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

Part IV
The Quality of Abortion
Discourse

In the previous three chapters we looked at various outcomes in media discourse and addressed which actors were competing and with what success in shaping these outcomes. We showed how their discursive strategies were themselves influenced by the contours of the complicated playing field on which they competed – the discursive opportunity structure – as well as by strategic choices that they made to position themselves in this field. Part of the problem faced by all of these actors was discursively to construct a constituency for themselves – women, the religious, the left – as well as to address this constructed public in ways that would advance the policy positions that they favored. In both Germany and the United States, the abortion debate has changed in character over time as different groups have achieved more standing and certain ideas have come to be more or less favored than others.

Using the concept of a discursive opportunity structure, we suggested that the chances for different groups and points of views to be heard were structured differently in each country. The institutionalized position of the parties and the churches, the state-centered coverage of news events, the language of the high court's constitutional decision, and the formal organizations and cultural traditions associated with class and gender politics all combine to give systematic advantages to certain speakers and ways of framing abortion in Germany. Similarly, we found that the suspicion of the state, the dominance of interest group politics over formal parties, traditions of religious pluralism, and the privacycentered language of the Supreme Court provided advantages to a very different constellation of voices in the United States.

Yet the story that we have already told is not just one of “pathdependency, ” where history sets each nation on a different path that simply unrolls before it. In each country we have also found important

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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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