Reversing Roe vs Wade: How institutions, Interests and Ideas Affect Public Policy

Forward: I can understand the arguments for pro-life. I always try and understand views, even if they go against everything I believe. I believe in pro-choice. I believe that we all entitled to freedom and nobody should be able to dictate our rights as women and decide how to own our bodies. It's terrifying that people, in this day and age where we have seen such progression in all aspects of life, that we are implementing such regressive change. If one woman faces the restrictions, every woman faces restrictions.

Abortion was legalised in America after the 1973 Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Roe v. Wade (Hansen, 1980). This blog will explore public policy changes across America through the influence of institutions, interests and ideas. Institutions can be defined as “rules, norms and organisational factors that structure political behaviour” (Héritier, 2017).Interests are the “agendas of societal groups” and ideas represent “values or beliefs of different societal groups” (Héritier, 2017).

Abortion has been seen as the most prominent political difference between the two institutions of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; with conflicting interests and ideas about abortion rights (Carmines and Woods, 2002).

In 1976, the Hyde Amendment policy was implemented by congress through Republican influence, prohibiting federal funds for abortion purposes (Blank et al, 1996). The lack of funding resulted in many abortion clinics having to migrate to metropolitan areas, ensuring difficulty for rural women having access to abortions (Wetstein and Albritton, 1995). Research has suggested that a substantial amount of cross-state migration was induced by this policy and did not necessarily prohibit abortions (Ziegler, 2009). Lower income women after the Hyde Amendment saw a mass increase in births and illegal abortions due to the lack of service availability (Blank et al, 1996). Public health advisors and Democrats argued that illegal abortions, which are the subsequent outcome of reversing Roe vs Wade, can cause life-threatening fatalities for women (Ziegler, 2009).

Furthermore, in 1989, the Republican Party proposed Webster, a Missouri law which was upheld by the Supreme Court which imposed parental consent requirements and mandatory counselling for women that sought an abortion (Halva-Neubauer, 1990). The Missouri law would prohibit many women and minors from having access to abortions (Haas-Wilson, 1996). Thus showing that individual states have significant authority to regulate abortion even after Roe v. Wade. However, in 1992 the decision in Casey, influenced by the Democratic Party and passed by the Supreme Court re-established the ruling of Roe v. Wade, which broadened the state’s capability to regulate abortions (Yüksel, 2012). It is thus evident that women have the right to exercise their free choice of abortion, but there are policies in place which are prohibiting the supply for implementing this choice (Regan, 1979). This conveys political parties influence on public policy through differing interests and ideas.

Research has found that public opinion, whilst not an institution in its own right, strongly influences public policies through voting behaviour (Abramowitz, 1995). Since 1974, there has been 16 ballot initiatives across America concerning access to abortion (Greenhouse and Siegel, 2012).The result of the ballots varied across different states. A similarly worded policy to Webster concerning parental consent for abortion failed to be passed in Oregon in 1990. However, in 1998, it was passed in Colorado (Droegemueller et al., 1969). However, also in Colorado in 1998, a policy failed to pass that would ban “partial birth” abortions (Droegemueller et al., 1969). This conveys that whilst a state might be under Republican rule, their ideas may conflict with that of the general public, resulting in some interests and ideas not being implemented in public policy.

In contrast, research has found that moving to a Republican controlled senate resulted in a decline in abortion rates due to stricter policies surrounding access to abortions (Gray et al., 2004). This could be attributed to the Republican Party’s divulgence into religious groups, whose interests and ideas coincide with theirs, forming a bipartisan, ecumenical pro-life coalition (Cahill, 2009). This was shown in 1975, when Illinois introduced a bill requiring spousal consent for abortions and placed restrictions on abortion facilities (Cook et al., 1993). Illinois was a Republican state at the time and the bill was strongly supported by evangelicals (Blank et al, 1996). However, Illinois is now a Democrat-led state and in June 2019, Illinois passed a bill repealing the abortion law of 1975 (Cartoof and Klerman, 1986). This represents the influence of different institutions that are orientated by different interests and ideas and how this can influence public policy.

(Image of President Donald Trump passing the bill to expand limits on global health funding tied to abortion)

Constituents who create a pro-life brand have been found to have greater support from evangelical protestants; known for a strong pro-life population (Calfano, 2010). In 2016, Donald Trump, the current Republican president of the United States, received over 80% evangelical support (NY Times, 2019). Since his inauguration Trump has invoked policies across 12 states, criminalising abortion and placed 479 abortion restrictions across 33 states (NY Times, 2019). This represents how the coalition between Republicans and Evangelicals influenced their interests and ideas upon public policy.

In contrast to Evangelicals, Byrnes (2016) found that the subject of abortion was divided in the Catholic community and pro-life sentiments were mainly held by Catholic elites, such as priests. This suggests that evangelical populations will have greater influence over the abortion policy views of constituents, who may promise to amend abortion policies in that state to suit that community (Smith, 2019).

States that have passed abortion restrictions:

States considering abortion restrictions:

  • Pennsylvania Republicans introduced a heartbeat bill, but Gov. Tom Wolf said he would veto it.

