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Republish it! But please do not edit the piece. Also make sure that you attribute the author, and mention the article was originally published on Scholars Strategy Network. \u003Cem\u003EBy copying and pasting the markup below you will be adhering to these guidelines.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\u0022\/republishing-ssn-articles\u0022\u003EView additional guideline details.\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\n \u003Ctextarea\u003E\n \u003Cdiv about=\u0022\/brief\/why-abortion-controversies-are-so-central-us-politics\u0022 typeof=\u0022sioc:Item foaf:Document\u0022 class=\u0022ds-1col node node-brief view-mode-stealourcontent_node clearfix\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ch2\u003E\n Why Abortion Controversies are So Central to U.S. Politics\n \u003C\/h2\u003E\u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholar\/drew-halfmann\u0022\u003EDrew Halfmann\u003C\/a\u003E, University of California, Davis\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EOver the last forty years, abortion has frequently taken center stage in American politics \u2013 as it did once again in 2012. This may seem only natural for an issue that speaks to deep values and the role of women in society. But abortion is at the margin of politics in most other rich countries, including our closest sister nations, Britain and Canada.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EWhy is U.S. politics different? Journalists and pundits point to the strong role of religion in American life. But Canada also has many Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and both Canada and Britain have strong antiabortion movements. In all three democracies, public opinion favors the right to an abortion in cases of rape or fetal abnormality or to protect a woman\u2019s health, and is much less supportive when family size, poverty, or marital status are at issue.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EBeyond religiosity and public opinion, national institutions play a crucial role. Abortion has become so politically explosive in the United States in significant part because we have an independently powerful Supreme Court, strong private medical professionals, weak political party elites, and a decentralized political system where controversies can live on and issues can be raised again and again.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EA Powerful Supreme Court\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EDuring the late 1960s and early 1970s, Britain, Canada, and the United States all enacted reforms that made abortions more available. In the first two countries, national parliaments acted and, being sensitive to ambiguous public opinion, defined abortion narrowly as a \u201chealth right\u201d and allowed the procedure only when doctors concluded it was medically necessary. In the United States, a few state legislatures passed modest reforms and then, in 1973, nine Justices of the Supreme Court, appointed for life, issued a sweeping ruling that surprised even the lawyers arguing for expanded abortion rights. Outpacing public opinion, the U.S. Justices defined abortion as a privacy right and opened the door wide to abortions at the request of the pregnant woman. Opponents of abortion reacted strongly, complaining that an \u201cunelected elite\u201d had usurped the power of democratically-elected legislatures.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EMedical Professionals and Institutions\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EAs their parliaments considered reform, the medical professions of Britain and Canada fought hard to define abortion as a \u201cmedical necessity\u201d \u2013 to be decided by doctors for reasons of health or fetal abnormality. American physicians initially took a similar position, but eventually backed off, yielding the issue to feminists, because they were more focused on political fights to preserve the lucrative U.S. system of private, for-profit medicine. The Supreme Court followed the medical profession\u2019s lead and defined abortion as a procedure to be elected by women for their own reasons. The vast majority of U.S. abortions are done in single-purpose clinics and the private medical profession holds abortion specialists in low esteem.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EAfter the initial legal changes, British and Canadian medical associations defended abortion services and sought their expansion, while American medicine continued to sidestep the issue. British and Canadian practices liberalized over time and, in 1988, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled out arbitrary restrictions. Canada has always provided public funding for abortions, and public funding has steadily expanded in Britain. The United States initially allowed publicly-funded abortions for the poor, but this has been vulnerable to legislative rollback in part because abortion is judicially defined as an \u201celective\u201d procedure rather than a medical necessity.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EThe Locus of Political Leverage\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EIn Britain and Canada, sub-national levels of government are much less important than in the United States and debates about abortion are confined mainly to the national parliaments. In the United States, the federal courts set the broad parameters of abortion law, but state and federal legislatures, and even city governments, work out the details. Courts revisit the issue repeatedly as new laws come into conflict with court rulings, and combatants embrace differing conceptions of federalism. Back and forth disputes about levels of authority within U.S. federalism give movements for and against abortion rights hundreds of opportunities to do battle each year, and no battle ever settles the war because new battlefields always beckon.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003ECan Party Elites Downplay Abortion Disputes?\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003ELarge antiabortion movements in all three countries have tried to move their issue onto the agenda of major political parties, but only the American movement has succeeded. The relative power of political party elites helps to explain why. In Britain and Canada, party leaders maneuvered to avoid abortion fights, because they preferred to focus on economic issues. Many U.S. politicians would like to do the same, but they lack the impressive powers available to national party elites in parliamentary systems. In Britain and Canada, party leaders choose nominees and fund their campaigns, write campaign platforms, initiate most legislation, and tell rank-and-file legislators how to vote. In the United States, by contrast, state-level parties highlight various issues; and individual candidates and legislators march to their own drummers in response to funding and pressures from single-issue groups.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EWhy U.S. Abortion Controversies Will Continue\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EEven with the Republican Party now mostly in its thrall, the American anti-abortion movement is swimming against the tide. Women are gaining ground in the U.S. medical profession. President Obama has already appointed two liberal Supreme Court justices, and he or a possible Democratic presidential successor will likely name new justices to replace aging incumbents. The new national health reform law subsidizes contraception and encourages states to expand Medicaid coverage for all aspects of reproductive health care.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EDespite such trends favoring abortion rights, the battles will continue. Although most American voters prefer middle-of-the-road compromises, U.S. parties are polarized and U.S. institutions will keep the pot boiling. The medical profession has a long ways to go before abortion services become part of routine care, and well-organized, intensely motivated activists can always pressure wobbly elites. Abortion will thus remain a flashpoint in U.S. national and state politics, as well as in continuing disputes over medical services and judicial appointments. The end of this morally charged political battle is not yet in sight.\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cp class=\u0022brief-footer-comments\u0022\u003E\n Read more in Drew Halfmann, \u201cWhy Do Americans Argue about Abortion?,\u201d \u003Cem\u003EDissent Magazine\u003C\/em\u003E, February 16, 2012.\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Ctable border=\u00220\u0022 align=\u0022left\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ctr\u003E\n \u003Ctd\u003E\n \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u0022\u003Ewww.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u003C\/a\u003E\n \u003C\/td\u003E\n \u003C\/tr\u003E\n \u003C\/table\u003E\n \u003Ctable border=\u00220\u0022 align=\u0022right\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ctr\u003E\n \u003Ctd\u003E\n April 2013\n \u003C\/td\u003E\n \u003C\/tr\u003E\n \u003C\/table\u003E\n\u003C\/div\u003E \u003Cp\u003EThis article was originally published on \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/\u0022\u003EScholars Strategy Network\u003C\/a\u003E. Read the \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/brief\/why-abortion-controversies-are-so-central-us-politics\u0022\u003Eoriginal article\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cimg height=\u00221\u0022 width=\u00221\u0022 typeof=\u0022foaf:Image\u0022 src=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/stealourcontent\/track.gif?nid=835\u0022 alt=\u0022\u0022 \/\u003E \u003C\/textarea\u003E\n\n \u003Cp\u003ECopy the above code and paste it into your website or CMS to republish.\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n"}]