Gendered polarization and abortion policymaking in the states

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Widening, asymmetric polarization is evident in both the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Recent work unveils a new dimension to this polarization story: newly elected Republican women are driving this polarization. Women are more likely to legislate on women’s issues than men, yet women’s shared interest in representing women doesn’t preclude their identity as partisans. In this article, we explore the effect of today’s political climate on state legislators’ policy representation of women’s issues. We ask what effect does gendered polarization have on women’s issues? To test this, we evaluate bill sponsorship in the states on the quintessential “women’s issue” of abortion. Our research design focuses on bill introductions and uses on an original dataset of pro- and anti-abortion rights bill introductions, which we analyze using an event count model. We find that overall polarization leads to the introduction of fewer restrictive abortion bills, but as polarization between women lawmakers grows, legislators are more likely to introduce anti-abortion rights legislation. Gender polarization has consequences on the types of bills legislators introduce and for how scholars should study polarization.




Matthews, A. A., Kreitzer, R. J., & Schilling, E. U. (2020). Gendered polarization and abortion policymaking in the states. Forum (Germany), 18(1), 51–69.

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