MORAL CONTROVERSIES AND THE POLICYMAKING PROCESS: LOWI'S FRAMEWORK APPLIED TO THE ABORTION ISSUE

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  • Policy Studies Review, Vol. 3 , No. 2, February, 1984

    RAYMOND T A T A L O V I C H and B Y R O N W . D A Y N E S

    MORAL CONTROVERSIES AND THE POLICYMAKING PROCESS: LOWI'S FRAMEWORK APPLIED T O THE ABORTION ISSUE

    Public pol icy research t rad i t ional ly has focused on Congress' enactment o f social-welfare o r economic programs wh ich allocate re- sources among populat ion g roups o r sectors o f t he economy. Case studies o f t he Social Secur i ty Act , t he Wagner Act , t h e Fai r Labor Standards Act , t he Employment A c t o f 1946, and Taf t -Har t ley, t o c i te but a few, have been synthesized by Theodore J . Lowi (1964, pp. 677-715) , who proposes tha t governmental ou tpu ts can be classif ied as d i s t r i bu t i ve , regulatory , o r r e d i s t r i b u t i v e (Rip ley and F rank l i n , 1976; Smith, 1975; Zimmerman, 1 9 7 3 ) . Lowi f u r t h e r believes tha t pol icy t ypes af fect t h e legislat ive process, executive-legislat ive relat ions, and g r o u p conf l ic t . In t h i s essay we suggest t ha t abor t ion pol icy, which essentially i s a moral cont roversy, i s "social" regulat ion--a pub l i c pol icy t y p e to which Lowi g i ves l i t t l e attention. Thus , while Lowi's model is a beginn ing point fo r o u r analysis, it must be qual- i f i ed in th ree important ways t o expla in how issues such as abor t ion af fect t he pol icymaking process.

    Abor t i on pol icy cannot be viewed i n terms o f Lowi's d i s t r i b u t i v e o r red i s t r i bu t i ve types. Abor t i on pol icy is n o t d i s t r i b u t i v e because it cannot b e disaggregated i n t o d iscrete pol icy outputs . Abor t i on pol icy is a deeply polarized controversy w i t h obvious winners and losers; in addi t ion, it i s no t cont ro l led by any "subgovernment," a feature of d i s t r i b u t i v e pol icymaking. Nor is abor t ion an example o f red i s t r i bu - t i v e pol icy which attempts t o reallocate wealth, p roper t y , and power among broad "classes" in society. Abor t ion pol icy does not fit th is category because abor t ion "on demand"--legally , a t least--would then be available t o a l l women in society, r i c h and poor. Some analysts put abor t ion in t h e r e d i s t r i b u t i v e category ,' a conclusion mistakenly d rawn because the abor t ion controversy ( l i k e red i s t r i bu t i ve issues) is extremely ideological. While we agree tha t ideology p lays a major role in a moral con t rove rsy such as abor t ion, we argue tha t ideology i s an a t t r i b u t e o f social regu la to ry pol icymaking.

    Tha t abor t ion pol icy is a va r ian t w i th in the regulatory arena is indicated b y i t s legislat ive h i s to ry as well as by the na tu re o f th is d ispute. When t h e Supreme C o u r t in Roe v . Wade and Doe v . Bol ton (1973) legalized abor t ion during the f i r s t t r imester o f a pregnancy, it inva l idated a l l ex i s t i ng state laws banning abor t ions except in cases o f " therapeut ic" need. The contro l of abor t ions in the Uni ted States p r i o r to 1973--dating back t o t h e mid-nineteenth century- - re f lected the state governments' use o f "police powers" t o regulate publ ic health, safety, and morals.

    Theodore J . Lowi mainly s tud ied economic policies, but var ious scholars agree tha t some issues do n o t have an economic impact. T . Alexander Smith (1975, p. 9 0 ) . when he appl ied Lowi's framework to the comparative s tudy o f pub l i c policies, called such issues "emotive symbolic" because they "generate emotional suppor t for deeply held values, but un l i ke the o the r t ypes [ o f pol icies] . . . the values sought a re essential ly non-economic.Il Smith classif ied abor t ion a s an "emotive symbolic" pol icy because the debate ove r legalized abor t ion i s

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    r i c h in symbolism and ideological appeals. B u t legalized abor t ion means much more. Since abor t ion pol icy modifies the de l i ve ry o f health care services, it may have impact on family p lanning, f e r t i l i t y rates, populat ion g rowth , and conceivably on the welfare needs o f dependent ch i ldren. So o u r formulation o f abor t ion pol icy as "social" regulat ion ident i f ies i t s symbolic and substant ive qual i t ies. Nonethe- less, the moral dimensions o f t he debate ove r abort ion, we think, contrast t h i s kind o f pub l i c pol icy from most regu la to ry questions.

