The pro-choice vs pro-life controversy has been relevant since the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, which occurred because a Texas resident (Roe) was seeking abortion to terminate her pregnancy, but there was a Texas law that prohibited it unless the pregnant woman’s life was at risk. This Supreme Court case ultimately decided that women have the right to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy because it falls under the right to privacy protected by the Due Process Clause in the fourteenth amendment. The debate then sparked over whether terminating a pregnancy should be legal and the morality of abortion, which is influenced by perception of whether the embryo is a person. The pro-choice vs. pro-life debate has the nation almost evenly divided, in a 2018 Marist Poll and Knights of Columbus survey, it was found that 51% of Americans consider themselves...
pro-choice, while 44% consider themselves to be pro-life. The divide between the public over this issue is further shown in the article, “Abortion in Poland: A Vicious Circle or a Good Use of Rhetoric” by Jacqueline Heinen in which in 1989 30 experts of different professional backgrounds were polled, which resulted in each side of the abortion debate having half of the experts.
Pro-choice and pro-life advocates have polar views on this controversial issue. Pro-life advocates oppose abortion, arguing that all forms of life should be protected by the government, whether they reach the point of viability or not. They believe abortion damages women’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Pro-choice advocates believe that abortion is a necessary right that women need, to achieve full equality. Many believe that pro-life denies women’s ability to
make their own choice. According to Mikołajczak and Bilewicz in, “Foetus or Child? Abortion Discourse and Attributions of Humanness” language influences the opinion of an audience, “Due to moral, religious, and cultural sensibilities” and those factors are also reasons why each side of this debate holds a different view.
The sides of opposition in the pro-choice vs. pro-life controversy tend to use different rhetorical approaches and cultural beliefs when making their arguments, pro-choice advocates rely primarily on rhetorical strategies relating to logical and emotional appeals. These arguments heavily draw on Americans’ beliefs about freedom, individualism, and women rights that cause an American audience to view the issue in the pro-choice supporter’s eyes’. The right to abortion is aligned with the ability to make their own decision, which reassures the audience that it is ok to choose their side over the opposer’s. Pro-life advocates focus more on emotional and ethical appeals that result in a concern over the moral ambiguity of abortion. This side utilizes the cultural beliefs of how the fetus is a human life and creates the effect that abortion is like dehumanization. Although some argue over the viability of a fetus, pro-life view it as a human life and portray it as the as taking away a human life that should be protected, just like everyone else’s. Pro-choice advocates use target appeals to individualism and freedom to display abortion as a right for women that should be protected, while pro-life advocates focus more heavily on appeals to morality to portray abortion as harmful to the woman’s body, the fetus, and society.
Pro-choice advocates align the right to abortion with American values of freedom and individualism
to logically appeal to their audience. Appealing to logic is very effective because people are persuaded and guided by reason and rationality. By aligning abortion with American values, this will resonate with the audience as they will think that abortion is necessary because it goes along with the American values, and to go against that would be contradictory and hypocritical. Those in favor of abortion are likely to use words such as freedom and choice in their argument and use more gender-neutral frames when expressing their claims. According to Jacqueline Heinen and Anna Matuchniak-Krasuska in “Abortion in Poland: A Vicious Circle or a Good Use of Rhetoric,” many times the problem is not with bearing children, it is “Having the conditions in which to educate them. Do you know what our working conditions, family lives, and house situations are like?... Women aren’t machines for producing babies! They must want their children and love them!” This draws on the possible negative outcomes that could have resulted if a child was brought into the world unwanted or with a family that is unprepared or unable to serve as good caretakers for the child. For that reason, the audience is then convinced that it would not be logical if abortion was illegal.
Pro-choice advocates agree with abortion being legal during the first trimester of pregnancy and logically appeal and connect to the audience by drawing on the belief that the fetus has not reached viability yet. Viability is the point the fetus reaches when it has formed and developed enough to be capable of surviving outside the uterus. A fetus typically reaches this stage at about 24 weeks, which
is later than the legal period of an abortion (first trimester, 12 weeks). The stage of becoming viable correlates to the word choices used by pro-choice advocates and the effect that it has on the audience. Although the words fetus and child can have meanings of similar things, they elicit different connotations and contexts. According to Malgorzata Mikolajczak and Michal Bilewicz in the article, “Foetus or Child? Abortion Discourse and Attributions of Humanness,” pro-choice advocates are more likely to use the word “fetus” rather than “child,” because child is associated with more humanlike qualities and traits such as emotion and growth, while the word fetus may be linked with machine-like objects, as they lack the qualities of a living human being. Their choice of words reveals their opinion on the matter, which is that abortion is acceptable if the fetus is not viable. The critics justified this point by mentioning how participants in the study that read about a fetus compared to a child had a higher support for elective or voluntary abortion, an abortion that is performed at the request of the woman for non-medical reasons.
