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Learning from the divergent successes of the prochoice and gay & lesbian rights movements

Katrina Kimport, PhD, University of California, San Francisco

Project abstract

The crucial question facing the contemporary abortion rights movement is why the gay rights movement is winning and abortion rights is losing. Both are well-resourced movements, share favorable political opportunity structures, and engage the contentious topic of sex—and yet, gay rights campaigns are moving forward and abortion rights campaigns are not. Many reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates have suggested that the abortion rights movement study the tactics and strategies of the gay and lesbian movement to understand what lessons can be transferred.

Dr. Kimport seeks support to develop a theoretical framework of the comparative successes and setbacks of the two movements. This framework will enable abortion rights supporters to move past popular mythology explaining why gay rights campaigns are working and build on evidence-based scholarship to create social change. Considering components identified by social movements scholars as central to movement success—organizational structure, collective action frames, and the role of elite allies—under the proposed award, Dr. Kimport will conduct key informant interviews to chart the trajectories of the two movements, identifying contributors to successes and failures. As a scholar of same-sex marriage, women's experience of abortion, and social movements, she is uniquely poised to engage in a rigorous examination of these two movements.

Dr. Kimport will use these results to develop a book prospectus comparing the histories of the prochoice and gay & lesbian movements and to inform an advisory strategy for abortion rights based on analysis of the successes of the gay & lesbian movement.


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