Advisor

Marc Rodriguez

Date of Award

3-28-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History

Department

History

Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 91 pages)

Abstract

The abortion debate in the United States has come to split the contemporary electorate among party lines. Since the late 1970s, the Republican Party has taken a stand against abortion and has worked through various routes of legislation to pass restrictions on access to the procedure. Oregon however, provides a different interpretation of this partisan debate. Though Oregon has seen both Republican and Democratic leadership in all houses of state government and pro-life conservative groups have lobbied to restrict the procedure, no abortion restriction has been passed in the state since the United States Supreme Court invalidated many state abortion bans in 1973.

This thesis analyzes the legislative history of Oregon beginning in the mid nineteenth century, when the Oregon Territory first passed an abortion ban. Oregon voters and lawmakers alike were continuously asked to debate the legality and morality of abortion. Though the state did participate in the national debate over access to abortion, made clear by dozens of attempts at restricting the procedure, Oregon's response to conservative political trends is distinctive.

Oregon liberalized its abortion law before Roe was decided; and years before, prominent physicians provided abortions and advocated for reproductive health. After abortion was decriminalized, Oregon legislators protected abortion access further by rejecting all attempts to pass abortion restrictions and crafting legislation to make further restrictions more difficult to pass. Even as Republicans gained majorities in the Oregon legislature in the late 1980s and 1990s and the pro-life movement gained momentum on the statewide level nationally, Republican lawmakers remained unwilling to prioritize abortion legislation. So too, in the decades following the Roe decision, Oregon voters have rejected all pro-life attempts to restrict abortion access by ballot initiative. Instead of pointing to one explanation for Oregon's protection of abortion access, this thesis examines the societal and legislative developments that worked in tandem to create a legislative landscape that is protective of abortion.

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