The Roe v. Wade case is yet another way that pro-choice advocates appeal to the audience’s logic, as it is notable for legalizing abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. This Supreme Court decision is respected by many Americans as it is a law, backed by reason. Also, the American people realize the possible tragedies and bad outcomes that resulted before the Roe v. Wade decision, such as illegal and unsafe abortion. According to Charlie Jeffries in, “Adolescent Women and Antiabortion Politics in the Reagan Administration” legislative moves acted
as a rhetorical way to persuade the people that abortion can be acceptable. For example, the abortion policy and Roe v. Wade decision was mobilized during the era of Reagan’s administration. Charlie Jeffries also pointed out that society felt that abortion access was limited when it came to teenage girls, so pro-choice tried to target that group when discussing the Roe v. Wade case to strengthen their argument and make it more effective.
Pro-choice advocates align the right to abortion with the struggle for equality and women rights to establish emotional appeals. It is known that America has not reached full equality, which is evident when men and women are compared. An example is how men can still get paid more than women for working the same job. The pro-choice advocates draw on the American’s emotions of struggling to attain equality for women when arguing their point. Their main point is that legal abortion offers women another option and the ability to make their own choices which is essential to obtaining equality. If women do not have the ability to practice all their rights, it basically makes women inferior to men and experience inequality. According to Marlene Gerber Fried in the article, “Beyond abortion: transforming the pro-choice movement,” this is essential because, “a movement for abortion rights that fails to incorporate struggles against racism and other forms of domination will not make sense to women whose lives are structured by interconnecting systems of oppression.” Pro-choice advocates know that to be effective and offer the female audience a way to connect and relate, they must draw on the adversities women face and their emotions.
Pro-life advocates draw on
the cultural belief that the fetus is a form of human life to appeal to the emotions of their audience. Though abortion is illegal after viability is reached, unless for medical reasons, those against abortion do not think that it should be allowed during that period. They see the fetus as a life that is ready to begin forming and developing. Pro-life advocates portray the fetus as innocent and totally dependent on the mother. According to Alexa J. Trumpy in, “Woman vs. Fetus: Frame Transformation and Intramovement Dynamics in the Pro-Life Movement,” the dominant pro-life framing employs the central fetal rights and highlights the fetal right to life. She says, “they use this as a rhetoric calling for the fetal right to life, as well as images fetal images that justify, integrate, and activate their beliefs.” This draws on the audience’s emotions as they are discussing protecting innocent lives and adherents do not challenge it because pro-choice advocates are essentially trying to do the right thing for the fetus and the mother.
On the other hand, those against abortion also depict it as an immoral, harmful procedure and use evidence to undermine the opposing side’s claims to serve as a way to ethically appeal to appeal to Americans. Many people associate those who are pro-life as solely focused on the life of the fetus and not the mother, which is inaccurate. The fetus is one of their primary focuses, but the woman is too. According to Kristan Hawkins and Lauren Enriquez in, “Pro-woman Messaging: The Strategy to Win the Mushy Middle,” pro-life advocates believe the abortion industry is a mortal opponent of the American people, because
it has lied to women and damaged their lives. In the article, there is a testimony in which a young woman says that she wants to help other women avoid abortion because she regrets it and it is a heartbreaking experience, mentally and physically. She felt as she was underprepared to choose life and bring a child into the world, which is how many women feel in that situation when they make that choice. The pro-life advocates research involves evidence of embryological sciences, which taught that the fetus is alive and decidedly human after fertilization. Also, in 2009 Texas abortionist Curtis Boyd stated to a news crew, “Am I killing? Yes, I am. I know that.” and another abortionist Neville Sender admitted, “We know it’s killing, but the state permits killing under certain circumstances.” Their beforehand knowledge of the humanity of the child before they perform the abortion procedure to kill the child makes it immoral.
Overall, the two sides in the abortion controversy use different rhetorical approaches and cultural beliefs that they feel conveys their argument best. Logical and emotional appeals are primarily relied on by pro-choice arguments when drawing on Americans’ beliefs about freedom, individualism, and women rights. Pro-life advocates focus more on emotional and ethical appeals concerning the moral ambiguity of abortion and how the fetus is a human life.