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Opposition and Intimidation

The Abortion Wars and Strategies of Political Harassment

Alesha E. Doan

Publication Year: 2007

The abortion fight has long been a crucible of political tactics, with both sides employing strategies ranging from litigation to civil disobedience to outright violence. Anti-abortion activists have arguably been more tactically innovative than their pro-choice peers. Opposition and Intimidation looks at how their use of political harassment fits—or doesn't—with more conventional political efforts in the struggle over abortion. Alesha Doan's insightful interviews and observations powerfully portray anti-abortion activists' relationship to the objects of their protest. Her portrait is augmented by thorough quantitative analysis of harassment's role within the movement's multitiered strategy—a strategy that Doan shows has forced a decline in the availability and popularity of abortions. Using her unique study of the anti-abortion movement as a model, Doan extends her findings to propose a novel and valuable theory of the new politics of harassment. "An interesting and sophisticated account. Seamlessly weaves narrative and analysis, tying local action to national strategy. Explores uncharted territory in the abortion controversy and expands our understanding of political action." —Deborah R. McFarlane, University of New Mexico "For 40 years, abortion politics have been endlessly fascinating to American scholars and journalists alike because they generate unique political phenomena that challenge traditional theories of political behavior. In this book, Doan goes straight to the heart of the matter by describing, evaluating, and explaining one of the most characteristic and complex of these phenomena—political harassment. In a well-written narrative that weaves qualitative and quantitative data, she gives us the first scholarly look at this political tactic, whose relevance and use go well beyond American abortion politics." —Chris Mooney, University of Illinois at Springfield "The book contributes to political theory and knowledge by adding new empirical data gathered from interviews with those in the front lines of the struggle over abortion. The author refines and develops a category of unconventional political participation—political harassment of nongovernmental actors—and explains why it is particularly effective in undermining the rights of women seeking abortions, as well as the rights of abortion service providers." —Nikki R. Van Hightower, Texas A&M University Alesha E. Doan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. ix-xii

One of the distinguishing features of the abortion conflict compared to other social debates of our times is the level of protest, harassment, and violence generated over this issue. Journalists, physicians, and activists on both sides of the debate have talked about the spectacle occurring outside of clinics across the nation. ...

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1. POLITICAL PROTEST OR POLITICAL HARASSMENT? Social Movements, Morality Politics, and Abortion

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pp. 1-37

Chris Danze, a construction industry executive and staunch pro-life supporter, was shocked to hear the news in 2003 that Planned Parenthood was going to open up a new clinic equipped to perform abortion services in Austin, Texas, so he decided to do something about it.1 Danze began making phone calls to dissuade companies from working on the construction of the facility. Within a few short weeks, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drywall installers, heating subcontractors, and cement layers all backed out of the project, delaying the construction of the facility. ...

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2. SHIFTING CONTEXTS: The History of Abortion in America

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pp. 38-69

The decision whether to have children is one of the most life-altering decisions faced by women. Child-rearing responsibilities disproportionately fall on women, so it is not surprising that the desire to regulate fertility has long been a concern for women. Abortion has historically been used by women as a form of birth control and as a means to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. ...

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pp. 70-104

Pro-life support existed within society long before the 1960s move to liberalize abortion laws, but there was no reason to organize formally because the law and public sentiment appeared to reflect anti-abortion beliefs. In reality, although abortion was illegal, the absence of public discourse surrounding abortion was a product of society’s general discomfort and shame about openly talking about sexuality rather than majoritarian support of pro-life beliefs (Luker 1984). ...

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4. CREATING A NEW GAME: The Scope of Anti-Abortion Violence and Harassing Tactics

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pp. 105-129

In the past four decades, anti-abortion activities have run the gamut from legal protest to quasi-legal protest to illegal protesting and violence. The trends in activity have waxed and waned throughout the years, often responding to changing strategies and political opportunities. One marked trend is the decrease in extreme incidents of violence such as arson, bombing, and murder following the passage of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act (18 U.S.C. 248) and a corollary increase in protest activities around the same time period. ...

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5. DOES HARASSMENT PAY OFF? Assessing the Success of Anti-Abortion Tactics

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pp. 130-154

Pro-life activists frequently express the collective goal of banning abortion or prohibiting access to abortion services (Paige 1983; Luker 1984). Unconventional tactics are among the tools used by the direct action branch of the movement to achieve this goal. Activists aim these tactics at nongovernmental actors because from their perspective, the urgency of “saving lives” necessitates immediate action. Abortion opponents from this arm of the movement are not willing to wait patiently for political compromise and negotiation. ...

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pp. 155-170

The pro-life movement shares similar institutional structures and social-psychological dynamics that are present in other social movements. The anti-abortion movement’s origin and development have, in many ways, mirrored other social movements. Yet, unlike many movements, the pro-life movement has heavily relied on harassing, confrontational tactics despite the overall institutional progression of the movement and its resultant success operating through legitimate political channels. ...

Appendix A: Survey Questions

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pp. 171-172

Appendix B: Data Sources

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pp. 173-174


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pp. 175-188


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pp. 189-206


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pp. 207-215

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023028
E-ISBN-10: 0472023020
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472069750
Print-ISBN-10: 0472069756

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 12 Figures & 9 Tables
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 655174100
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Opposition and Intimidation

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Subject Headings

  • Political violence -- United States.
  • Pro-life movement -- United States.
  • Abortion -- United States.
  • Harassment -- United States.
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