Institutional Legitimation and Abortion: Monitoring the Catholic Church's Discourse


Focusing on institutional legitimation, this study analyzes the abortion policy statements of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) issued in three public fora (general public, Congress, and the Supreme Court) during the time of two landmark cases, Roe (1973-1976) and Webster (1989-1992). The study explores whether the NCCB responds to shifts in the abortion policy environment by varying its self- presentation on abortion generally over time, across specific fora over time, or in response to actual or im- pending changes in abortion policy within particular time periods. The study found that from Roe to Webster, there was a significant increase in the complexity of the NCCB's general public and legal argu- ments and a decrease in the complexity of its congressional statements. A significant time-by-forum inter- action suggested that fluctuations in the complexity of the Church's arguments were due to the strategic re- sponsiveness of the Church to cyclical shifts in the fortunes of the pro-life agenda.

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Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion



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© 1995 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion