New Book Alert: The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement

The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement: Serving Women or Saving Babies? by Laura S. Hussey

There is more to the pro-life movement than campaigning against abortion. That, at least, is the logic behind a large and growing network of pro-life pregnancy centers offering “help” to pregnant women. As these centers face increasing scrutiny, this book offers the first social-scientific study of the pro-life pregnancy help movement.

The work being performed at pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other charitable agencies is, Laura S. Hussey suggests, distinguished by several strategic features: it is directed at non-state targets, operates in largely privatized venues, employs service provision as its primary tactic, and aims to address causes popularly associated with its countermovement such as women’s (including poor women’s) wellbeing and empowerment. The motives and nature of the services such pregnancy centers deliver have become the subjects of competing political narratives—but, until now, very little empirical research. A rich, mixed-method study including data from two original national surveys and extensive interviews, Hussey’s book adjudicates these opposing views even as it provides a measured look at the identity, work, history, and impact of pro-life pregnancy centers and related service providers, as well as their relations with the larger American antiabortion movement.

To what extent is pro-life pregnancy help work primarily geared to serving women versus “saving babies?” Pursued in these pages, the answer has broad implications for the wider study of social action and the pro-life movement, and for the future of the American abortion conflict.

“Professor Hussey provides a novel, in-depth account of the pregnancy help movement (PHM) that both confirms and refutes much of the existing literature and conventional wisdom about this feminized branch of the pro-life movement. Drawing from an unmatched wealth of original data, she takes a balanced approach to a controversial topic. Although many people on both sides of the abortion debate may find her conclusions unsatisfying, they provide a solid (and much needed) starting point from which future research, perspectives, and debates can be developed.” – Alesha E. Doan, author of Opposition and Intimidation: The Abortion Wars and Strategies of Political Harassment and coauthor of Abortion Regret:The New Attack on Reproductive Freedom

Laura S. Hussey is associate professor of political science and director of the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her extensive work on social movements, public policy, and politics has appeared in many publications, including American Politics Research, Politics & Policy, Political Research Quarterly, and Social Science Quarterly.