The Politics of Abortion and Birth Control in Historical Perspective

By Donald T. Critchlow | Go to book overview

JAMES DAVISON HUNTER
JOSEPH E. DAVIS


Cultural Politics at the Edge of Life

To operate within a strictly political frame of reference, the dispute over abortion—the centerpiece of the controversy over reproduction and population control in America—would seem to be over. With the election of Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992, many observers declared as much. Charles Krauthammer, for one, argued that "one can reasonably declare a great national debate over when all three independently (s)elected branches of government come to the same position." In 1992 the Supreme Court reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v. Wade in the Casey decision. Given this and an apparent majority of pro-choice votes in both houses of Congress, the new President-elect vowea to make good on his campaign pledge to pass the "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA), the legislative equivalent of Roe, as a safeguard against any future challenges. Certainly there seemed to be grounds for such a claim.

But is this in fact the end of the matter? In the aftermath of the Clinton election, one pro-life leader drew encouragement from a parallel in history. He said:

Antislavery leaders must have shared a similar anxiety in March, 1857. After more than 25 years of unremitting toil, they say—within the space of a week— President James Buchanan sworn into office as a proslavery Democrat and the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dred Scott, declaring a constitutional right to own slaves and stripping Congress of any power to limit the spread of slavery. The tri

Portions of this article are adapted from J. D. HUNTER, Before the Shooting Begins:Searching for Democracy in America's Culture War ( New York, 1994).

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