Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States

By Myra Marx Ferree; William Anthony Gamson et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Framing

Frames are central organizing ideas that provide coherence to a designated set of idea elements. They should not be conflated with policy positions. It is important to understand that in both countries, policy debates are actively carried on among participants who disagree on the best policies but nonetheless share a frame for asking questions. Other actors may agree on policy but frame the problem that the policy addresses in very different ways.

If the abortion question is framed as “how can the state protect human life before birth?” one can answer that question by advocating draconian legal punishments to deter abortion. But, alternatively, one can advocate state incentives to the pregnant woman to carry the fetus to term plus public health measures to improve the health of both the pregnant woman and the fetus. Although these policy approaches differ, they are both answers tailored to a specific framing of what the abortion issue is about.

They entirely ignore a different question, “Do limitations on a pregnant individual infringe on the right to control one's own body that all citizens hold?” Here, too, answers may differ considerably. One may stress the limits on her freedom imposed by the presence of another human life, or argue about the self-defense rights of a woman against an undesired invader,42 or defend the right to terminate a pregnancy as analogous to seeking any other sort of medical care.

The issues highlighted in the first discussion take for granted the presence of an “unborn baby” and government responsibility for it. The second discussion assumes that individuals normally have control over

____________________
42
See McDonagh (1996). For the general issue of self-determination as a frame, see Bordo (1995).

-105-

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Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • Glossary xix
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Two Related Stories 3
  • Chapter Two - Historical Context 24
  • Chapter Three - Methods 45
  • Part II - Major Outcomes 59
  • Chapter Four - The Discursive Opportunity Structure 61
  • Chapter Five - Standing 86
  • Chapter Six - Framing 105
  • Part III - Representing Different Constituencies 129
  • Chapter Seven - Representing Women's Claims 131
  • Chapter Eight - Representing Religious Claims 154
  • Chapter Nine - Representing the Tradition of the Left 179
  • Part IV - The Quality of Abortion Discourse 201
  • Chapter Ten - Normative Criteria for the Public Sphere 205
  • Chapter Eleven - Measuring the Quality of Discourse 232
  • Chapter Twelve - Metatalk 255
  • Chapter Thirteen - Lessons for Democracy and the Public Sphere 286
  • Methodological Appendix 305
  • References 325
  • Index 339
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