October 10, 2006

The Abortion Frame Game

In this month's American Prospect, Reva Siegel and Sarah Blustain report on the newest pro-life tactic being put to use around the country. A number of abortion foes, it seems, are trying to distance themselves from the religious families in unicorn sweatshirts who are protesting by holding up blow-up photos of dismembered fetuses. Apparently that strategy isn't quite as persuasive as once thought.

So abortion foes are now leaving the fetus out of it, trying instead to convince people that pro-life policies are actually better for the mother. South Dakota's abortion ban talked about protecting women's welfare, women's health. Some of this is accomplished through outright lying—the insistence, against all evidence, that abortion causes staggeringly high rates of depression, or leads to breast cancer. Pro-lifers claim that women are bamboozled by clinics into aborting their pregnancies, only to regret it later. So, they say, pro-life policies actually increase women's freedom, by helping them making more "informed" choices. "Pregnancy crisis centers" fit neatly into this Orwellian strategy. Just add lies and deception, shake, and serve.

Will Saletan created a fantastic resource nearly a decade ago that listed many of the frames both sides in the abortion debate have used to make their case. It's a rapidly shifting debate, and this new twist is particularly devious. Pro-choicers who focus too much on the idea that abortion can be a "tragic" experience only play into the frame. Most leading Democrats are in that camp. Most women, of course, don't regret their abortion and can make informed choices perfectly well without the "assistance" of those peddling junk science and trying to shutter actual health clinics. Still, this looks like a very significant new development.

MORE: The Los Angeles Times also notices the rhetorical shift.
-- Brad Plumer 8:28 AM || ||