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 THIRTEEN
Lessons for Democracy and the Public Sphere

Understanding the complexities of discourse about abortion policy in Germany and the United States has been a challenge. We leave it to the reader to judge how well we have met it. Ultimately, are interested in using this study of abortion as a tool for addressing a broader set of questions about democracy and the public sphere. These questions focus on the processes by which the practices of newspapers and the activities of groups and individuals, in and out of political institutions, interact to provide a public discourse about policy issues and the quality of the outcome that they produce, evaluated by several competing standards in normative democratic theory. In this concluding chapter, we review what we learned about the dynamics that generate a discourse about abortion and the nature of this discourse in both countries, focusing on the implications for political discourse more generally.

In our model, media discourse on any issue is shaped by more or less organized collective actors of different types who sponsor certain preferred frames. Their resources, connections, skills, and choices about framing strategy influence their standing and the relative prominence of their frames in the media. Organizational and strategic decisions can make a difference in the career of the frame that they sponsor in ways that are reflected in changing its prominence in the mass media forum.

The actors do not contest frames on a neutral or level arena, but on a complicated terrain. The playing field is uneven and littered with obstacles, some of which may impede certain actors more than others, and it changes over time as decisions are reached and policies put in place. Because the arena is different in each country, the availability and cost of any particular route to influence are not the same in both, even for actors that appear to be quite similar in each country (such as the

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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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