Revitalizing the Debate between Life and Choice: The 2004 March for Women's Lives

Revitalizing the Debate between Life and Choice: The 2004 March for Women's Lives
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   PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE This article was downloaded by: [Hayden, Sara]  On: 14 July 2009  Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 911175431]  Publisher Routledge  Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Revitalizing the Debate between <Life> and <Choice>: The 2004 March forWomen's Lives Sara HaydenOnline Publication Date: 01 June 2009 To cite this Article Hayden, Sara(2009)'Revitalizing the Debate between <Life> and <Choice>: The 2004 March for Women'sLives',Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies,6:2,111 — 131 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/14791420902833189 URL: Full terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.  Revitalizing the Debate between B Life  and B Choice  : The 2004March for Women’s Lives Sara Hayden The contemporary U.S. debate over abortion has been waged as a battle between  B life   and  B choice   . The author traces the development of these ideographs, arguing that through their verbal and visual strategies, advocates on both sides of the issue have rendered ideographic meaning concrete. Whereas the fixed definitions have served the cause of   B life   well, they have been detrimental for  B choice   , leading advocates to seek out ways to revitalize the debate. The 2004 March for Women’s Lives was a key event in this larger effort; through it, participants revitalized the abortion debate,bringing renewed flexibility to the ideograph  B choice   at the same time it challenged the fixed status, and the veracity, of the ideograph  B life   .Keywords: Abortion; Feminism; Ideographs; Images; Image Events  In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy wasprotected under the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. In the wake of thisruling, Roe v. Wade  , the New York Times  proclaimed that the debate over abortionrights had reached its end. 1 More than three decades later, the debate rages on. Since Roe  , advocates and organizations on both sides of the issue have employed variousmethods to promote their cause. They have lobbied legislators and sought changethrough the courts. They have sponsored rallies and marches, held public debates,and given speeches. They have written books and articles. They have publishedpamphlets and established web sites. They have placed ads on billboards, ontelevision, and in newspapers and magazines. They have made and dispersed filmsand created and displayed works of art. Pro- B life  advocates have created Sara Hayden is Professor of Communication Studies at The University of Montana. She would like to thank Lynn O’Brien Hallstein, Suzanne Daughton, Elissa Foster, Cindy Griffin, Shiv Ganesh, Steve Schwarze, JohnSloop and the reviewers of this journal for their helpful advice on the essay. Special thanks to Anya Jabour whoprovided feedback on the essay and with whom the author attended the March for Women’s Lives.Correspondence to: Sara Hayden, Department of Communication Studies, University of Montana, Missoula,MT 59812, USA. E-mail: ISSN 1479-1420 (print)/ISSN 1479-4233 (online) # 2009 National Communication AssociationDOI: 10.1080/14791420902833189 Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 6, No. 2, June 2009, pp. 111  Á  131  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ H a yd e n ,  S a r a]  A t : 16 :40 14  J ul y 2009  pregnancy-support centers that provide services to pregnant women and mothers.Pro- B choice  advocates have established clinics that provide abortion and otherreproductive health services. Some pro- B life  advocates have picketed those clinicsin an effort to convince women not to abort their fetuses. Others have respondedwith violence, bombing and burning the clinics and murdering the doctors andothers who make these services available. 2 The energy and passion that has markedthe abortion debate is indisputable; unfortunately, the quality of the debate itself hasbecome stagnant as the ideographs that represent either side of the issue have come tostand for ‘‘intractable and incommensurable positions.’’ 3 I argue that the stalleddiscourse of the abortion debate is a function, in part, of the ways advocates deploy  B life  and B choice  in their verbal and visual forms.McGee describes an ideograph as ‘‘an ordinary language term found in politicaldiscourse’’ and ‘‘a high order abstraction representing collective commitment to aparticular but equivocal and ill-defined normative goal.’’ 4 Although McGee focuseson verbal ideographs, recent scholarship has investigated ways ideographs intersectwith images. Of particular interest to my study, both Cloud and Palczewski argue thatimages have the potential to ‘‘fix’’ or ‘‘make concrete’’ ideographic meaning. 