The Abortion Dispute and the American System

The Abortion Dispute and the American System

The Abortion Dispute and the American System

The Abortion Dispute and the American System


Essays discuss what effect the abortion debate has had on possible constitutional amendments, funding cases, presidential appointments, single-issue politics, and public opinion.


Abortion policy as a public question has produced unyielding positions at either extreme and ambivalence in the middle. the United States is far from any consensus on the ethical and theological issues involved in this complex and depressing problem. But since the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, national abortion policy has been explicit, as have efforts to change it by several states and localities. the seemingly unending and fierce battle over abortion policy is either fought or reflected in each branch of the national government as well as in electoral campaigns.

This volume evaluates how that battle affects the governmental system. It begins with four essays appraising the influence on governmental and political institutions of the means employed to achieve either pro-life or pro-choice policy ends. It then summarizes the reactions to those appraisals by public affairs experts and activist leaders on both sides of the abortion dispute who accepted Brookings' invitation to participate in a day-long symposium on the subject.

The inquiry and the plan for carrying it out were framed by Gilbert Y. Steiner, a senior fellow in the Brookings Governmental Studies program. Martha Derthick, director of the Governmental Studies program, and Professor Robert Mnookin of Stanford Law School commented helpfully on various parts of the manuscript. Diane Hodges furnished administrative support. Both Nancy D. Davidson, who edited the manuscript, and Joan P. Milan, who processed it for publication, provided thoughtful assistance at numerous stages. They, Robert A. Katzmann, Margaret A. Latus, and Cynthia E. Harrison each made available extensive notes on the symposium discussion.

The Institution is grateful for the interest of the participants in the symposium. They were not asked to review Steiner's account of the reactions of the symposium, however, and no participant necessarily agrees with the conclusions stated there.

Oscar Harkavy of the Ford Foundation emphasized the need for review of abortion as a divisive issue. His interest was shared by James Lipscomb . . .

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