the no-abortion zone
This semester, I am teaching an undergraduate course in social movements. We had an interesting discussion about the success of various movements. We got into the topic of pro-lifers, since we are reading Munson’s book on the topic.
Here’s what I said about the pro-life movement. The pro-life movement has not achieved its primary goal, which is to ban abortion outright. In the best case scenario for the movement, a reversal of Roe v. Wade would toss abortion back to the states. The major population centers of the country would still have legal abortion. Residents of many states where abortion may not be legal in a post-Roe legal environment might simply have to drive to a nearby state.
Since that discussion, I have changed my mind. The pro-life movement has had one important victory – the creation of the no-abortion zone. Basically, there’s a strip of land from Oklahoma to North Dakota where abortion is now unobtainable for most people. In sparsely populated Midwestern states, social pressure, state regulation, and the small population of doctors means that there is literally no one left to provide an legal abortion.
The LA Times article on March 5, 2012 illustrates the issue. Kansas is a state with almost no one qualified or willing to provide an abortion. The lone provider was shot by a pro-lifer a few years ago. A doctor was considering taking up the slack, but it became nearly impossible for her to do so – death threats, landlord problems, etc. No one else has volunteered. The pro-life movement has achieved a de facto victory in Kansas. By creating conditions that suppress the medical profession, they’ll likely achieve, or already have achieved, the same result in nearby states. A Supreme Court decision or state law is merely certifying what is happening on the ground.
For students of social movements, this is an interesting case of how movements can create a de facto victory. Public opinion and current law still support the option to have an abortion, but the movement has found a significant portion of the country where they can win by other means. Structurally, it seems that the movement needs a lot of support to make this happen, such as favorable party control of the legislature and low population density. But it can happen.
Subscribe to comments with RSS.
Comments are closed.