Abortion Ideologues Subvert a Woman’s Rights

The New York Times article "Abortion Ideologues Subvert a Woman's Rights" from October 20, 2017, details the story of Jane Doe, a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant who was detained in Texas and is 15 weeks pregnant and seeking an abortion. 2017 (Goldberg). It is believed that she has the right to an abortion under the US Constitution, but the current administration is steadfast in its determination to dispute this right. The article views the administration's challenge as a component of their campaign against women's reproductive rights.
The way feminist theory transfers the analytical lens, postulates, and contemporary attention away from the male perspective and experience makes it unique within sociology. In this, feminist theory illuminates social problems, trends as well as issues which would otherwise have been overlooked or wrongly identified by the historically prevailing male standpoint in social theory. Key issues that are raised by Goldberg’s New York Times article relate to discrimination, exclusion as well as focus on inequality and oppression.

The goings on around this event are much broader than just the denying of one young woman her Constitutional right to an abortion. Without doubt, feminist theory considers the denial of this woman’s Constitutional right in itself as more than severe. But the big question is, “what ought to of concern to us in such an instance?’ On one hand, there is the overarching belief about the sanctity of life including that of an unborn child, while on the other hand there is the exercise of one’s Constitutional rights.

Theories of gender oppression are more far-reaching than theories of gender difference and inequality by making the case that women are not only different from and unequal to men, but are also actively oppressed, considered inferior, and abused by a patriarchal society as well as by men. Alongside oppression and discrimination, power is a very important aspect that is highlighted in Jane Doe’s situation as relates to the two foremost theories of gender oppression, psychoanalytic and radical feminism. What comes out poignantly in this case that being a woman is not a positive thing.

Had Jane Doe been a man in the same circumstances, then firstly the issue of pregnancy and need for abortion would not have arose. Here, diminished value in being a woman and the notion of the woman as a victim are arguably very real aspects. Psychoanalytic feminism attempts to explain power associations between men and women through reformulation of theories of the subconscious, unconscious, emotions as well as childhood development theories. Feminism holds that conscious reckoning is not able to wholly explain the creation and duplication of patriarchy. 

Radical feminists on the other hand contend that the positive aspects of being a woman are not recognized or accepted in patriarchal societies where oppression of women exists. In view of these theories, we can identify gender oppression as being at the base of the administrations attempts at denying Jane Doe her rights as provided for in the Constitution. The other significant aspect is that just as in feminist theory, the women who are part of Jane Doe’s case consider that oppression and exclusion of women can be defeated if women acknowledge their own value and strength, establish a network of trust with other women while confronting oppression decisively through female networks both in private and public domains.

Structural oppression theories posit that women's oppression and inequality are caused by patriarchy, capitalism as well as racism. Feminist theory concurs with both Freidrich Engels and Karl Marx that exploitation of the working class is as a result of capitalism; however feminism attempts to extend this concept of exploitation beyond class to gender as well. Intersectionality theory further explains oppression and inequality over a range of variables that include gender, ethnicity, class, race and age. This theory offers important understanding that not every woman experiences oppression in a similar way, and that the very influence which work to oppress women and girls similarly work towards oppression of people of color and other marginalized classes.

One way in which structural oppression of Jane Doe and other women in similar circumstances occur, is specifically a form of structural oppression which exist as the result of laws and public policies. This kind of oppression manifests in this situation because of gender difference. As such, men are seen to routinely receive more favorable treatment than women in the same circumstances. From an intersectional view of this scenario, it is clear that women of color are even further castigated relative to the emancipation of men. This form of feminist theory as extended to explanation for the globalization of human rights and how its methods of application and of administering justice focuses on the exploitation of immigrant women in U.S. The New York Times’ story demonstrates that once the beliefs of one section of society controls the rights of women, they become victims.

Rational choice theory is based on the fact that all human actions are basically rational. However, not surprisingly, the victimization women such as Jane Doe by the policies of the current administration put this theory squarely to the test. It seems nearly impossible to explain the situation depicted by the New York Times’ article conclusive from a rational choice perspective. It seems that this woman’s rights are just as good the people who are willing to uphold them. In this case, pro-life proponents argue against granting the abortion while pro abortionist contend that this unintentional and unplanned pregnancy should not left to interfere with Jane Doe’s rights as a woman.

Critical evaluation shows that from rational theory perspective with regards to this situation, the validity of the decision to grant abortion largely depends on this specific social context. For a woman faced with early and unplanned pregnancy which will evidently lead to her life being impacted adversely, abortion is the most rational course of action. The existence of irrational behavior is not foreseen in rational choice theory, and just as can be said for Jane Does case, her decision to have abortion can be perceived as socially meaningful calculative and rational because within the context of her life’s circumstances, abortion definitely holds a very positive outcomes for her.

The concept of rational action is here seen to mean a conscious social individual taking on purposeful and calculative actions just as in Jane Doe’s example. Her behavior is not free but is determined by the prevailing circumstances. Her views on abortion as well as the views of those who support her most adequately demonstrates that perception is only rational as far as can contextually be determined and experienced. Choices are thus shaped by the rewards or punishments come upon. Jane Doe’s choice is rational because she opts for a course of action that will lead to reward and avoids the course which leads to punishment by choosing to have an abortion.

The opponents of abortion are also not far behind and consideration must be given to how far the limits freedom and rights go. Evidently, refusing Jane Doe’s abortion not only means denial of her fundamental right but also implies refusing to uphold the law while discriminating her. Rational choice theory explains the actions these pro-life proponents. This makes us understand both perspectives in such a manner that enables the logical weighing of how good the right of Jane Doe to an abortion can considered to be.


Goldberg, M. (2017, October 20). Abortion Ideologues Subvert a Woman’s Rights. Retrieved November 03, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/opinion/abortion- immigrant-texas.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FWomen%27s Rights

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