  • Florida is considering 2 bills — one limiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and the second is fetal heartbeat bill.

  • South Carolina has removed exceptions for rape and incest to advance a fetal heartbeat bill.

  • Maryland failed to pass a fetal heartbeat bill.

  • Minnesota is considering a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

  • West Virginia introduced a fetal heartbeat bill earlier this year.

  • Tennessee has passed a bill that would ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

States enacting abortion protections:

  • Illinois' Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law on in early June to protect the state's abortion rights if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

  • New York passed a bill in January that protects the "fundamental right" to abortions.

  • Virginia expanded in May the range of medical professionals who can perform abortion procedures.

  • The Kansas Court ruled in late April that the state constitution protects a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

  • The Illinois House passed a bill in May further protecting abortions by removing some of the barriers for abortions and penalties for doctors, positioning Illinois to become a major U.S. abortion destination.

  • Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law in June that makes it easier to get an abortion by allowing medical professionals who are not doctors to perform the procedure.

  • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill codifying the Roe v. Wade decision and protecting abortion rights in her state.

  • A federal judge blocked an Indiana law in late June that would have banned second-trimester abortion procedures.

To conclude, institutions, interests and ideas aids the exploration of the influence of public policy. The climate of abortion in America is turbulent and new policies and legal reforms are being produced all the time. Abortion will remain one of the most prevalent topics for some time and only time will tell if abortion will remain legal. I hope, like many of you that we will one day live in a world that allows freedom of choice and approach political and personal issues in a pluralistic manner. There's no freedom until we are ALL equal.

Since writing this piece, there has been numerous new articles released stating that Trump is using COVID-19 as a way of passing more laws to ban abortion. But this isn't just in America. Most notably at the moment, Poland. Women are having to take to the streets and protest as their government thought people wouldn't create an uproar during the pandemic. They were wrong. Not only are people taking to the streets, they are holding online protests. A pandemic shouldn't be a scapegoat for regressive policy changes. It's disgusting.

Banning abortion will not stop abortions, it'll make them MORE DANGEROUS.

Reference List

Abramowitz, A. (1995). It's Abortion, Stupid: Policy Voting in the 1992 Presidential Election. The Journal of Politics, 57(1), pp.176-186.

Blank, R., George, C. and London, R. (1996). State abortion rates the impact of policies, providers, politics, demographics, and economic environment. Journal of Health Economics, 15(5), pp.513-553.

Cahill, L. (2009). Religion and Politics: U.S.A. Theological Studies, 70(1), pp.186-191.

Carmines, E. and Woods, J. (2002). The Role of Party Activists in the The Evolution of Abortion Issue. Political Behavior, 24(4), pp.361-377.

Cartoof, V. and Klerman, L. (1986). Parental consent for abortion: impact of the Massachusetts law. American Journal of Public Health, 76(4), pp.397-400.

Cook, E., Jelen, T. and Wilcox, C. (1993). State Political Cultures and Public Opinion about Abortion. Political Research Quarterly, 46(4), pp.770-779.

Droegemueller, W., Taylor, E. and Drose, V. (1969). The first year of experience in Colorado with the new abortion law. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 103(5), pp.694-702.

Gray, V., Lowery, D., Fellowes, M. and McAtee, A. (2004). Public Opinion, Public Policy, and Organized Interests in the American States. Political Research Quarterly, 57(3), p.411.

Greenhouse, L. and Siegel, R. (2012). Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate before the Supreme Court's Ruling. SSRN Electronic Journal, pp.72-80.

Hansen, S. (1980). State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates Since Roe v. Wade. The Journal of Politics, 42(2), pp.372-395.

Halva-Neubauer, G. (1990). Abortion Policy in the Post-Webster Age. CrossRef Listing of Deleted DOIs, 20(3), p.27.

Haas-Wilson, D. (1996). The Impact of State Abortion Restrictions on Minors' Demand for Abortions. The Journal of Human Resources, 31(1), pp.140-155.

Héritier, A. (2017). Conclusion: European Governance in a Changing World: Interests, Institutions, and Policy-Making. International Journal of Public Administration, 40(14), pp.1250-1260.

NY Times. (2019). Religion and Right-Wing Politics: How Evangelicals Reshaped Elections. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Nov. 2019].

NY Times. (2019). ‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or to Protect It. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Nov. 2019].

Regan, D. (1979). Rewriting Roe v. Wade. Michigan Law Review, 77(7), p.1569.

Wetstein, M. and Albritton, R. (1995). Effects of Public Opinion on Abortion Policies and Use in the American States. CrossRef Listing of Deleted DOIs, 25(4), p.91.

Yishai, Y. (1993). Public Ideas and Public Policy: Abortion Politics in Four Democracies. Comparative Politics, 25(2), p.207.

Legalities: This is an essay I submitted to QUB for my Public Sector Module

#feminism #poland #abortion #america #americabanningabortion #prochoice #prolife #rights #womensrights #feminist #makeabortionlegal #publicpolicies #roevswade

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