American Sociological Association

The Stratified Legitimacy of Abortions

Roe v. Wade was heralded as an end to unequal access to abortion care in the United States. However, today, despite being common and safe, abortion is performed only selectively in hospitals and private practices. Drawing on 61 interviews with obstetrician-gynecologists in these settings, we examine how they determine which abortions to perform. We find that they distinguish between more and less legitimate abortions, producing a narrative of stratified legitimacy that privileges abortions for intended pregnancies, when the fetus is unhealthy, and when women perform normative gendered sexuality, including distress about the abortion, guilt about failure to contracept, and desire for motherhood. This stratified legitimacy can perpetuate socially-inflected inequality of access and normative gendered sexuality. Additionally, we argue that the practice by physicians of distinguishing among abortions can legitimate legislative practices that regulate and restrict some kinds of abortion, further constraining abortion access.

Download PDF

Authors

Katrina Kimport, Tracy A. Weitz, and Lori Freedman

Volume

57

Issue

4

Starting Page

503

Ending Page

516