Labeling theory however helps to explain why abortion is termed a deviant behavior. Labeling theory divides people into two distinct groups namely conformist and defiant. The former group has a set of labels that it uses to categorize the behavior of so-called non-conformists or defiant group. When a person decides to abort the fetus, the conformist group sees her behavior as defiant or non-conformist and this makes her victim of social labeling.
Edwin M. Schur (1965) explains further:
The societal reaction to the deviant, then, is vital to an understanding of the deviance itself and a major element in -- if not a cause of -- the deviant behavior. A related point of some significance, long realized by sociologists, is that the definition of some behavior as "deviant" serves positive functions for the conformists, enhancing group cohesion and strengthening the sense of group membership among such individuals."(p. 4)
This group also views abortion as a criminal activity and believes that since killing a person is criminal therefore killing a fetus is also wrong because it destroys the possibility of a life that could have been. Abortion is not similar to other deviant actions in many ways but there are certain important similarities, which cannot be ignored because these explain why abortion is a deviant behavior. We have already discussed these similarities above but will summarize them again for the sake of coherency.
Abortion is termed deviant behavior because:
In some cases environment, social factors and peers influence the decision.
Abortion is an exception to the general rule
It is not seen as a conformist approach
It is believed to be a criminal activity since it involves killing of a human
Because society generally has negative perception of abortion
Because abortion often gives rise to violent debates and actions
In short, it is important to understand that deviance is normally linked with certain social factors because it is believed that family, peers and environment have a profound impact on people's behavior and personality. Abortion may not fulfill all these conditions of deviance in all cases, but social factors do play a crucial role in some abortion cases. Whether influenced by personal or social preferences, the fact remains that abortion in all cases involves destruction of a small human life. By robbing a person of a life and a possible future, the mother is committing a wrong action, and thus abortion is categorized as deviant behavior.
Abortion is considered deviant behavior because in recent years all deviant actions have been linked to criminal activities. It has been argued that since deviant behavior is not socially approved, it becomes a criminal activity. Criminalization of deviant behavior has however been an issue of concern for many because while drug use or prostitution are more violent forms of deviant behavior, there are some other non-criminal behavior patters, which can be categorized as deviance including feminism, obesity and abortion. By criminalizing all deviant actions, we give rise to serious social problems. An obese person or one who has induced abortion is not a criminal in strict legal sense but labeling of this sort can negatively affect his/her psyche. "Even when he is not publicly identified and officially dealt with, he is only too aware that his behavior is legally proscribed as well as socially disapproved. Sensing that he is different or is doing an unusual act is one thing; feeling that his act is strongly disapproved is another; and knowledge that he has become a lawbreaker yet another." (Schur 5)
For this reason, it is important not to criminalize deviant behavior of non-criminal nature. When establishing a link between criminal activities and deviant behavior, we must not forget that most people who indulge in these activities are looking for some form of acceptance from the society. When they fail to fit in with regular groups, they make their presence felt by getting associated with deviant groups and this gives them a sense of belonging, which was previously missing from their lives. Abortion however should not be termed criminal deviant behavior if the termination can be justified on the grounds of poor health.
Calhoun, C., Light, D., & Keller, S. Sociology (5th. ed.) Alfred Knopf: New York. 1989
Leighninger, L., & Popple, Phillip R. Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society (3rd. ed.). Allyn and Bacon: Needham Heights, MA. 1996
Erich Goode, Deviant Behavior (5th Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall 1997
Edwin M. Schur: Crimes without Victims: Deviant Behavior and Public Policy Abortion, Homosexuality, Drug Addiction. Prentice-Hall.Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 1965.
Howard S. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1963). p. 9.
David Whitman, Abortion: the untold story. (U.S. News & World Report: 1998), 20.
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998…