Abortion liberalization in world society, 1960–2009

Elizabeth H. Boyle, Minzee Kim, Wesley Longhofer

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Controversy sets abortion apart from other issues studied by world society theorists, who consider the tendency for policies institutionalized at the global level to diffuse across very different countries. The authors conduct an event history analysis of the spread ðhowever limitedÞ of abortion liberalization policies from 1960 to 2009. After identifying three dominant frames ða women’s rights frame, a medical frame, and a religious, natural family frameÞ, the authors find that indicators of a scientific, medical frame show consistent association with liberalization of policies specifying acceptable grounds for abortion. Women’s leadership roles have a stronger and more consistent liberalizing effect than do countries’ links to a global women’s rights discourse. Somewhat different patterns emerge around the likelihood of adopting an additional policy, controlling for first policy adoption. Even as support for women’s autonomy has grown globally, with respect to abortion liberalization, persistent, powerful frames compete at the global level, preventing robust policy diffusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-913
Number of pages32
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2015

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