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Over the last forty years, the question over abortion rights has been a highly debated social issue in our country. The Pro-choice movement began with a primary goal of legalizing abortion, and after this was achieved, continued to defend itself against the counter movements that rose in the late 70's. This movement enjoyed a level of successes that was not felt by other movements of the time. As highlighted in The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict, Suzanne Staggenborg examines the many factors contributing to the movement. While reading and researching this book and other pro-choice movement materials, some themes have arose that give insight into the successes of this movement despite its turmoiulous road. Devoted leadership, strong organizations and grass-root support, combined with motivation from the threats of the anti-abortion counter movement, enabled the pro-choice movement to remain an active force before and after legalization.
The emergence of the pro-choice movement did not occur via the usual social movement roots. The early pro choice movement emerged from concerned physicians who wanted to help legalize abortions and keep the practice safe. Published articles began to appear in the 1950's and early 60's that roused public attention on the need for the abortion law reforms. Two major events were specifically covered; the case of Sherri Finkbine who had taken a drug that could cause fetal defects and attempted to get an illegal abortion, and the epidemic of rubella measles that could also cause fetal defects. This forced doctors to confront their different views over abortion. The earliest organization to develop was the Association for the Study of Abortion (ASA). Although it began small, the ASA was important in lending credibility and authority to the early years of the abortion movement. The ASA was a major player in developing other organizations for abortion rights. The National Association for the Appeal of abortion laws (NARAL) was bore from members of the ASA who were more aggressive in their support of measures to repeal abortion laws. Due to the devotion of the NARAL members, this organization was at the forefront of the abortion movement for many years. Many early organizers involved with the NARAL used their connections to recruit professionals with prestige and influential power. The early movement gained both professionals who were influential nationally as well as grass roots activists who play an intricate role on the local level. Grass roots activists in their local chapters became deeply involved in the movements mobilization. During this time there were also many women's groups that combined with abortion activists to strengthen their overall influence.
Prior to 1973's Roe v. Wade decision the abortion movement's principal source of political opportunity was its expanded social movement sector. In speaking of the factors in mobilizing people around the abortion issue Staggenborg states, "Activists who fought for women's right, civil rights, and the like were also joining this emerging movement. Immediately felt grievances also aided the movements mobilization due to volunteers who had strong feelings about abortion rights. The movement was off the ground." (Staggenborg,
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Suzanne Staggenborg, Lawrence Lader, Sherri Finkbine, Solinger, Wade,
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National Abortion Rights Action League, Supreme Court, National Abortion Federation, congress, ASA,
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