Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Structure, Empowerment and the Liberalization of Cross-National Abortion Rights

  • Victor Asal (a1), Mitchell Brown (a2) and Renee Gibson Figueroa (a1)

Economic, cultural, and political opportunity structures have been separately shown to facilitate and constrain abortion rights. We examine two central and related questions: First, which factors explain liberalization of different types of abortion laws? Second, which factor or set of factors is the most important in explaining abortion laws? The cross-national literature suggests a three-pronged explanation for the existence of abortion rights, including politics, economics, and culture. We parse these out into the structural and empowerment components of each, and posit a theory of rights in which empowerment factors are at least as important, if not more important, for explaining change than structural factors. To test this, we examine the impact of these components on the liberalization of abortion rights globally utilizing a distributed lag model. We find that an empowerment approach explains the liberalization of abortion laws better than a structural approach in terms of politics, but that a structural approach is a better predictor in terms of culture, and that both empowerment and structural factors are important predictors when economic factors are taken into account. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for understanding policy change and human rights on a global scale.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Alan I. Abramowitz 1995. “It's Abortion, Stupid: Policy Voting in the 1992 Presidential Election.” Journal of Politics 57 (February): 176–86.

Greg D. Adams 1997. “Abortion: Evidence of an Issue Evolution.” American Journal of Political Science 41 (July): 718–37.

R. Michael Alvarez , and John Brehm . 1995. “American Ambivalence Towards Abortion Policy: Development of a Heteroskedastic Probit Model of Competing Values.” American Journal of Political Science 39 (November): 1055–82.

Lee Ann Banaszak . 1998. “East-West Differences in German Abortion Opinion.” Public Opinion Quarterly 62 (Winter): 545–82.

Janeen Baxter , and Emily W. Kane . 1995. “Dependence and Independence: A Cross-National Analysis of Gender Inequality and Gender Attitudes.” Gender and Society 9 (April): 193215.

Reed. Boland 1993. “Abortion Law in Europe in 1991–1992.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 21 (Spring): 7293.

Teri L. Caraway 2004. “Inclusion and Democratization.” Comparative Politics 36 (July): 443–60.

Jeff Chinn , and Lise A. Truex . 1996. “The Question of Citizenship in the Baltics.” Journal of Democracy 7 (January): 133–47.

Isobel. Coleman 2004. “The Payoff From Women's Rights.” Foreign Affairs 83 (May/June): 8095.

Rebecca J. Cook , and Bernard M. Dickens . 2003. “Human Rights Dynamics of Abortion Law Reform.” Human Rights Quarterly 25 (May): 159.

Christian. Davenport 1999. “Human Rights and the Democratic Proposition.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 43 (February): 92117.

Renske. Doorenspleet 2004. “The Structural Context of Recent Transitions to Democracy.” European Journal of Political Research 43 (May): 309–35.

Lynn P. Freedman , and Stephen L. Isaacs . 1993. “Human Rights and Reproductive Choice.” Studies in Family Planning 24 (January/February): 1830.

Ted G. Jelen , John O'Donnell , and Clyde Wilcox . 1993. “A Contextual Analysis of Catholicism and Abortion Attitudes in Western Europe.” Sociology of Religion 54 (Winter): 375–83.

Lane Kenworthy , and Melissa Malami 1999. “Gender Inequality in Political Representation: A Worldwide Comparative Analysis.” Social Forces 78 (September): 235–69.

Jerome S. Legge Jr. 1983a. “The Determinants of Attitudes Toward Abortion in the American Electorate.” Western Political Quarterly 36 (September): 479–90.

Jerome S. Legge Jr. 1983b. “Predictors of Abortion Attitudes in the Federal Republic of Germany.” Journal of Politics 45 (August): 759–66.

John. Markoff 2003. “Margins, Centers, and Democracy: The Paradigmatic History of Women's Suffrage.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 29 (Autumn): 85.

Barbara D. Miller 2001. “Female-Selective Abortion in Asia: Patterns, Policies, and Debates.” American Anthropologist 103 (December): 1083–95.

Vijayan K. Pillai , and Guang-Zhen Wang . 1999. “Women's Reproductive Rights and Social Equality in Developing Countries.” Social Science Journal 36 (October): 459–67.

Francisco O. Ramirez , and Elizabeth H. McEneaney 1997. “From Women's Suffrage to Reproduction Rights? Cross-National Considerations.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 38 (June): 624.

Francisco O. Ramirez , Yasemin Soysal , and Suzanne Shanahan . 1997. “The Changing Logic of Political Citizenship: Cross-National Acquisition of Women's Suffrage Rights.” American Sociological Review 62 (October): 735.

Brent S. Steel , Rebecca L. Warner , Blair Stieber , and Nicholas P. Lovrich . 1992. “Postmaterialist Values and Support for Feminism among Canadian and American Women and Men.” Western Political Quarterly 45 (June): 339–53.

Alicia Ely. Yamin 1996. “Defining Questions: Situating Issues of Power in the Formulation of a Right to Health under International Law.” Human Rights Quarterly 18 (May): 398438.

Yael. Yishai 1993. “Public Ideas and Public Policy: Abortion Politics in Four Democracies.” Comparative Politics 25 (January): 207–28.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 32 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 313 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.