Reproductive Rights Through the Lens of Causal Stories: A Policy Analysis




Rodman, Sheyla

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Reproductive Rights Through the Lens of Causal Stories: A Policy Analysis seeks to draw a connection between reproductive rights policy, causal stories, and public opinion. The causal stories theory explains that the way we define a problem–specifically, how we attribute blame and responsibility to that problem and whether or not we view it as amenable to change by human intervention–influences the government’s response to them. Thus, causal stories often translate into public policy responses. By marking out important punctuations in reproductive rights policy, this thesis traces the historical evolution of reproductive rights, uses the events of the time to gauge the causal stories influencing policy, evaluates the role that political actors have played in promoting those causal stories, and measures how public opinion has responded to certain policy decisions. A core argument in this thesis is that, for a causal story to effect policy change, the causal story must have majority public support because the U.S. government is designed to be responsive to public opinion. To assess this claim, I compare reproductive rights policy and the causal stories implicated in it with public opinion, mainly gathered through public opinion polling results throughout the last few decades. I find that, for the most part, this claim holds up relatively well; however, in 2022, reproductive rights experienced a significant shift that ran contrary to public opinion. The thesis ends with a discussion of what the overturn of Roe v. Wade signals for the democraticness of the Supreme Court, the causal stories involved in the decision, and what this means for the future of American democracy.


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