Friday, May 11, 2007

Ditching "Choice": MSOC, clammyc and I Talk Abortion Framing

It's no secret that progressives are slowly but surely losing the abortion wars: from parental notification legislation to Roe v. Wade sunset laws in many states to the recent Supreme Court decision on late-term abortion, abortion-rights advocates have been playing defense and losing ground for years. And we are losing ground in public polling as well, in spite of overall favorability towards freedom to have an abortion in general.

It is a controversial opinion of mine that part of the reason we are falling behind in this battle is our outdated, ineffective and even counterproductive use of the word "choice" as our crumbling rhetorical fortress. It is an opinion, however, that is shared not only by myself but also by clammyc and even MaryScott O'Connor of MyLeftWing as well.

In a 40-minute audio segment on our new blog Political Nexus, MSOC, clammyc and I discuss the intricacies of why "choice" is such a terrible frame, and what alternatives we might want to embrace in its place--as well as the weakenesses of our opponents' "pro-life" framing and the ways in which we can exploit the rhetorical chinks in their armor.

Unfortunately, I am unable to embed a direct link to download the show here on DailyKos, or I would certainly do so. It can be downloaded directly from BlogTalkRadio here, or streamed from our blog here. If a little bit of slef-promotion can be pardoned on behalf of myself and my good friends clammyc and MSOC, it's a great discussion that delves right into the heart of the issues at hand.

To give everyone some idea of what we are talking about and why we are pushing to ditch "choice" as a frame, allow me to present one of the arguments we put forward: polling on the issue of partial-birth abortion is not favorable for us: at least 69% of the American Public want the procedure banned, with exceptions for the life of the mother. One of the biggest reasons for this is because they believe that women are whimsically changing their minds during the third trimester, choosing to abort otherwise viable fetuses not presenting major risks to the mother's life/health. While it is true that this perception is a product of misinformation, it is also a product of our own framing on the issue: as long as our side is saying that it is a woman's person's "right to choose" what she does with her own body up until the fetus/baby exits the womb, people are going to assume that these decisions are being made irresponsibly and casually. Not to mention the fact that most people would indeed consider a third-trimester fetus viable (without extraordinary measures) outside the womb a living, separate person.

And that is just one of many arguments that can be made against the use of "choice" as a frame.

For a preview of another argument, allow me to excerpt a quote from MSOC herself, an ardent abortion-rights supporter:

MSOC: It's about pro-privacy...You know, when I hear a politician say, "I support a woman's right to choose", I want to vomit! It's a guaranteed kiss-40-percent-of-your-voting-population-goodbye. If a Republican were even considering your positions, your oh-so-nuanced but brilliant positions on the environment, on the economy, on the war, on everything else, you've got them. You've got them in the palm of your hand: "well, this guy's not so bad, he's reasonable, I think I could go for a guy like this." And then the guy like this says, "I support a woman's right to choose." Oooohhhhh God, he's another one of them, one of those idiots who just can't say what he really thinks.


MSOC: People are dismissing him because he supposedly supports a woman's right to choose, but I'm dismissing him because he's a pussy.

All of this and much, much more (which I may turn into a diary one of these days) is online and available either at Political Nexus or for download at BlogTalkRadio.

Give it a listen, and let us know what you think, either here in this diary or in the comments at Political Nexus. Thanks!

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