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Abortion Politics, Women's Movements, and the Democratic StateA Comparative Study of State Feminism$

Dorothy McBride Stetson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199242665

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199242666.001.0001

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Conclusion: Comparative Abortion Politics and the Case for State Feminism

Conclusion: Comparative Abortion Politics and the Case for State Feminism

Chapter:
(p.267) 13 Conclusion: Comparative Abortion Politics and the Case for State Feminism
Source:
Abortion Politics, Women's Movements, and the Democratic State
Author(s):

Dorothy McBride Stetson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199242666.003.0013

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter summarizes and analyses the findings from the comparative analysis of abortion policy debates in 11 countries. The first section describes similarities and differences in abortion politics, including how abortion reform came to the public agenda, which institutions are responsible for abortion policy, and the pattern of conflict. In the second section, the summary of frames of the abortion debates show policy makers eventually incorporating gendered ideas that promote the status, rights, and autonomy of women, leading in most cases to increased substantive and descriptive representation of women. The third section shows that most women's movements have been unified in support of women's abortion rights, but have not achieved their full demands. The fourth section reports comparative findings testing the five hypotheses of the state feminist theory, and showing conditions under which states’ women's policy agencies have helped women's movement activists achieve feminist policy and participation goals.

Keywords:   abortion policy, abortion rights, descriptive representation, feminism, gender, policy‐making, state feminism, substantive representation, women's movements, women's policy agencies

Introduction

State feminism is defined as the effectiveness of women's policy agencies in assisting women's movements in achieving their procedural and substantive policy goals. The excellent studies of abortion politics in the preceding chapters classify the major abortion debates of the last 30 years in eleven advanced industrial democracies according to the variables of the state feminism

                   Conclusion: Comparative Abortion Politics and the Case for State Feminism

Figure 13.1. State Feminism: Conceptual Framework

(p.268)

Table 13.1. Abortion Policy Debates by Country

AUSTRIA

AU1

Social Democratic Party Draft Liberalization, 1970–2

AU2

People's Initiative (anti‐abortion) and National Council reaffirmation of legal abortion, 1975–8

AU3

Regulation of mifegyne: abortion pill, 1998–9

BELGIUM

BL1

State Commission for Ethical Problems, 1974–6

BL2

Detiège bill to suspend prosecutions, 1981–2

BL3

Reform of abortion law, 1986–90

CANADA

CA1

Reform of abortion criminal code, 1966–9

CA2

Morgentaler/Daigle cases (constitutionality of criminal code), 1988, 1989

CA3

Bill to reinstate criminal penalties for abortion, 1989–91

FRANCE

FR1

Reaffirmation of legal abortion in first trimester, 1975–9

FR2

Reimbursement of abortion expenses, 1982–3

FR3

Commando‐IVG and Loi Neiertz (sanctions for obstructing access), 1993

GERMANY

GR1

Legalization of abortion, 1969–74

GR2

Post‐unification liberalization, 1990–2

GR3

Restoration of limited abortion law, 1993–5

GREAT BRITAIN

GB1

White bill and Lane Committee investigation into 1967 act, 1970–5

GB2

Corrie bill to restrict abortions, 1975–9

GB3

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: upper limit, 1987–90

IRELAND

IR1

Constitutional amendment to protect the unborn, 1981–3

IR2

X and Maastricht Treaty referendums on abortion and right to travel, 1992–5

IR3

C and Green Paper on abortion policy, 1997–9

ITALY

IT1

Legalization of abortion, 1971–8

IT2

Popular referendum to repeal legal abortion, 1980–1

IT3

In vitro fertilization and abortion, 1996–9.

THE NETHERLANDS

NE1

First cabinet proposal for limited reform, 1971–2

NE2

Reform of abortion law, 1978–81

NE3

Implementation of statute to register/license abortion facilities, 1981–4

SPAIN

SP1

Abortion Act, 1983–5

SP2

Implementation regulations, 1986

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

US1

Legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade, 1959–73

US2

Hyde Amendment, 1975–7

US3

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, 1995–8

(p.269) framework (Fig. 13.1). This concluding chapter compares the measurements from these studies to examine a series of propositions designed to explore the extent to which state feminism has existed and how it has varied, and to assess explanations for that variation. These propositions comprise the following steps in building a foundation for a theory of state feminism: determining impact of movements on policy‐making; examining the influence of women's policy agencies in that success; comparing the characteristics of agencies associated with influence; finally, assessing the validity of the state feminism explanation of women's movement success in contrast to explanations derived from resource mobilization and political opportunity structure theories.

Before analyzing these propositions, we will begin with a comparison of abortion politics across the eleven countries using information on all debates. Table 13.1 will help the reader keep track of 32 debates from eleven countries over 30 years that will be analyzed. This information on the politics of the abortion issue provides the context for the theoretical analysis. The section ‘Abortion Politics’ will review the institutional arenas in various countries, how abortion problems arrived on public agendas, and the dominant frames and definitions of these problems. This comparison shows that there are many similarities in the way abortion questions reach public attention and the institutions that deal with them.

The second and third sections of this chapter, ‘Gendering the Abortion Issue’ and ‘Women's Movements’, use the data from the preceding chapters to examine some assumptions of the research design and the state feminism framework. It is important to examine these assumptions because if the evidence does not bear them out it would undermine any conclusions reached in examining the hypotheses. The first of these is the assumption that the way policy debates are gendered affects both policy content and procedural access. The framework's typology of the effectiveness of women's policy agency activities is composed of two variables: whether the agency adopts a gendered position in the debate that coincides with women's movement goals and whether the agency is successful in inserting those ideas into the dominant debate frame. The framework assumes that such activities will be equal to effectiveness in assisting movement activists in achieving their goals for content and participation in the policy‐making process. But this will be the case only if the way debates are gendered opens up access for advocates for women and leads to gendered policy outcomes. In ‘Gendering the Abortion Issue’ the comparison of patterns of gender ideas, inserted both successfully and unsuccessfully into dominant debate frames, shows the extent to which policy actors have defined abortion in terms of feminist ideas of women's rights and status. It will also show connections between the frames of the debates and substantive and descriptive representation. This section will conclude with a review of the (p.270) policy outcomes and the extent to which they have coincided with women's movement demands.

The second assumption pertains to the decision not to establish a standard definition of ‘feminism’ but, rather, to use the views of the women's movements in each country as the benchmark of state feminism. This decision is part of the research strategy of the larger Research Network on Gender Politics and the State (RNGS) project. Through their close collaboration, researchers in this project have incorporated concepts in the state feminism framework that will permit comparison across time and across countries with a limited amount of ‘conceptual stretching’, that is, extending concepts where they do not apply (Sartori 1970). Feminism, specifically which criteria will determine whether leaders, attitudes, goals, strategies, and policies can be classified as ‘feminist’, is an especially difficult concept to apply comparatively. There are no agreed‐upon standards to determine, for example, whether a policy providing for women's health is as feminist as a demand for women's self‐determination. As a substitute for providing a definition of feminism that will work in every context, we have opted for classifying leaders, frames, and policies in terms of the specific demands of the women's movements in each country at the time of the various debates. Readers of preceding chapters will be familiar with authors' conclusions that a particular policy ‘coincides with women's movement demands’ or a particular women's policy agency has a feminist leader or has adopted a gendered frame of the abortion issue that ‘coincides with the frame of the women's movement’.

