The abortion campaign : a study of moral reform and status protest
This study focuses on three major pressure groups involved in the abortion campaign, namely, the two anti-abortion organisations 'Life' and the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, and the National Abortion Campaign, a grassroots organisation which supports the campaign for 'A Woman's Right to Choose'. Participants in moral reform campaigns have been described as status discontents motivated by a desire to enhance or protect a declining status position (Gusfield, 1963; Zurcher and Kirkpatrick, 1976). Gusfield's original theory of moral reform as a mode of status politics contains four main theoretical issues which are outlined and discussed under the following headings: cultural fundamentalism, orientation to reform, expressive politics and status defence. These issues are examined within the context of the anti-abortion campaign. From an examination of pressure group literature, a study of campaign rhetoric and an analysis of questionnaire and interview data obtained from sixty-four active anti-abortion campaigners a number of conclusions are drawn. Firstly, cultural fundamentalism is identified as a feature in the anti-abortionist perspective. Secondly, assimilative and coercive reform strategies are evident in both the campaign literature and the individual accounts of campaign participants. Thirdly, the data do not support the notion of symbolic crusades as a form of expressive politics, indeed campaigners can be seen to be instrumentally oriented. Finally, although status inconsistency is observed this is not a source of moral indignation. This supports the view that moral indignation can be a rational response to the violation of deeply cherished values (Wallis, 1977). Cultural defence rather than status defence is identified as the force behind individual mobilisation. This finding confirms recent research on moral crusades (Bland and Wallis, 1977; Leahy, 1982 and Wood and Hughes, 1984). The influence of the women's movement in the campaign to defend the 1967 Abortion Act is assessed and the feminist interpretation of abortion as a critical indicator of women's status in society is discussed. Data are presented from a study of forty-two pro-abortion supporters.