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Benevolent Sexism in the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP): A Case Study of Texas House Bill 2

Abstract

Benevolent sexism takes a subjectively positive view of women in traditional gender roles, revering them as gentle, nurturing, and in need of protection by men. While studies show that people who express attitudes of benevolent sexism are willing to restrict women’s choices at an individual level, limited research exists on the impact of benevolent sexism in social policy. Using a single-case study method and benevolent sexism as a conceptual framework, I examined the introduction, passage, and legal defense of Texas House Bill 2 (TX HB2), a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law. HB2 was passed by the Texas legislature in 2013 and ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2016 case of Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Hellerstedt. Primary source legislative and court documents were analyzed to explore whether and how benevolent sexism ideologies were reflected in the introduction, passage, and legal defense of HB2 as a TRAP law. Four themes emerged: The State has the Right to Protect Women, Women Need Protection from “Bad Players,” Women are Emotional, and Women are Mothers/Vessels. Results confirm that language consistent with benevolent sexism was used in the context of policy making to justify restricting women’s access to pre-viability abortion.

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Data Availability

All data were obtained from publicly accessible Texas state government and US government websites.

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The conceptual framework used to code and analyze data for this study is available in the appendix to this manuscript.

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The author confirms sole responsibility for the following: study conception and design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of results, and manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to Amanda D. Greubel.

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Greubel, A.D. Benevolent Sexism in the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP): A Case Study of Texas House Bill 2. Sex Roles 85, 650–660 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-021-01244-3

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Keywords

  • Sexist ideology
  • Benevolent sexism
  • Abortion attitudes
  • Abortion legislation
  • Policy
  • Case study
  • TRAP