The question with respect to comparing women's movements is the extent to which it is possible to characterize the movement over the period of the debate as having a single goal or whether the movement—or movements—are splintered and in conflict. Thus the section titled ‘Women's movements’ explores the composition of women's movements as described in the chapters and their relationship to the abortion issue in the period from the 1960s to the late 1990s. There is information about the fate of the autonomous, socialist, and institutionalized components of various movements and the extent to which they are unified generally and specifically in support of a common goal for abortion law.

The fourth section, titled ‘Women's Movements and the State: the Case for State Feminism’, presents the analysis of the state feminism framework and hypotheses. The data for this analysis come from the 28 debates in the study which took place when women's policy agencies were in place.1 These hypotheses are examined in the following order:

  1. H1. Women's movements in democratic states have tended to be successful in increasing both substantive representation as demonstrated by policy content and descriptive representation as demonstrated by women's participation in policy‐making processes, that is, dual response.

  2. H2. Women's movements in democratic states have tended to be more (p.271) successful where women's policy agencies have acted as insiders in the policy‐making process, that is, have gendered policy debates in ways that coincide with women's movement goals.

  3. H3. Women's policy agencies with greater resources and institutional capacity, defined by scope, type, and placement, have been more effective than agencies with fewer resources and less capacity in providing linkages between women's movements and policy‐makers.

  4. H4. Variations in women's movement characteristics and/or policy environments explain variations in both women's policy agency effectiveness and movement success in increasing women's representation.

  5. H5. If women's policy agencies are necessary and effective linkages between movements and state responses, then variations in movement resources and policy environments will have no independent relation to state responses.

Text along with tables summarize the findings from each chapter using the conceptual framework of state feminism (Fig. 13.1). As with any attempt at comparison, inevitably there has been some loss of detail and nuance as the various cases were sorted into categories. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that these comparisons are based on decisions about the primary or most typical features gleaned from the descriptions of aspects of these 28 policy debates, rather than a full inclusion of all patterns found in the detailed chapters that precede this conclusion.2

The last section of this chapter has two parts: a review of nation state patterns of state feminism and abortion politics and a summary of the findings and their potential contribution to the construction of a theory of state feminism

Abortion Politics

All the countries studied in this book entered the twentieth century with laws that made abortion a crime with few exceptions. In the early 1900s, policy‐makers in France and the Netherlands acted to make their laws even more restrictive. After that, the issue retreated from the public agenda. Leaders in democracies saw little need or provocation to concern themselves with the plight of women facing unwanted pregnancies. Those in fascist governments incorporated abortion policy into their grand eugenic schemes. Only in Catalonia, in Spain, were there efforts to implement reforms. These were squashed, however, by the victory of the authoritarian Franco regime.

While Social Democrats in Austria tried in vain in the 1920s and again in the 1950s to bring the question of reproductive rights into the public arena, it was not until the 1960s that the veil of public policy‐makers' ignorance of the status and effects of these inherited nineteenth century criminal codes was lifted. Beginning with coalitions of doctors and lawyers in Great Britain, Canada, and the US seeking relief from threats of prosecutions, demands for liberalization (p.272) rolled through the democracies of Western Europe: Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, then France, Belgium, Italy, and, finally, Spain. The issue came to the agenda in Ireland as well, but the demands were to strengthen the restrictions, not relax them.

Although abortion reform was taken up in similar fashion in all but one of the countries studied here, there were differences in the abilities of policy‐makers to fashion a policy that settled the conflicts that unsettled many conventional political arrangements. If there were a race among these countries in finding such a solution, the Netherlands would win first prize, with Spain and Austria coming in close behind. The battle lasted longer in Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, and France but political settlements of the early 1990s show promise of widespread support. The abortion issue has rattled policy‐makers in Italy just once since the early 1980s. Only in Ireland and the US do policy‐makers still have to make their way through the minefield of a policy question which deeply divides the political parties, social movements, and the public.

The legislature is the institution that has made the most important decisions regarding abortion law. In every country, with the exception of Great Britain, this arena includes the political executive: the prime minister and cabinet. The parliament and government, including the ministries, were the major players in Belgium, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. In Canada, Germany, and the US the legislature shared power with the constitutional courts while in Austria the dominant Social Democratic Party was a major venue for abortion reform. In Ireland, and to a lesser extent Italy, important decisions have been taken through popular referendums.

At one time or another in every country abortion can be considered an emotive‐symbolic issue that provokes conflicts over basic moral and religious values. As such, it can play havoc with regular arrangements among the political parties. This was definitely the case in Belgium, the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent West and unified Germany, where coalitions between Christian Democrats and liberal and/or socialist parties were disrupted along a religious divide that threatened the stability of the cabinet. Attitudes about reform have divided parties in Austria, Spain, Canada, and the US as well, usually with the left‐wing parties in favour of reform and the right defending pro‐life interests. The parties, left and right, are much less unified on one side or the other in France, Ireland, and Italy. In Great Britain, the issue was officially non‐partisan, and while eventually the Labour Party formally endorsed abortion rights for women, the Conservative Party has refused to assist anti‐abortion interests.

Eight of the first debates selected by researchers followed one of three routes to the public agenda. In Austria, Germany, and Italy, abortion came out of obscurity to the public arena as part of general and comprehensive reforms of authoritarian penal codes. Doctors practising abortion in defiance of restrictive (p.273) laws provided a second route to public forums in Belgium, Canada, and the United States. The Social Democrat MPs in the Netherlands and the Socialist government in Spain provided a third avenue by introducing the first bills for reform.

Looking across all policy debates, we see that the most frequent catalyst for public attention to an abortion question came from anti‐abortion rather than pro‐abortion forces. Only in Ireland and Great Britain did the first debates studied here gain access in this way.3 A more typical pattern (US2, US3, IT2, IT3, GB2, GB3, AU2, FR3, CA3) was that anti‐abortion activists looked for opportunities to restrict reforms already enacted. The other avenues to public attention in the debates were through court cases (GR3, IR2, IR3), through requirements of previously enacted laws (FR1, SP2, NE3), or the unique instances of German unification and the regulation of mifegyne in Austria. In one case, the second debate in the Netherlands, the government kept control of the issue from one coalition negotiation to the next.

Gendering the Abortion Issue

Information about the frames or problem definitions of the abortion issue in debates as they unfolded is essential to understanding and comparing the influence of women's advocates both inside and outside the government. A major strategy of most women's movements has been to insert their frame or definition of abortion into the dominant discourse. This frame is usually a view that abortion policy is central to women's rights and that advancing women's rights and status must be the first priority in abortion law. Movement activists assumed, as did the researchers in this study, that by gendering the debate frame in a way that fits with movement goals the result would be procedural and policy success. Because the debate is ‘about them’, advocates for women would have an entree into policy‐making systems. Similarly, if the dominant frame—the one that most policy‐makers shared—was gendered, then the content of policy outcomes would address women's needs as defined in the debate. As discussed earlier, the state feminism framework is based on these assumptions. Let's see if the 32 debates in this study bear out these expectations.

Beginning with the first debates in each country, we examined the dominant frame of the issue when abortion first arrived on the public agenda. In seven of these debates, the status of the unborn fetus was central to the issue (BL1, GB1, IR1, IT1, NE1, SP1, US1). Doctors' rights were the focus of problem definitions in United States, France, and Canada. The state's integrity in the face of rising rates of illegal abortions also moved policy‐makers to take up the issue in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands. In only four debates were ideas about how abortion policy pertained to women even part of the initial dominant definitions: In France women's concerns were balanced with those of doctors, (p.274) and in Italy and Great Britain with the state's need to regulate illegal abortions. Only in Austria, where women in the Social Democratic Party had for decades promoted abortion law reform, did the issue begin as a question of women's rights to self‐determination.