    There is an emerging body o f l i t e ra tu re on regu la to ry policies which contrasts the l1oldl1 o r economic regulat ion from the "new" o r social regulat ion (Wilson, 1980; Li l ley and Mi l ler , 1977: and Weaver, 1 9 7 8 ) . In sp i te o f these semantic dif ferences, however, t he scholars in t h i s f ie ld genera l ly agree tha t t h e regu la to ry policies wh ich charac- ter ized government act ion from 1887 until World War I l - - t yp i f i ed by the ICC, the FCC, and the C A G - w e r e fundamental ly d i f f e ren t f rom the kind o f regulat ions being promulgated in the 1970s. which a re enforced by such agencies as t h e EPA, OSHA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The former regulat ions, says Lester M. Salamon ( 1 9 8 1 , p. 1 5 0 ) . involved:

    . . . con t ro l s over the terms o f e n t r y and the cond i t i ons o f operat ion i n p a r t i c u l a r i ndus t r i es . Much o f the e a r l y regu la t i on i n the United States took t h i s form, as e f f o r t s were made t o avoid excessive p r i ces i n such n a t u r a l l y monopol is t ic i n d u s t r i e s as u t i l i t i e s o r t o prevent destruc- t i v e competit ion and ensure market s t a b i l i t y . . . .

    What i s happening today in regu la to ry pol icy, Salamon continues,

    invo lves the establ ishment o f standards f o r c e r t a i n types o f a c t i v i t i e s o r the imposi t ion o f con t ro l s t o l i m i t the e f f e c t s o f these a c t i v i t i e s . . . e f f o r t s have been made t o p r o h i b i t o r discourage act ions t h a t endanger workers o r consumers, p o l l u t e the environment, o r v i o l a t e important soc ia l goals, such as equal employment.

    That older regulatory policies were essential ly economic in charac- te r is clear enough, but the re seems t o be a qual i ta t ive d i f ference between abort ion pol icy as "social" regulat ion and the k inds of "new" regulat ions c i ted in the l i terature. L i l ley and Mil ler ( 1 9 7 7 ) . for example, trace the recent g r o w t h o f federal regulat ions to thirty statutes enacted during 1970-1975. Inc luded among these are: Clean A i r Amendments ( 1 9 7 0 ) , Noise Contro l A c t ( 1 9 7 2 ) , Federal Water Pollution Control Ac t Amendments ( 1 9 7 2 ) , Atomic Energy A c t ( 1 9 7 4 ) . and the Pension Reform Ac t ( 1 9 7 4 ) . Whereas the older regulat ions centered on the s t r u c t u r e o f an i n d u s t r y o r the marketplace, these newer regulat ions focus on the workplace and the product ion process. We would suggest t ha t a degree o f theoretical c l a r i t y would b e a c h k v e d by iden t i f y i ng p u r e "social" regulat ions as i nvo l v ing the use of au tho r i t y t o modify o r replace social values, inst i tu t ional practices, and norms o f in terpersonal behavior w i t h new modes of conduct based upon legal proscr ip t ions. T h i s formulation permi ts u s t o focus o n those regulat ions af fect ing social relat ionships because the moral ou tc ry fol lowing these government policies i s much more intense than what occurs when economic transactions a re being regulated.

  • Tata lov ich and Daynes/Moral Controversies 209

    We inc lude w i t h t h i s b r o a d d e f i n i t i o n s u c h recen t con t rove rs ies as school desegrega t ion ( a n d race re la t i ons g e n e r a l l y ) , t h e Equa l R i g h t s Amendment, gun con t ro l , g a y l i be ra t i on , obscen i t y , school p r a y e r , as we l l as abo r t i on . Such issues a r e fewer in n u m b e r t h a n economic d i s p u t e s but t h e y h a v e increased m a r k e d l y in recen t decades, a n d t h e i nd i ca t i ons a r e t h a t t h i s t r e n d w i l l con t i nue . Moreover , po l i c ies w h i c h genera te c o n f l i c t o v e r mora l i ssues pose se r ious p rob lems f o r demo- c r a t i c po l i t i cs a n d po l i t i ca l s t a b i l i t y . T h u s i t i s impor tan t t h a t a t ten - t i on b e g i v e n t o how these mora l c o n t r o v e r s i e s become po l i t i c i zed , w h y t h e y impact t h e po l i cymak ing p rocess in d i f f e r e n t w a y s t h a n economic regu la t i ons , a n d wha t f a c t o r s u n d e r l i e t h e p rob lem o f ach iev- ing a po l i t i ca l consensus o n s u c h ques t i ons . O u r ana lys i s o f t h e a b o r t i o n c o n t r o v e r s y p o i n t s t o t h r e e a t t r i b u t e s o f po l i cymak ing in t h e r e g u l a t o r y a rena wh ich , u n l i k e economic d i spu tes , cha rac te r i ze moral con t rove rs ies : ( 1 ) t h e ro le o f t h e j u d i c i a r y , ( 2 ) t h e r o l e o f ideo logy , a n d ( 3 ) t h e ro le o f s ing le - issue g r o u p s .

    T H E J U D I C I A R Y

    Low i did n o t p o i n t to a n y r o l e by t h e j u d i c i a r y as a po l i cymaker in t h e t h r e e po l i cy a renas h e i den t i f i es .