We continue our ongoing series of Fall 2014 author Q&As with Rebecca Cook, one of the editors of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies. Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective offers a fresh look at significant transnational legal developments in recent years, examining key judicial decisions, constitutional texts, and regulatory reforms of abortion law in order to envision ways ahead.
The chapters investigate issues of access, rights, and justice, as well as social constructions of women, sexuality, and pregnancy, through different legal procedures and regimes. They address the promises and risks of using legal procedure to achieve reproductive justice from different national, regional, and international vantage points; how public and courtroom debates are framed within medical, religious, and human rights arguments; the meaning of different narratives that recur in abortion litigation and language; and how respect for women and prenatal life is expressed in various legal regimes. By exploring how legal actors advocate, regulate, and adjudicate the issue of abortion, this timely volume seeks to build on existing developments to bring about change of a larger order.
(Previous Q&As: Cathy Lisa Schneider, Police Power and Race Riots; Jennifer Curtis, Human Rights as War by Other Means; Matt Cohen and Edlie Wong, The Killers: A Narrative of Real Life in Philadelphia; Jacqueline Bhabha, Human Rights and Adolescence.)
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Penn Press: What has driven the shift in the legal conceptualization of abortion from the domain of criminality to the domain of rights?
Rebecca Cook: The growth of domestic constitutional law and international human rights principles [has driven that shift].
Is there a global or universal trend in the evolution of abortion law, or are particular legal regimes changing independently?
There are many global trends that contribute to the evolution of abortion law. As the world gets smaller, and communication is facilitated through the internet, change is interactive among many domestic courts and international human rights tribunals.
How is abortion in law determined by other legal realities?
Abortion is affected by different realities, both on the demand and supply side of the leger. On the demand side, the continuing lack of contraception, the lack of sex education, and the failure of societies to prevent rape and sexual abuse of women, all contribute to unwanted pregnancy, fueling the demand for abortion. These realities influence legal developments. For example, many cases are brought to ensure adolescent rape victims can access abortion services in countries where it is legal for that purpose. On the supply side, the introduction of medical abortion has improved the supply of abortion particularly in the early stages of pregnancy. The introduction of medication abortion has also provoked a backlash causing those who are against women's choice to bring lawsuits trying to deny women access to this drug.
Overall, the improvement of women's rights and the understanding of women as equal citizens have led to a sense that criminalizing medical procedures that only women need is a form of discrimination against them that states are required to remedy.