By the end of the first debates, however, Austria was joined with Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, and the US bringing gender into the dominant definition of the abortion issue. In four countries—Britain, Italy, US, and Belgium—along with Austria this gendering coincided at least in part with women's movement demands. In Great Britain and Italy psychological and social needs of women were balanced with concern about the fetus, while in Ireland the woman's life—not health or other circumstance—was the only interest that took precedence over that of the fetus. In the US the first debate yielded a policy definition that gave women's privacy to choose abortion a privileged position in any law‐making scheme, whereas in Belgium the issue required policy‐makers to determine who should make the abortion decision—women or doctors. In Germany too, the abortion issue acquired gendered aspects as a result of the first debate, but women were not portrayed in feminist or women's rights terms but as weak and needy, facing distress and conflict over problem pregnancies. The abortion issue was gendered between the first and second debates in the Netherlands and by the end of the second debates in Canada, France, and Spain. In all countries gendering coincided with women's movement frames. A typical pattern was to juxtapose women's rights to autonomy and equality against the life of the unborn. In all these cases, women's rights seemed to have the privileged position in the frame.

Does gendering last? Yes, for the most part. Once the frame of the issue was established to pertain in whole or in part to women's rights and needs, then the issue remained gendered in subsequent debates. In Austria and Belgium, the gendered frame was strengthened through the second and third debates. Similarly, in Ireland, although a limited view of women's rights in the abortion debates remains, the rights of women have expanded to include the right to travel to other countries to obtain abortions and, in extreme crisis, even with the government's help. The rights of women have been central, even dominant, in the recent British debates, which have countered continued efforts by anti‐abortion groups to place the fetus at the centre of concern. In Italy and US, while the debates remain gendered, 1990s debates have not been as successful as the first debates in the 1970s. The gendered frame has narrowed in scope, focusing in both countries on women's health issues against fetal rights rather than the more feminist idea of women's broad right to self‐determination and choice.

For the three countries where gender was not included in the frame until the second debate studied, the later gender references were also quite limited in comparison with earlier successes. In France, Canada, and the Netherlands, feminists were placed in the position of having to defend a dominant gendered (p.275) frame against demands from anti‐abortionists to raise the status of the fetus in the debate. In all three cases they adopted a strategy of narrowing the gendered ideas to focus on access in France and Canada, and in the Netherlands, on regular ungendered medical practice, to retain policy gains.

Now to the question of the effect gendering the debate in specific terms has on opening up participation in the policy‐making process to women, as assumed in the state feminism framework. To examine this question we looked at the participation variable in debates following the initial successful gendering of the debate. In other words, once the issue was ‘about women’, were women included in the policy‐making process the next time the issue came to the agenda? In every case with one exception—US2—they were, as long as the issue remained gendered. In Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and even Germany, women managed to participate in a more or less regular fashion in the policy‐making process in all debates that followed the initial gendering. This participation took a variety of combinations of the following forms: prominent women in political parties and as party spokespersons; women members of parliament and ministers; women appointed to investigating committees; women's movement, pro‐choice, and anti‐abortion lobbying organizations; groups presenting evidence to investigating committees; public demonstrations; consultations with women's policy agencies and through corporate channels. In contrast, when gender was removed from the dominant frame in the third debate in Italy, women activists were shut out of the policy‐making process. In US3, the debate began and remained ungendered, focusing on the fetus versus medical practice, through what might have resulted in a statutory ban on late‐term abortions were it not for the a women's policy agency used by the president to regender the issue. The immediate result of the regendering was an invitation from congressional committees for women to present evidence at subsequent hearings. The only case where there was a gendered debate but women did not participate was the second debate in the United States over the Hyde Amendment, which restricted funding. Women were shut out of a gendered debate because it took place in a completely closed policy arena.

The second question about the effect of gendering policy debates pertains to the impact on policy content. Again the results support the assumptions of the state feminism framework. When a particular set of gender ideas became part of the dominant frame of the debate, policy content put those ideas into law (see Table 13.2). In most cases, however, gendering did not incorporate all the demands of feminists within women's movements; thus policy content, while coinciding with movement goals, did not achieve all of the movements' goals. Group I includes four countries—Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, and Ireland—where the issue was gendered in terms that coincided with movement goals in the first debate and was sustained through the later debates. In these (p.276) countries, the policy content followed in similar terms. Only in Austria, however, did the feminist frame of women's self‐determination become part of a law that provides abortion without limits in the first trimester. Ireland's limited attention to women's right to life coincided with the concerns of a weak and defensive movement which refused to be engaged in actively promoting a feminist agenda, opting instead for a low profile on the issue. In Great Britain the law is more liberal in practice than on the books; nevertheless, it does take into account the social needs of women, which was the initial gendered frame of the debate. The frame of the debate in Belgium was so conflict‐ridden that it took several years before a bill that coincided with gender ideas was put into effect.

Group II includes Italy and the US, where gendered frames in the first debates led to policy but where over the subsequent debates the frame was narrowed. The ideas that made it to the policy arena were more limited in Italy than in the US, focusing on women's health in contrast to the right of privacy and choice. Consequently, Italian abortion law is based on an indications or conditions approach, and abortion remains criminal in opposition to many feminists' goals of self‐determination. In the US abortion law remains out of the criminal codes but the official definition of the issue in debates has narrowed to focus more directly on women's health rather than privacy. The constitutional guidelines as set forth by the Supreme Court do place women's liberty in a central place but, in competition with the States' powers to protect fetal life, this liberty has become more fragile.

In the countries in Group III, where the abortion issue was gendered to coincide with movement goals as a result of the second, not the first, debate studied, movements have maintained these gender references but in a narrowed form. In all—Canada, France, the Netherlands, and Spain—the state enacted policy that reflected these gendered ideas. In Canada, criminal abortion laws were declared unconstitutional based on the rights of women to personal security under the Constitution. In France women received funding for abortions from the government to advance their rights. Under the abortion reform in the Netherlands, women alone determine whether their situations are enough of an emergency to require abortion services. In Spain, after the idea that abortion was a matter of women's rights entered the official frame of the debate, the Ministry of Health eliminated many restrictions on access to abortion. All these laws remain in force.

Only Germany is in Group IV, where gendered debates did not produce policy that coincided with movement goals. All three debates were gendered to promote women's ‘need for assistance, not punishment’, but the needy women portrayed in this frame were very different from the independent women deserving of self‐determination and reproductive rights portrayed by various activists in the women's movement. Despite two attempts by the legislature to choose a periodic model rather than an indications model, the Constitutional (p.277)

Table 13.2. Gendered Debates and Policy Content

Country

Debate 1

Debate 2

Debate 3

GROUP I: GENDERED THREE DEBATES; SUSTAINED OVER THREE DEBATES; COINCIDED WITH WOMEN'S MOVEMENT GOALS

Austria

Women's self‐determination

Party bill: abortion without limits in first trimester after consultation. Became law in 1974

Defeat counter‐movement to re‐criminalize

Mifegyne approved; debate on legal abortion not reopened

Belgium

Woman makes decision

No change in existing law; alternatives set forth providing for abortion under either medical or also socio‐psychological conditions

Defeat of bill to suspend abortion prosecutions; continued criminalization

Abortion in first twelve weeks for woman in crisis; self‐determination of crisis state along with physician

Great Britain

Social needs of women

Successfully defend Abortion Act which provides for abortion for health of woman, family, fetus; wide discretion to doctors

Successfully defended

Upper limit of 24 weeks exception for physical/mental health of mother or handicapped child.

