Cover image for Bearing right : how conservatives won the abortion war
Bearing right : how conservatives won the abortion war
Saletan, William, 1964-
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Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
327 pages ; 24 cm
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HQ767.5.U5 S23 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In his gripping, behind-the-scenes account, journalist William Saletan reveals exactly how, thirty years after Roe v. Wade, "pro-choice" conservatives have won the abortion war. Having successfully turned abortion into a privacy issue, conservatives now prevail on issues ranging from abortion's legality and parental notification to Medicaid, rape, and cloning; consequently, reproductive autonomy is now becoming inaccessible to the young and the poor. This eye-opening expos#65533; tells how abortion rights activists--people who desired social change, women's equality, and broader access to health care--have had their message co-opted in a culture of privacy and limited government. Bearing Right is also a story about the essentially conservative character of the United States today.

Saletan tells how, beginning in Arkansas in 1986 during the administration of Governor Bill Clinton, the National Abortion Rights Action League repackaged the abortion issue to give it broader appeal to conservatives. Pro-choice conservatives adopted this new rhetoric and made the abortion issue their own. Saletan takes us through the key events in the ensuing story--the fight over the nomination of Judge Robert Bork, the election of Governor Doug Wilder in Virginia, the convergence of the Bush and Clinton positions on abortion in 1992, and much more--right up to the present day.

This book is a crucial lesson in how politicians and interest groups can change the way we vote, not by telling us facts or lies, but by reshaping the way we think--in part through mass marketing. Today, the abortion rights movement must ask itself what it has won and what it is fighting for. This book is sure to play a role in answering that question.

Author Notes

William Saletan is Chief Political Correspondent for the online magazine Slate. He has written for the New Republic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Saletan, a political reporter for Slate and other magazines, documents the organizations, interests, people, and campaigns that shaped the reproductive rights debate from the 1980s to the present. He forcefully argues that moderate politicians permitted conservatives to become the balance of power on abortion and other related issues when they argued for the right to freedom from government interference rather than taking the stance for women's rights. Conservatives favored blocking funding of abortions for poor women and restricting abortions for teens. As a result, abortion rights activists such as Kate Michelman were left with agonizing choices on issues and endorsements. To make his thorough and detailed case, Saletan draws on an impressive array of sources, including federal and state documents, magazines, more than 100 newspapers, TV/radio broadcasts, press releases, private documents, and interviews. His book will appeal to scholars of women's studies, policy, and law, as well as readers interested in how politics really works; highly recommended. Another interesting discussion of reproductive rights is Rickie Solinger's Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States.-Mary Jane Brustman, Univ. at Albany Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Students of politics are regularly instructed about how interest groups shape politics. But this book illustrates the opposite: how politics affects the positions and strategies of interest groups. In this journalistic account, Saletan (a contributor to Slate) carefully documents how a rising tide of conservative politics in 1986 forced the pro-choice camp, specifically the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), to abandon their absolutist rhetoric on abortion rights and co-opt conservative language in order to keep abortion legal, albeit in more limited form. NARAL's "Who Decides" public relations campaign was specific enough to tap into conservative fears about big government but general enough to avoid saying whether the decision maker should be the woman or her husband, the teen or her parents. Saletan argues that this alliance between liberal feminists and antigovernment, pro-family conservatives sacrificed several components of the pro-choice agenda: the push for public funding, resistance to parental control, refusal to evaluate which women "deserve" an abortion, the fight against "partial birth" abortion bans, and promotion of stem cell research. Saletan concludes that, although early abortion remains legal, conservatives, not liberals, have won the struggle by defining the issue and regulating the reach of the abortion right. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Public libraries through faculty and professional collections. S. Behuniak Le Moyne College

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1. A Place Called Hopep. 9
2. Privacy and Prejudicep. 31
3. Who Decidedp. 57
4. The New Mainstreamp. 84
5. Triagep. 108
6. Middle Groundp. 136
7. Victims and Villainsp. 158
8. The Right to Choose Lifep. 188
9. The Era of Big Governmentp. 218
10. Fatal Positionp. 247
Notesp. 279
Bibliographyp. 311
Indexp. 313