Abortion Law Reforms in Colombia and Nicaragua: Issue Networks and Opportunity Contexts

Authors

  • Camilla Reuterswärd,

    1. is affiliated with the Department of Government, Uppsala University PO Box 514, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden. Her research interests include gender and reproductive rights in Latin America, state and policy reform processes, social movements and activism, and human rights.
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  • Pär Zetterberg,

    1. is a researcher and lecturer at the Department of Government, Uppsala University, PO Box 514, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden. His research interests include gender and politics and his doctoral dissertation focused on the impacts of electoral gender quotas, with empirical focus in Latin America. His work has been published in Political Research Quarterly and Parliamentary Affairs, amongst others.
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  • Suruchi Thapar-Björkert,

    1. is a senior lecturer at the Department of Government, Uppsala University, PO Box 514, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden. Her research interests are in gender, nationalism and colonialism; the political economy of gendered violence; qualitative feminist research methodologies; and ethnicity, social capital and social exclusion. She is currently a senior research fellow at the Centre of Gender Excellence (GEXcel) at Linköping University.
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  • Maxine Molyneux

    1. is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Malet Street, WC1E 7HU, London, UK. She has edited or authored eight books and numerous articles in the fields of gender studies and development. Recent publications include ‘Latin American Capitalism: Economic and Social Policy in Transition’, Special Issue of Economy and Society co-edited and introduced with Diego Sanchez Ancochea and Juliana Martínez Franzoni (2009) and The Politics of Rights: Dilemmas for Feminist Praxis co-edited with A. Cornwall (Routledge, 2007).
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  • The authors are grateful for the helpful comments of the anonymous referees on an earlierversion of this article.

ABSTRACT

This article analyses two instances of abortion law reform in Latin America. In 2006, after a decades-long impasse, the highly controversial issue of abortion came to dominate the political agenda when Colombia liberalized its abortion law and Nicaragua adopted a total ban on abortion. The article analyses the central actors in the reform processes, their strategies and the opportunity contexts. Drawing on Htun's (2003) framework, it examines why these processes concluded with opposing legislative outcomes. The authors argue for the need to understand the state as a non-unitary site of politics and policy, and for judicial processes to be seen as a key variable in facilitating gender policy reforms in Latin America. In addition, they argue that ‘windows of opportunity’ such as the timing of elections can be critically important in legislative change processes.

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