Ireland

Women's life is equal to life of fetus

Constitutional amendment, right to life of woman equal with unborn

Right to travel and freedom of information approved

Parliamentary committee outlines options for abortion law from absolute ban to crisis pregnancy help

GROUP II: GENDERED THREE DEBATES; SCOPE DECLINING; COINCIDE WITH MOVEMENT GOALS MORE LIMITED WAY

Italy

Women's health and psycho‐social integrity

Criminal except for physical/mental health, socio‐economic family circumstances, fetal anomalies and malformations

Defeat of anti‐abortion referendum

Defeat of anti‐abortion amendments through Constitutional Court ruling

United States

Women's right to privacy in choosing abortion

Abortion legal in first two trimesters without condition

No federal funds for abortion except for danger to mother's life

Defeat of Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act

GROUP III: GENDERED TWO OF THREE DEBATES; MAINTAINED GENDERING; SCOPE NARROWED; COINCIDED WITH MOVEMENT GOALS

Canada

Woman's right to choose

Decriminalized abortion for life/health of mother. Therapeutic Abortion Committee system

Abortion law declared unconstitutional based on rights of women to security in person

Bill to recriminalize abortion defeated in Senate

France

Women's reproductive rights

Reaffirmation of legal abortion in first trimester without condition but with administrative hurdles

Funding of abortion from general budget

Public health code includes special offence of hindering access to abortions

The Netherlands

Women make own decisions about abortion

Failure of limited abortion reform bill

Enactment of abortion for women in ‘emergency situation’ determined by women

Network of hospitals provide abortion on demand

Spain

Abortion important to women's rights

Abortion on eugenic, medical, or ethical grounds

Access made easier by eliminating restrictions imposed by Minister of Health

GROUP IV: GENDERED THREE DEBATES, NOT COINCIDING WITH MOVEMENT GOALS

Germany

Women's need for assistance, not punishment

Periodic model adopted: first twelve weeks with counselling

Decriminalized abortion in first twelve weeks with mandatory counselling

Unlawful but not punishable in first twelve weeks with counselling, medical, and rape indications.

(p.278) Court ordered that abortion remain criminalized. Whether periodic or criminalized, the laws reflect the conventional portrayal of needy women by establishing mandatory counselling—usually to talk the woman out of an abortion—prior to allowing abortion as the most important aspect of abortion law reforms.

Women's Movements

This section examines similarities and differences in movement composition and demands pertaining to abortion. The state feminism framework solved the difficulties of finding a comparative definition of feminism by opting to use the country‐based movements as the benchmark for whether the state—through (p.279) its women's policy agencies—acted in a feminist way. Although this approach gives a straightforward measure of aspects of movement impact and women's policy agency activities, evidence from these chapters shows that the movement—or, in some countries, movements—are often heterogeneous and internally divided. Here we look at the components of the movements at the beginning of the policy debates, with special attention to their cohesiveness around a set of demands for specific frames and policies on abortion. Then we will examine any changes in the women's movements by the time of the most recent debates.

Evidence of women's movement characteristics at the time of the first debates on abortion shows that autonomous radical feminist groups were emerging and/or growing in all countries. These radical groups were tiny in some countries—Spain, Ireland—and quite vigorous in others—Italy, US, Great Britain. Once visible, however, in all countries they encountered women's rights activists already organized. In Austria, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, these ‘older’ branches of the movements were in left‐wing unions and political parties. In Canada, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and the US, these were not affiliated with parties but were other types of organizations working to advance women's status. In Great Britain and Belgium, three types of branches—party, autonomous, and other organizations—were active in the early 1970s.

Relations among the various wings and branches of the movements ranged from tense to outright conflictual. In Austria, the autonomous ‘out’ groups and the insiders of the Social Democratic Party were in synergy: ultimately they needed each other. In France at the time of the first debate, there was open conflict among the leading radical feminist groups. In Great Britain as well, the socialist and the radical feminists were in a bitter battle over both goals and strategies. When the abortion issue did arrive at the public agenda, it became a top priority for women's movements in all but Ireland and Canada. In Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, and the US, this agreement brought the feuding wings together. They still remained divided over strategies—public demonstrations and protest versus cooperation and compromise—and goals—holding out for publicly funded abortion on demand versus accepting moderate liberalizing reforms.

In the Netherlands and Spain, the major abortion debates were settled by the mid‐1980s. Since there was a relatively short time span between first and last debates, there were few changes in the women's movements. In the other countries, however, by the time of the third debates the autonomous wings of the women's movements had declined or disappeared. In Austria, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and the US, movement groups had presence in major political parties, legislatures, bureaucracies, and other interest groups, and thus had become integrated in a regular way with policy‐making institutions. With the exception of Italy, the movements remained unified on abortion (p.280) rights as a top priority. In Ireland, the movement had consolidated but did not have the institutionalized presence found in other countries. In France and Germany all wings of the movement were in decline in the 1990s. While the French feminists could still unify when abortion rights were threatened, German activists were divided more than ever. Even the Constitutional Court's ruling that the rights of the unborn were paramount was not enough to unify them around a campaign for abortion rights for women.

When the activists in women's movements have been unified in support of women's abortion rights, they have still rarely spoken with one voice in presenting their frames and specific policy demands; and in several debates the wings have presented alternative views. Yet each author in this book has had to classify each debate according to whether the gendered frames and the policy content coincided with women's movement demands, and given the requirements of the comparative method, they have had to make a judgement: either yes or no, no maybes allowed. When gendering and policy content coincided with the demands of one part of the movement we agreed to classify this as yes. The fact is, however, that none of the abortion issue frames or policies coincided completely with all demands and goals of women's movements in any country. Throughout the analysis that follows here, we are well aware that in none of the movements, although often successful in gaining procedural and policy responses from the state, have all activists been completely satisfied, nor has any women's policy agency been able to intercede to overcome all the opposition to their goals.

Women's Movements and the State: The Case for State Feminism

The major purposes of this cross‐national study of abortion politics and women's movements have been: (1) to determine and explain variations in the success of women's movement in opening up democratic policy processes on abortion policy to women's representation: in other words, democratizing democracies in advanced industrial economies; and (2) to determine whether the state itself, by establishing specialist women's policy agencies, intervened effectively to achieve this success. This section examines findings in this study in relation to five hypotheses stated in Chapter 1 and in the introduction to Chapter 13. Sorting and classifying qualitative data shows trends in the findings and indicates to what extent these trends confirm or fail to confirm the hypotheses.4 In this section, therefore, we depart from a country comparison as the primary focus to a debates comparison, while still pointing out trends in the various countries across these debates.

The core question in this study, in fact the very definition of ‘state feminism’, pertains to the role of women's policy agencies as insiders, allies, or symbols in (p.281) women's movement efforts to have an impact on policy‐making processes and outcomes in democratic states. In the analytical framework of state feminism, the women's policy agency activities comprise an intervening variable between movement impact and explanations for variations according to movement resources and policy environments. Examining these hypotheses provides evidence of women's policy agencies and agency characteristics operating as intervening variables, and the extent to which agencies are necessary linkages between the movements and the state responses in the area of abortion policy and politics.

