Framing and Rhetorical Themes in 1970s-1980s Mediated Abortion Discourse in New Zealand

Open Access
Cairnie, Elizabeth Marie
Area of Honors:
Global Studies (Berks/Lehigh)
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Cheryl L Nicholas, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sandy Feinstein, Honors Advisor
  • abortion
  • prolife
  • prochoice
  • rhetoric
  • framing
  • agenda setting
  • New Zealand
Abortion discourses have garnered attention from all corners: medical, legal, psychological, rhetorical, ecclesiastical, etc. From the desks of scholars to the sidewalks in front of Planned Parenthood, people engage intimately with the topic of abortion, inquiring about its impact on the individuals involved and on society. However, the vast majority of abortion conversation has been U.S.-centric. This paper addresses rhetoric and framing appeals in abortion-related mediated discourse in New Zealand in the 1970s-80s. I look at a wide range of media artifacts, representing the perspectives of various prolife and prochoice groups in New Zealand during and immediately after their own legislation changed to allow abortions. While my analysis is modeled after McCombs and Shaw’s agenda setting theory, it seeks to investigate how common rhetorical strategies and framing themes – rhetoric of choice, rhetoric of personhood, health of the mother, and victimization/violence – were used in abortion discourse in New Zealand. This is an important conversation to have, not only because abortion remains an emotionally charged topic in New Zealand, but also because critical analysis of abortion discourses through a specific New Zealand lens is limited. Additionally, this discourse is important because it sheds light on how we talk about abortion, and as a result, how we are primed to think about it.