Online Program

Gender and congressional voting on reproductive health and rights

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 1:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Suzanne D. Petroni, PhD, Gender, Population and Development, International Center for Research on Women, Washington, DC
The United States has been a leader in the international population arena for five decades, but the domestic policy debate around international population and reproductive health issues has been increasingly characterized by politicization and partisanship. The Mexico City Policy (MCP) provides a concrete example through which to study this growing divide. I undertook a content analysis of every congressional floor debate on the MCP since 1995 to understand: 1) how the gender and party affiliation of members of Congress have influenced their support for international reproductive health, and 2) the tone of discourse employed by male and female, Democratic and Republican members, when speaking and voting on the MCP. I analyzed floor debates and statements to assess the content, tone and language employed by legislators, taking into account members' position on the issue, gender, political party and stance on abortion. I find a growing partisan divide around these issues in both voting and speaking patterns. Among other findings of potential use to advocates, I conclude that female members engage more frequently and more positively on these issues than do their male counterparts. Further, the evidence suggests that women representatives represent in their discourse the interests of women around the world more frequently and more positively than their male counterparts. Supporters of international family planning, in particular, speak to the health, rights and empowerment of women around the world, and the responsibility of the United States to support these women. Opponents tend to speak about women in far less feminist ways.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the trends in congressional voting on the Mexico City Policy as a proxy for voting on international reproductive health and rights issues. Design and implement improved advocacy strategies that take these trends into account.

Keyword(s): Reproductive Health, Politics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked in the international reproductive health policy field for 15 years and conducted this study as part of my PhD dissertation research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.