The first proposition examines the variations in the success of women's movements in 28 abortion debates. The movement impact typology used in this study comprises two measures of women's representation: descriptive, or procedural access through women's participation in policy‐making processes, and substantive, or policy content through changes in the outcomes of the processes. There are four possible measures of movement impact: dual response, which is providing both substantive and descriptive representation; co‐optation, descriptive representation only; pre‐emption, substantive representation only; and no response.

H1. Women's movements in democratic states have tended to be successful in increasing both substantive representation as demonstrated by policy content and descriptive representation as demonstrated by women's participation in policy‐making processes, that is, dual response.

The abortion debates in this study support this first hypothesis. In a majority (16) of the 28 debates, the women's movements were successful in opening up the process to women's participation and obtaining policy outcomes that coincided with movement demands (see Table 13.3). A majority of debates in a majority of countries yielded dual responses. The movements in Austria and Great Britain were successful across the range of debates from the 1970s to the 1990s. The movements were successful in two of three debates in Canada, France, and the United States. In Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Belgium only one debate was fully successful for the movements. The least successful movement was in Germany, which did not achieve dual response in any debate including the first without women's policy agencies.

The movements were partially successful in ten more debates gaining either descriptive representation—co‐optation—through participation of women and women's movement activists in the debates over abortion or substantive representation—pre‐emption—through policies favourable to movement goals. Italy's third debate ended in only partial success, although the first two debates which took place before the establishment of women's policy agencies had achieved dual response. Only two, or 7 per cent, of the debates were completely unsuccessful for the movements. Both of these debates—US2 and FR1—occurred in the 1970s.

(p.282)

Table 13.3. Women's Movements and State Responses in 28 Abortion Policy Debates

Country

Dual response

Co‐optation

Pre‐emption

No response

Austria

AU1, AU2, AU3

o

o

o

Belgium

BL3

BL1, BL2

o

o

Canada

CA2, CA3

o

CA1

o

France

FR2, FR3

o

o

FR1

Germany

o

GR2, GR3

oa

o

Great Britain

GB1, GB2, GB3

o

o

o

Ireland

IR1

IR2, IR3

o

o

Italy

ob

o

IT3

o

Netherlands

NE3

o

NE2

oc

Spain

SP3

o

SP1

o

United States

US1, US3

o

o

US2

Total

16

6

4

2

(a) GR1 with no women's policy agency was Pre‐emption

(b) IT1 and IT2 with no women's policy agencies were Dual response

(c) NE1 with no women's policy agency was No response

There was a trend toward greater success over the time period of the debates. In six countries movements had partial or no success in early debates (BL1, BL2, CA1, NE2, US2, SP1) but achieved complete success in later debates. Only in Ireland and Italy were movements less successful in later debates (IT3, IR2, IR3) than in earlier ones. In Germany, with no complete success in any abortion debate, the women's movement opened up the policy process to participation in the later debates (GR2, GR3) although they were unsuccessful in obtaining a policy outcome that at all coincided with movement goals.

To measure the role of the agencies in achieving movement success, we use the typology that includes measures of the extent to which the position of the agency in the abortion debate coincided with women's movement goals and the ability of the agency actors to insert this gendered perspective into the dominant frame of the debate. As we have seen, the gendering of the debate is an important step in gaining substantive representation in policy content. Agencies that accomplish both are called insiders, whereas taking a women's movement position but not affecting the debate places the agency as marginal. Agencies that gender the debate but in ways that do not coincide withe movement goals are non‐feminist, while an agency that does neither is classified as symbolic.

H2. Women's movements in democratic states have tended to be more successful where women's policy agencies have acted as insiders in the policy‐making process, that is, have gendered policy debates in ways that coincide with women's movement goals.

(p.283) In ten debates, women's policy agencies were insiders (see Table 13.4). The findings support the contention that such insider agencies produce dual responses in abortion policy‐making. All ten of the insider agencies had this effect. Further, in a majority of the debates where movements were successful—ten out of 16—this success was accomplished through insider agencies. There is no case where the agency was fully engaged on the issue and the movement was unsuccessful. In a majority (16) of the 28 debates the agencies were either insiders or marginal allies, and twelve of these resulted in movement success. The findings also show, however, that women's policy agencies were only a little less likely to be symbolic or non feminist (twelve) than insiders or marginal (16) on the abortion issue; just one was non‐feminist—FR1. The eleven symbolic agencies did not prevent movements from being successful in four debates. However, without agency input the movement was more likely to achieve descriptive representation (co‐optation) rather than substantive (pre‐emption). When the agencies are marginal, that is, sympathetic to movement goals but outside the policy arena, the movement impact varied including two instances of dual response, three of pre‐emption, and one with no response to the movement. These findings suggest a question that the next hypotheses addresses: what kinds of agencies can intervene successfully on behalf of women's movements, and which kinds are marginalized or excluded altogether?

Our research design suggested that agencies with greater resources and institutional capacity would tend to be more successful. By capacity we examine the scope, type of organization whether political or administrative, proximity to political power, whether abortion was inside or outside the mandate of the agency and whether the leadership was feminist or not. All agencies in this study were cross‐sectional in scope so we can eliminate this factor as an explanation for these variations.

Table 13.4. Women's Policy Agencies and Movement Impact

Insider

Marginal

Symbolic

Non‐feminist

Dual response

Ten debates: AU1, AU2, AU3, FR2, FR3, GB1, GB3, NE3, SP2, US3

Two debates: CA3, US1

Four debates: BL3, CA2, GB2, IR2

Co‐optation

Six debates: BL1, BL2, GR2, GR3, IR1, IR3

Pre‐emption

Three debates: CA1, SP1, IT3

One debate: NE2

No response

One debate: US2

One debate: FR1

Total

Ten debates

Six debates

Eleven debates

One debate

(p.284) H3. Women's policy agencies with greater resources and institutional capacity defined by type, proximity, and mandate have been more effective than agencies with fewer resources and less capacity in providing linkages between women's movements and policy‐makers.

The agencies as a whole tend to be political (60 per cent), remote from power (56 per cent), with low resources (67 per cent) (see Table 13.5). Abortion is more likely to be included in their mandates than not (62 per cent) and 81 per cent had feminist leadership. The data do not provide strong support for the hypothesis, however. There are some important differences between the characteristics of insider agencies and those of marginal ones. Insiders are political rather than administrative while the marginal are equally both. They are closer to power, but not any more blessed with resources as a group and both have feminist leaders. The major difference between insider and marginal agencies is the extent to which the abortion issue was part of the agencies' mandates: 90 per cent to 33 per cent. In comparing insider with symbolic agencies, the differences in these characteristics are in the same direction, but not large enough to support the hypothesis. As we expected, it will be necessary to look at these agencies and their role in the larger context of characteristics of the movements in relation to the policy environments.

H4. Variations in women's movement characteristics and/or policy environments explain variations in both women's policy agency effectiveness and movement success in increasing women's representation.

We will examine this hypothesis as two independent propositions, showing the relationship of movement characteristics and policy environments first to agency effectiveness and then to movement success. The research design proposed that the stage of the women's movement at the time of the debate, whether emerging, growing, in consolidation, or in decline, along with the closeness to left‐wing parties, priority of the abortion issue on the movement's agenda, the cohesiveness of the movement around the abortion demands, and the strength of the counter‐movement would explain differences in state feminism. Specifically, we expected that the agencies would be most effective in assisting movements which were in stages of growth, close to the left, unified around abortion as a high priority and facing a weak counter‐movement.

A movement can have all these characteristics, and its advocates inside the state may still face rough going in a policy environment that shuts them out. Thus we expected that movements and women's policy agencies would have more impact on the state in policy debates that take place in open rather than closed policy sub‐systems when left‐wing parties are in power.

The most important feature of the women's movement for insider women's policy agencies seems to be their closeness to the left (see Table 13.6). Agencies were more likely to have a symbolic role when the movement was moderately or not at all close to left‐wing parties and unions. This goes along with the finding (p.285)

Table 13.5. Characteristics of Women's Policy Agencies

Advisory or admin.

Political

Near power

Remote from power

Mid‐high resources

Low resources

Abortion in mandate

Abortion not mandate

Feminist leader

Non‐feminist leader

Insider

3

7

6

4

3

7

9

1

9

1

Marginal

3

3

1

5

2

4

2

4

5

1

Symbolic

5

6

5

6

4

7

6

5

8

3

Total

11

16

12

15

9

18

17

10

22

5

Table 13.6. Women's Movement Characteristics and Women's Policy Agency Activities

Emerge/growth

Consolidation

Decline

Close to left

Not close to left

High priority

Not high priority

Unified

Not unified

Strong counter‐movement

No strong counter‐movement

Insider

3

5

2

8

2

9

1

9

1

5

5

Marginal

3

3

0

5

1

4

2

4

2

1

5

Symbolic

5

3

3

2

9

6

5

7

4

10

1

Non‐fem.

0

0

1

1

0

1

0

0

1

1

0

Total

11

11

5

15

12

19

8

20

7

16

11

(p.286)

Table 13.7. Policy Environments and Women's Policy Agency Activities

Open

Moderately closed

Closed

Left in power

Left shares power

Left not in power

Insider

2

4

4

5

2

3

Marginal

0

3

3

2

2

2

Symbolic

1

3

2

0

2

5

Total

3

10

9

7

6

11

that agencies are more effective when the left is in power or shares power (8 of 10 cases). We did not find any symbolic agencies in debates when the left was fully in power; agencies when the left is out of power have a 50/50 chance of being symbolic (5 of 10 cases) (see Table 13.7). A unified movement with abortion as a high priority was nearly always present when an agency became an insider in a debate, with less frequency with marginal or symbolic agencies. A strong counter‐movement seems to accompany symbolic agencies (10 of 11 cases), whereas the insiders face such strong societal opposition half the time and marginal even less frequently. The stage of the women's movement at the time of the debate shows no clear relationship to the effectiveness of women's policy agencies. Half of the insider agencies have interceded on behalf of consolidated movements and half when the movements are in either growth or decline. Similarly, the policy sub‐system, whether open or closed, shows no relation to agency effectiveness. This may be due to the fact that some agencies, based on their location in the government and proximity to power are already situated inside closed policy sub‐systems when the debates come to the agenda.

The characteristics of the women's movements are more closely associated with movement success than the policy environments (see Tables 13.8 and 13.9). Movements that had abortion as a high priority (14 of 16), were unified in their demands (15 of 16), and close to the left‐wing parties (11 of 16) were more likely to achieve a dual response from the state, even in the face of strong counter‐movements (9 of 16). There are some tendencies found in variations in the policy environments. If the left were in power or shared power this helped (10 of 16). The policy sub‐system could be open or closed, but openness was more conducive to either a dual response or co‐optation of women into the process whereas the closed process, while not prohibiting a dual response, was more likely to result in pre‐emption or no response. As with the women's policy agencies, nearly every state response has occurred at every stage of the movements.

So far we have seen that more women's policy agencies (16) have been classified as either insiders or marginal—assisting women's movements in their efforts to affect policy content and procedure on abortion issues—rather than symbolic (11) or non‐feminist (1). Twelve of these debates with insider or marginal agencies have dual responses from the state. The final question for analysis (p.287)

Table 13.8. Women's Movement Characteristics and Movement Impact

Emerge/growth

Consolidation

Decline

Close to left

Not close to left

High priority

Not high priority

Unified

Not unified

Strong counter‐movement

No strong counter‐movement

Dual

6

7

3

11

5

14

2

15

1

9

7

Co‐opt.

2

2

2

0

6

2

4

2

4

4

2

Pre‐emp.

2

2

0

3

1

2

2

2

2

2

2

No resp

2

0

1

1

1

2

0

1

1

2

0

Total

11

11

6

15

13

20

8

20

8

17

11

Table 13.9. Policy Environments and Movement Impact

Open

Moderately closed

Closed

Left in power

Left shares power

Left not in power

Dual response

4

8

4

6

4

6

Co‐optation

2

3

1

0

2

4

Pre‐emption

0

1

3

2

0

2

No response

0

1

1

1

0

1

Total

6

13

9

9

6

13

(p.288) is to assess whether these agencies were necessary links between the movements and the state.

H5. If women's policy agencies are necessary and effective linkages between movements and state responses, then variations in movement resources and policy environments will have no independent relationship to state responses.

We will examine this question in two ways. First, we present the cases sorted in two sets of tables. Table 13.10 shows those independent variables that have an association with women's movement impact measured according to whether or not the state gave a dual response. Table 13.11 treats women's policy agency activities—insider/marginal or symbolic/non‐feminist—as an intervening variable to see whether the associations found in Table 13.10 disappear or hold up in Table 13.11. After we compare these tables, the second approach to examining the question will describe the shared women's movement and policy environment characteristics associated with particular patterns of state feminism: insider/dual response; marginal/dual response; symbolic/co‐optation; symbolic/dual response; and marginal/pre‐emption.

Table 13.10 includes only those characteristics of movements and the policy environments that suggest an association with the dependent variable, movement impact. Table 13.11 shows these same variables controlling for the potential intervening variable women's policy agency activities. If the agencies' activities were necessary for women's movement success, then the direction of relationships found between the independent and dependent variables in Table 13.10 will disappear when arrayed according to the type of agency activities: insider/marginal or symbolic/non‐feminist.

In Table 13.10 movements appear to be more successful when they are close to

Table 13.10. Characteristics of Women's Movements and Policy Environments Associated With Women's Movement Success/Dual Response

Dual response(%)

yes

no

Total (N)

Close to the left

yes

73

27

100 (15)

no

38

62

100 (13)

Priority of abortion

high

70

30

100 (20)

not high

25

75

100 (8)

Unified on issue

yes

75

25

100 (20)

no

13

87

100 (8)

Policy sub‐system

open or moderately closed

63

27

100 (19)

closed

44

56

100 (9)

Left in power

shared or in power

67

33

100 (15)

out of power

46

54

100 (13)

(p.289) the left or when the left is in power When controlled for the intervening variable in Table 13.11, however, the association disappears for insider/marginal agencies. This supports the hypothesis that insider/marginal agencies may be necessary to movement success because they can overcome the absence of the favourable conditions derived from the support of left‐wing parties and still achieve dual response. A contrasting proposition—that with symbolic or non‐feminist agencies movements have difficulty overcoming their distance from the left or barriers in the policy environment—is only partially supported. Symbolic agencies offer no help in overcoming the loss of the movement's influence when the left is not in power. However, when the movement is close to the left it can still prevail despite the inaction of the state's women's policy agency.

