Executive Regulation of Abortion During the Reagan-Bush Years

Date of Graduation

Fall 1993


Master of Public Administration


Political Science

Committee Chair

Kant Patel


In 1980, the anti-abortion movement successfully gained control of the U.S. presidency and for twelve years dominated the political agenda. This thesis analyzes the rise in executive power and how Reagan and Bush used administrative mechanisms to create a regulatory strategy to eliminate the right to abortion. The power of appointment and the use of the presidential veto were key components of the administrative efforts. In addition, this thesis reviews the transformation of American jurisprudence with regard to abortion and concludes that a refashioned Supreme Court has made it almost impossible to prove that regulations of abortion are "undue burdens." An analysis of three executive policies: the 1984 "Mexico City Policy," the 1988 Fetal Tissue Research Funding Ban," and the 1988 "Gag Rule" illustrates how regulation was created, implemented, legitimized and sustained all through the powers of the Reagan-Bush administrations. These regulations violated legal standards and principles of ethics. In addition, they had substantial adverse consequences for their recipients. As a result of the Reagan-Bush efforts, there has been a reduction in both the supply of and demand for legal abortion.

Subject Categories

Public Administration


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