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Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain, and Canada

Halfmann, Drew. (2011). University of Chicago Press Books.
  • 2013 Distinguished Scholarship Award, Pacific Sociological Association
  • 2012 Charles Tilly Best Book Award, Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements, American Sociological Association

Abortion Politics and Policy

Abortion is one of the most divisive political issues in the United States. In contrast, it has remained a less controversial, primarily medical issue, in Britain and Canada despite the countries’ shared heritage. Halfmann’s book, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada (University of Chicago Press, 2011), looks beyond cultural or religious explanations to find out why abortion politics and policies differ so dramatically in these otherwise similar countries.

Political institutions are crucial. In the United States, federalism, judicial review, and a private health care system contributed to the public definition of abortion as an individual right rather than a medical necessity. Meanwhile, the porous structure of American political parties gave pro-choice and pro-life groups the opportunity to move the issue onto the political agenda.

He also has conducted research on the use of grotesque imagery in abortion politics, cross-national differences in the medicalization of abortion, and the pursuit of medical allies by the abortion rights movement.