Table 13.10 shows a very strong association between state response and movements that placed a high priority on the abortion issue, were unified on the issue, and, to a lesser extent, faced an open or moderately closed policy subsystem. With respect to the movement characteristics—unity and priority of issue—associations strengthened when controlled for agency activities, leading to the conclusion that agencies tended not to be necessary to success under these conditions. Insider/marginal agencies were a boost to movements that were unified around abortion as a high priority issue but they do not appear to be necessary for movement success. With the proviso that the number of cases is small, the results in Table 13.11 suggest that agencies could be important in

Table 13.11. Effects of Women's Movement Characteristics and Policy Environments on Women's Movement Success Controlling for Women's Policy Agency Activities

Women's policy agency activities

Insider/marginal Dual response (%)

Symbolic/non‐feminist Dual response (%)

Yes

No

Total (N)

Yes

No

Total (N)

Close to left

Yes

82

18

100 (11)

67

33

100 (3)

No

75

25

100 (4)

22

78

100 (9)

Priority of abortion

High

91

9

100 (12)

38

62

100 (8)

Not high

33

67

100 (3)

20

80

100 (5)

Unified on issue

Yes

85

15

100 (12)

50

50

100 (8)

No

50

50

100 (3)

0

100

100 (5)

Policy sub‐system

Open/moderately closed

89

11

100 (9)

40

60

100 (10)

Closed

67

33

100 (6)

0

100

100 (3)

Left in power

Shared or in power

80

20

100 (10)

33

67

100 (5)

Out of power

80

20

100 (5)

25

75

100 (8)

(p.290) helping movements overcome barriers presented by closed decision making systems. With insider or marginal agencies, the state gave a dual response in two‐thirds of the debates taking place in a closed policy system; without activist agencies, movements were always unsuccessful.

The second way of exploring whether or not woman's policy agencies are necessary to movement success is to look more carefully at each pattern of state feminism found in this study. In this comparison, we look at exceptional cases to find instances where agencies intervened and changed the outcome. There are five patterns that include two or more debates: insider/dual response (10); marginal/dual response (2); symbolic/dual response (4); symbolic/co‐optation (6); marginal/pre‐emption (3). Here are descriptions of the shared characteristics among these cases for each pattern with explanations for the exceptional cases.

The insider/dual response pattern occurred when the women's movements placed abortion as a high priority and were unified around their efforts to effect policy outcomes. In eight debates, the movements were close to the left when the left was in power. This state feminist success was achieved in closed, moderately closed, and open policy sub‐systems, facing both strong and weaker counter‐movements. These results reinforce the significance of the left‐wing parties in assisting both the movements and the agencies in influencing abortion policy. Still there are those insider/dual response cases which occurred in a less friendly partisan environment. Were the women's policy agencies—the state's agents—able to bring about success anyway?

The exceptions to these similarities (NE3, GB1, GB3) occurred in only two countries, the Netherlands and Great Britain. NE3 was a debate that took place in the bureaucracy, a closed environment outside the usual arenas for abortion politics. However, the women's policy agency—the DCE—was placed inside that bureaucracy and had feminist leadership. This allowed it to have access and to be a conduit for women's movement demands. The fact that the left was not in power or that the movement was not cohesive and did not place this debate as a particularly high priority did not matter, given the characteristics of the women's policy agency. Two debates in Great Britain are also exceptions. GB1 and GB3 took place in a very open policy environment without the government whip, so it did not matter which party was in power. In the first debate in the early 1970s, the movement had not yet developed its strong ties with the Labour Party, so it was classified as moderately close rather than close to the left. The case can be made that in GB1, GB3, and NE3 the insider women's policy agencies were essential to movement success given the fact that the left was out of power and the movements faced very strong counter‐movements. In all the other cases of insider/dual response, the left‐wing parties were either in power alone or shared power in coalition governments. As we have seen, left‐wing governments tended to be welcoming to activism by women's policy agencies with varying characteristics, and it is difficult to say (p.291) whether the movements could have achieved similar successes on their own in such policy environments.

There are only two cases of marginal/dual response debates: CA3 and US1. In both, movements faced moderately closed policy environments. Otherwise there are few similarities in the movement characteristics and policy environments that might suggest any general conclusions about this pattern. It is interesting, however, that the agencies are similar: politically appointed bodies advisory to heads of departments. In Canada, there was a Minister for the Status of Women, but it was a member of a conservative government in 1989–91. Similarly, in the US, the advisory council was appointed by a Republican secretary. Moreover, in the US, the agency was far removed from the arena where the debate took place: the US Supreme Court.

The symbolic/dual response pattern was found in four debates. All women's movements faced strong counter‐movements, but they were unified and for three of the four abortion was a top priority. Only two were quite close to the left but only one benefited from a left‐wing government. What very likely explains movements' success in the absence of any assistance from the women's policy agency is the fact that none of them had to contend with a completely closed policy sub‐system. Two were open and two were moderately closed. These symbolic agencies were either isolated in the cabinet (BL3), lacked feminist leadership (CA2), or had no mandate for the abortion issue (IR2). GB2 is something of a puzzle here, however, because in this debate the women's policy agency could have taken up the abortion issue and at least played a marginal role, but it chose not to do so.

There are six debates where the symbolic agencies watched the movement reach only minimal procedural success through co‐optation. They are similar in that the movement was not close to the left during any of these debates, nor was the left in power. If we recall that eight insider agencies associated with movement success took part in debates when the movement was close to the left and the left shared power, this pattern reinforces the importance of the left‐wing party status and relationship to the women's movement in explaining state feminism. Other characteristics are important: in two of the three symbolic/co‐optation cases, the movement was not cohesive, abortion was not a high priority, the policy sub‐systems were closed, and the counter‐movement was strong. How then, one might ask, did the movement achieve any success at all in the absence of a helpful women's policy agency?

Co‐optation involves participation of women in the policy debates, without achieving policy content that coincides with women's movement goals. It would make sense that in these cases the movement was able to break through to participate because of more open policy sub‐systems, and this holds true for five of the six cases. In the case of BL1, the first debate in Belgium, the system was closed, but the arena was important: an investigating commission. Half of the (p.292) commission's members were women and several were advocates for women's rights. Thus women were inside the process already. But why were these agencies not more active on behalf of the movement? Again, the party in power is telling: in all of these cases the centre or right was in power, and these parties appointed people to these agencies who opposed movement goals on abortion or they tended to discourage agency leaders from taking feminist stands on abortion in the process. These six cases of symbolic/co‐optation took place in three countries: Belgium, Germany, and Ireland. The cultural environment in these countries was more discouraging for the movement activists and femocrats alike on the issue than in the other countries in this study.

Finally, there are three cases of marginal/pre‐emption, where the agencies advocated movement goals, but were not heard by policy‐makers. And while the policy outcome in these debates did not contradict movement goals, women were not admitted as participants in the policy‐making process. The movement was close to the left in all three cases, and the left was in power in two. However, in contrast to the characteristics associated with insider success, the movements tended not to be cohesive in these debates, nor did they place abortion as a top priority. The policy sub‐system was closed in two debates as well. The exception was SP1 where the movement was unified, placed abortion as a high priority, and the policy system was only moderately closed. In fact, the characteristics of Spain's first debate are quite similar to many of the insider/dual response cases. What limited the effectiveness of the women's policy agency—the Institute for Women—was that it had been created during the beginning of the debate and was in the process of organizing itself. It was thus probably not well‐enough established to move on its agenda in an active way with the socialist government and in the parliament.

