The Right's Reasons: Constitutional Conflict and the Spread of Woman-Protected Antiabortion Argument


Reva B. Siegel


The Lecture offers a provisional first account of the rise and spread of WPAA. It traces the development of gender-based antiabortion advocacy, examining the rise of post-abortion syndrome (PAS) claims in the Reagan years and the first struggles in the antiabortion movement about whether the right to life is properly justified on the ground of women’s welfare. My story then follows changes in the abortion-harms-women claim, as it is transformed from PAS—a therapeutic and mobilizing discourse initially employed to dissuade women from having abortions and to recruit women to the antiabortion cause—into WPAA, a political discourse forged in the heat of movement conflict that seeks to persuade audiences outside the movement’s ranks in political campaigns and constitutional law. I tell a story in which social movement mobilization, coalition, and conflict each play a role in the evolution and spread of this constitutional argument, in the process forging new and distinctly modern ways to talk about the right to life and the role morality of motherhood in the therapeutic, public health, and political rights idiom of late twentieth-century America.

Streaming Media


Reva B. Siegel, The Right’s Reasons: Constitutional Conflict and the Spread of Woman-Protective Anti-Abortion Argument, 57 Duke Law Journal 1641-1692 (2008) Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol57/iss6/2

Lecture Date

March 1, 2007