International Linkages and Liberalization of Abortion: Competing Institutional Logics and International Organization Networks

Dong-Ju Lee, Harvard University - Department of Sociology
Abortion laws, despite their critical roles in political and social debates, have received little attention from comparative sociologists. This paper studies the worldwide liberalization of abortion laws among 202 countries during 1920-2007, focusing on the effect of countries’ embeddedness in world polity. Rights to legal abortion have been incorporated in the international regimes of human rights, but their legal status is still contested in ways that other human rights are not. Building on neo-institutional studies of policy diffusion, this study expands the literature’s focus on isomorphic diffusion and explores why there are varying modes of adoption across different policies and across different regions of the world. I pay attention to two international advocacy networks, namely international birth control movements and international women’s movements, and explore how each constructs and diffuses rationales for the liberalization of abortion. In doing so, I employ network analysis to measure the extent to which an individual country is exposed to the ideas of abortion rights through its central position in those networks of international organizations, and I explain how the linkages to each policy network lead to different consequences concerning the pace and pattern toward liberalization. Event history analyses reveal that countries having central positions in international women rights’ networks are more likely to liberalize their abortion laws while central countries in international birth control networks are not.
March, 26 2013 | 12:30 - 2:00 | 329 Soc/Psych Building (McKinney Room)

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