEDERAL COURT ABORTION CASES

Roe's Progeny: Federal District Court Outcomes in Abortion Cases, 1973-90

Previous research ( Yarnold 1990a, 1990b, 1991a) found that region was not a significant factor in court cases dealing with refugees, asylees, and international extradition. In an attempt to reconcile this conclusion with previous findings that region was related to outcome, for example, in environmental cases ( Wenner 1982; Wenner and Dutter 1988), and race relations cases ( Richardson and Vines 1978), I suggested that regional effects might be most apparent in cases that deal with a highly ideological issue, such as abortion.

This analysis examines the extent to which federal district court judges, in their decisions in abortion cases from 1973 to 1990, have served to enhance the abortion rights of women, first given protection by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 ( 1973). It also examines the extent to which these decisions are related to political, factual, and regional variables.


Hypotheses

Although the judiciary is often viewed as a passive interpreter of the law, federal court judges examined in this analysis were not unduly restrained in their decision making by the law, due to the vagueness of standards they were called on to interpret. In abortion cases from 1973 to 1990 that rely on Roe v. Wade

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