Reproductive rights rhetoric

This week a friend and I went to a talk in which representatives from the Reproductive Health Technologies Project discussed an extensive survey they've done about attitudes toward abortion. They've used this research to develop more effective strategies for talking about abortion--I've long pointed out that the rhetoric of "choice" is a poor response to the rhetoric of "baby killer" that the folks who are opposed to women's reproductive rights use.

Their survey found that the country is fairly evenly divided between those who are supportive of a woman's right to have an abortion in many cases, and those who believe abortion should be mostly or entirely illegal. But they also found that folks who are mostly opposed to abortion will often reconsider when we talk about a woman, not women--when we talk about "women," people's stereotypes get invoked, but people are less likely to stereotype an individual woman. And rather than choice, it's better to talk about a decision-making process. I know that these are small semantic changes, but they've found that "choice" suggests, "Which potato chip will I buy?", while "decision-making process" more accurately represents what it means to decide to terminate a pregnancy. The idea is to make the woman herself visible, and make the seriousness and complexity of her decision visible, too. And while lots of people are firmly opposed to having an abortion*, they are sometimes willing to concede that they are not the ones best qualified to make a complex decision like that for someone else.

Also on the issue of abortion, a study by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization has found that rates of abortion are similar in countries where abortion is legal and where it's illegal--meaning that making abortion illegal doesn't actually stop women from having abortions, it just makes them much less safe. They also found that in countries where abortion is legal and where contraceptives and widely available and widely promoted, abortion rates have declined significantly. So the idea is, if you want to reduce the number of abortions, making abortion illegal is not the way to go. Making contraception available and making it possible for women to make actual choices about their sexuality and their reproduction works much better.

*I should note that RHTP studies have also found that many people who are ideologically opposed to abortion will have an abortion--but they believe that their reasons are valid, and that they are the exception.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you read the study, the results are very problematic. There are a lot of young girls/women who become more esteemed by claiming to have had an abortion in countries where it is illegal. I think that is known as 'oppositional culture' among you Academics.

What also about the journal? The Lancet is also that journal where the editors told a doctor that they are ethically bound to commit euthanasia in the 1800's [in giving lethal doses of morphine to patients who were perceived to have pain].

Clearly, the study is flawed and from a questionable journal. If it reflects 'women's studies' scholarship, its not surprising that Roe v. Wade will get overturned by any judiciary with IQs above a chimp.