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Life VS Choice: Abortion as Framed in Media Communications - Research Paper Example

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Life VS Choice: Abortion as Framed in Media Communications

Setting aside the issues involved in abortion itself as the cause for debate, however, there are also ethical concerns with how the debate is carried out. In the case of abortion specifically, where so much of the debate centers on emotional arguments rather than logical ones, how each side articulates its points is open to manipulation and out of context argument. By examining several specific cases of public relations campaigns centered on abortion, we can see that persuasion is easily made unethical by how an issue is talked about, and in what context the issue is presented, and so on. With any issue, of course, there are several different ways that debate can be carried out. Common types of media forms used involve pamphlets and booklets, pickets and other real life events, and advertising centering on votes over laws or sympathetic politician elections. As Rohlinger notes, regardless of method, there is “the potential for great rewards” for organizations who can do so effectively (479). This potential, and the passionate belief people have with abortion in particular, leads groups communicating about abortion to frequently distort facts and frame issues within a context that benefits them. Framing in this sense is similar to framing in the news media, where reporters and other people go through a process of “selecting and emphasizing certain aspects of experience or ideas over others” (Andsager, 579). Rohlinger lists the two main frames used in the abortion debate in particular as a “rights” frame used on the pro-abortion side, which “argues that women have the civil and constitutional right to control their bodies” and a “morals” frame used on the anti-abortion side, which “posits that sanctity of human life is the most important value” (485). The frames Rohlinger presents are one of the key ways that abortion debate media twist arguments to make their own side look morally and ethically correct. Hayden argues that, in fact, the two sides of the debate are inherently focused on what she calls the “ideographs,” or words used to express commitment to a specific, political goal, of “life” and “choice” (112). According to this view, the debate is not even really over the actual act of abortion, so much as it is over two mutually exclusive worldviews. Understanding this is essential to understanding how the abortion debate is framed, and why it runs into such ethical issues. The first of the two ideographs, “life,” implies that “a fetus is a person and therefore abortion is murder” (Hayden 113), while the second, “choice,” argues that “a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy had a right to choose” (Hayden 116). These two ideographs are repeated again and again in all sorts of media about the abortion debate, and are central to the ethical issues faced in public relations media relating to it. One other common media strategy, regardless of format used, is what Merola and McGlone label adversarial infrahumanization. Although this word looks daunting, really all it means is “the denial of essential human characteristics to members” of groups they disagree with (Merola & McGlone, 323). In the abortion debate in particular, this practice involves which kind of emotions are proscribed to the opposing side in publications, commercials, and other types of public relations media. Specifically, activists on both sides of the debate deny the possibility of “secondary emotions” like shame, pride, or indignation to their opponents in order to show them as “less than human and thus inferior to one’s own group” ...Show more

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Life VS Choice: Abortion as Framed in Media Communications Introduction: Framing the Debate Among the many things people choose to debate about with a lot of passion, abortion is close to the top of the list. …
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