First Advisor

Melody E. Valdini

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science and University Honors


Political Science


Abortion -- Law and legislation -- United States, Legislators -- Sex differences -- United States, Paternalism -- United States, Sex and law




Mainstream feminist political science discourse primarily focuses on abortion as an issue of male dominance over female individuals, and little research has been conducted to determine whether female lawmakers, too, are complicit in paternalism in anti-abortion rhetoric and lawmaking, and the implications of such self-infantilization. The present thesis surveys the existence of paternalistic language in state-level anti-abortion bills for the 2016 legislative session, and analyzes the results by legislator gender. The data conveys that both male and female legislators employ paternalistic language in anti-abortion legislation, which implies there is more to the abortion debate than gender differences. This paper explores the implications and potential causes of female legislators utilizing self-infantilizing language in the context of anti-abortion legislation, and argues the need for a significant reorientation of the abortion debate away from men versus women, and towards a discussion of the complex and varied intersections of race, wealth, age, gender and other social factors that affect a woman’s ability to access abortion.


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