Perfectly Legal, but Still Bad: Lessons for Sex Work from the Decriminalization of Abortion

(2017) 68 UNBLJ 232

21 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017 Last revised: 3 Oct 2017

Date Written: May 14, 2017

Abstract

Sex workers’ rights advocates and prostitution abolitionists have argued for a causal link between decriminalization and destigmatization while criminal law theory and jurisprudence similarly suggest a close link between criminalization and stigma. Based on social stigma theory and an observational study of abortion laws in the Maritime provinces, this paper argues that this link is overdrawn. Following the complete decriminalization of abortion in 1988, destigmatization did not follow decriminalization. Instead, abortion stigma continued as all three Maritime provinces adopted restrictive regulatory frameworks. Social stigma theory supports the idea that criminal law plays a labelling function for stigma, but contends that rather than creating stigma, it tends to be responsive to pre-existing stereotypes. Experience with abortion law reform supports the view that public stigma is not very sensitive to changes in structural stigma such as criminal legislation and that the interaction between criminal law and social stigma is complex.

Keywords: Stigma, Abortion, Sex Work, Prostitution, Criminalization, Decriminalization

Suggested Citation

Hughes, Jula, Perfectly Legal, but Still Bad: Lessons for Sex Work from the Decriminalization of Abortion (May 14, 2017). (2017) 68 UNBLJ 232, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3044546

Jula Hughes (Contact Author)

Lakehead University ( email )

Canada

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