Nation‐State Patterns

One of the important methodological features of this study of state feminism in abortion politics was the decision to use the policy debate, rather than the nation‐state, as the unit of analysis. This approach allowed researchers to look at patterns of movement activism and state response on the issue over time, within countries, and cross‐nationally. As indicated in the introduction, whether or not there are nation‐state trends would be a finding of the study. Having shown the various patterns of women's movement success and state feminism, this final section considers whether or not the result of this comparative analysis supports the use of policy debates rather than nation states for the study of movement impact.

In only three countries has the impact of women's movements on the state been consistent over the three debates. Policy‐makers in Austria and Great Britain consistently responded positively to women's movements substantive (p.293) and procedural demands for abortion processes and policies that took them into account. The Italian state, on the other hand, was persistent in keeping women and women's movements out of the policy process while at the same time maintaining an abortion policy that pre‐empted their demands.

In six of the other countries the state responded in the same way to the movements in two of the three debates studied. However, there was no longitudinal trend. The Belgian state co‐opted feminist women in the first two debates leading finally to a dual response in the third. Governments in Canada and France responded to the movement demands in the second and third debates with dual responses. Germany moved from pre‐emption in the first to co‐optation in the last two debates without ever providing a full movement success. In Ireland, the state allowed women to participate in all three debates but satisfied their policy demands only in part in the second debate granting women the right to travel abroad for abortion services. The US movement was more successful overall than that in Ireland, but its success was not steady, and it was brought up short immediately after a spectacular success in the debate over Roe v. Wade by an abrupt no response in the second debate over funding.

If there is a nation‐state pattern in the Netherlands, it is one of gradual success for the Dutch women's movement. In three debates, the movement went from no response, to pre‐emption, to dual response with the implementation of the law to effect abortion on demand. Spain too, in the two debates studied here, had a similar move from pre‐emption to dual response and, similarly, obtained that success during the process of implementation of an abortion reform enacted without women's participation.

The findings with respect to the activities of women's policy agencies and state feminism show a similar mixed pattern when arranged by nation‐state. There are three countries where agency activities could be said to conform a national pattern on the abortion issue. Only in Austria, however, is that pattern state feminist where the agencies—one was a quasi‐state party body—were insiders gaining dual response in policy debates stretching from the 1970s to the 1990s. Belgium and Ireland show country patterns of inaction by their agencies on the abortion issue which were symbolic throughout the study. The Belgian commissions and council had mandates on the abortion issue but generally opted not to take part in the abortion debates; while those in Ireland, where state authorities in general are reluctant to take any initiative on the highly charged issue, had no mandate for abortion. Germany had no agency in the first debate studied but the agencies since then also followed the symbolic pattern. Like Ireland, their mandate on abortion was tenuous and, in addition, their political bosses installed non‐feminists in these agencies and kept them remote from the crucial and divisive debates on abortion law in the 1990s.

Both France and Great Britain had insider agencies in two of the three debates and thus show a trend toward state feminism on the abortion issue. The (p.294) French machinery has been more institutionalized with greater resources and more continuity that agencies in Britain. French agencies have risen as high as ministerial cabinet rank, and an administrative structure reaching into the regions continues to provide information and monitor public issues. In Great Britain the only institutionalized structure is the Equal Opportunities Commission, which enforces the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and focuses on work and educational issues. The Women's National Commission, a conduit for opinion from women's organizations to the executive, has had few resources and little structure. Other offices tend to be closely associated with parties such as the shadow ministry for women in the Labour Party, whose leadership was active for only a few years with most of the energy and resources coming from its leader, Jo Richardson.

The US and Canada were similar to each other in that they had weaker marginal agencies in two of the three debates. Canada's array of women's policy machinery was more institutionalized that that in the US, but with the conservatives in power during crucial parliamentary debates they were at a disadvantage. In both Canada and the US, some debates took place in the Courts. The legal arena provided few avenues for agencies inside political or administrative institutions to gain access to the policy debates despite taking stands supportive of the women's movements on the issues at stake. Finally, as with the findings about movement success, the second and third debates in the Netherlands and the two debates in Spain showed a different role for the women's policy agencies, moving from symbolic/pre‐emption and marginal/pre‐emption respectively, to a full insider/dual response in the final debate. These results demonstrate the significance of insider agencies in the ministries in expanding women's access to both power and abortion services.

Summary of Findings: Toward a Theory of State Feminism

Finally, we summarize the contributions of the findings in this study of abortion politics in advanced industrial democracies toward a theory of state feminism. First of all, the framework and the methods have provided reliable evidence to examine the state feminism hypotheses. Selecting the individual debate as the unit of analysis rather than the nation‐state has allowed longitudinal and cross‐national comparisons. There is enough variation in patterns within countries to warrant departing from the nation‐state analysis in setting up the research design and treating these nation‐state patterns as a research finding rather than an assumption. The assumptions that were made in the research design—that gendering of issue frames in debates leads to gendered policy outcomes and participation—have been supported by the data. The definition of feminism in terms of the specific goals of women's movements (p.295) during each debate has prevented conceptual stretching, but it has been necessary to generalize about movements at the expense of a full rendering of their diversity throughout the period under study.

The examination of the hypotheses posed at the beginning of this study has yielded meaningful results in explaining state feminism. It is clear that, through their women's policy agencies, states have offered institutional resources that help achieve feminist goals as presented by women's movements. When the movements are close to left‐wing parties and those parties are in power, the conditions are especially favourable to state feminism. But these conditions are not sufficient; it is also important that the women's movements be unified around their demands and place the issue as a high priority on their agendas. The case for state feminism is further supported by the finding that when these favourable partisan conditions are not present, insider women's policy agencies with feminist leaders, depending on where they are placed in relation to the policy‐making arenas, can still intervene to gain procedural and substantive policy responses to movement demands even in the face of strong counter‐movements.

Activist insider or marginal state agencies are not essential for women's movements to have an impact on the policy‐making process under all circumstances. Strong movements can be successful when state agencies are nothing more than symbolic decorations and the left is out of power. But without activist agencies, movements must depend on the policy sub‐systems being either open or moderately closed, rather than closed, especially when the left is out of power to have an impact. Even then, they are likely to achieve only partial success by gaining access to policy arenas but not feminist policy outcomes.

Notes:

(1) These debates include all except the first debates in the Netherlands and Germany (NE1, GR1) and the first two debates in Italy (IT1, IT2).

(2) These conclusions are in turn based upon decisions each researcher has made in examining the primary data to provide information according to the conceptual framework of state feminism that guides this comprehensive research project.

(3) The debates covered in the chapters on Great Britain and France did not include the initial liberalization in the Abortion Act of 1967 and the loi Veil in 1975. For all three debates in Great Britain it was anti‐abortion activists who raised the issue in an attempt to restrict the 1967 act. In France the debates took three different routes to the agenda: based on previous law, Socialist Party initiative, and anti‐abortion campaigns.

(4) The larger RNGS study (see Chapter 1, n. 2), when completed, will yield information on policy debates in five issue areas in 15 countries. The number of debates that result will permit quantitative/statistical testing of these hypotheses.