5 Building on Cloud’s and Palczewski’s work, in the first half of the essay I argue thatthrough the pairing of photographs of fetuses with the ideograph B life  and thepairing of drawings of the Statue of Liberty with the ideograph B choice  , bothadvocates for and opponents of abortion rights fix the central ideographs in thedebate.Whereas the fixing of ideographs has served the cause of  B life  well, it has haddetrimental effects on the campaign for B choice  leading abortion-rights advocatesto seek out ways to revitalize the ideographic debate. In the second half of the essay Idiscuss a productive and important event in this larger effort  * the 2004 March forWomen’s lives. The first time that mainstream pro- B choice  organizationspartnered with women of color groups on an event of this magnitude, throughboth images and argument, organizers and marchers articulated broad-baseddemands for reproductive rights. By doing so, participants in the March repositionedand brought new vitality to the demand for B choice  while at the same time they challenged the fixed status, and the veracity, of claims of  B life  . Through my analysis, then, I contribute to an understanding of contemporary US abortion politicsand I illustrate some of the ways ideographs can be made both stagnant and fluidthough the intersection of images and discourse. Fixing Ideographs Through Images In 1997 Edwards and Winkler offered an analysis of political cartoonists’ use of JoeRosenthal’s Iwo Jima photograph. 6 Acknowledging that McGee’s work situatedideographs in the realm of the verbal, Edwards and Winkler nonetheless illustratedthat as used in political cartoons, the Iwo Jima image functions ideographically. As anideograph, a key element of the Iwo Jima image is the fluidity of its meaning, thus 112 S. Hayden   D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ H a yd e n ,  S a r a]  A t : 16 :40 14  J ul y 2009  Edwards and Winkler note the ‘‘elasticity and abstractness of this image in itsapplication.’’ 7 More recent scholarship has extended Edwards and Winklers’ work; however,rather than exploring the ways images function  as ideographs, this scholarship hasfocused on the ways images index  ideographs. In these cases, rather than enacting thefluidity of ideographic meaning, the images serve to make ideographs concrete.Palczewski argues that early twentieth century anti-suffrage postcards offered imagesdesigned to reinforce disciplinary norms associated with gender. Focusing on theMadonna and Uncle Sam, Palczewski maintains that as used in the anti-suffragepostcards, the referent of these two icons is stable, not variable. Moreover, she arguesthat the postcard artists drew on the ‘‘referential fixity’’ of the iconic images in orderto ‘‘fix and stabilize the ideographs of  B woman  and B man  .’’ 8 Taking a slightly different tack, Cloud investigates the photographic images found in a major US newsoutlet that accompany the ideograph B clash of civilizations  , arguing that thephotographs literally ‘‘enact the clash’’ between self and Other, rendering ‘‘theabstraction of the ideograph concrete in what appears in a photograph to be anunmediated experience of reality.’’ 9 Like Palczewski, Cloud highlights the ways thefluidity of ideographs can be tamped down, adding the additional insight thatphotographically fixed meaning is likely to be read as a reflection of neutrally captured ‘‘truth.’’Condit maintains ‘‘it is precisely the effort to control the meanings of ideographsthat form long-term power struggles.’’ 10 The arguments reviewed above suggest thatindexing ideographs through certain types of images is a powerful way to exert suchcontrol. As I argue in the next section, both pro- B life  and pro- B choice  activistsemployed images in an effort to fix the terms of the debate, yet the benefits each sidederived from their efforts differed. Between B Life  and B Choice  Imaging  B Life   Ideographic arguments became a prominent feature in the US abortion debate in the1960s. First employed in response to demands for legal reform, abortion-rightsopponents insisted that abortion entailed the taking of a human B life  . 11 Thisresponse marked the establishment of the central anti-abortion-rights ideograph todate.When abortion-rights opponents assert that a fetus is a B life  , they are notmerely saying that the fetus is alive  , they are insisting that a fetus is a person  andtherefore abortion is murder  . 12 This assertion reflects a deontological ethical stance.Those who assume such a stance believe that actions are intrinsically right or wrongand that the rightness or wrongness of actions reflects the existence of absolute morallaw (thou shall not murder). Relatedly, pro- B life  advocates insist that propermoral reasoning is definitional in nature. ‘‘Definitional argument grounds all of itsclaims in the nature of the thing’’ and the nature of the fetus, according to advocates 2004 March for Women’s Lives  113  D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ H a yd e n ,  S a r a]  A t : 16 :40 14  J ul y 2009  for B life  , entails personhood. 13 In the logic of proponents of  B life  , then,because fetuses are persons and because the murder of persons is proscribed by morallaw, de facto  , abortion is morally wrong.To claim that a fetus is a person is to accept and promote ‘‘metaphysicalabsolutism,’’ ‘‘the belief that the world consists of independent, objective, ‘real’objects or essences that can be known directly as they ‘really are.’’’ 14 Most scholarsreject metaphysical absolutism as naı¨ve, pointing out that our understanding of theworld is always mediated by perceptions, language systems, and technology. 15 As aresult, any claim about what ‘‘really exists’’ reflects the interests, values, and belief structures of the person or community making such a claim. In spite of scholars’rejection of metaphysical absolutism, the language of essentialism continues toresonate in public discourse. Indeed, most people assume what Schiappa refers to asthe ‘‘ natural attitude  ’’  * the belief that the objects of our world . . . are simply ‘there’and can be taken for granted.’’ 16 Such is the case with advocates for B life  .Pro- B life  advocates use several different strategies to present their essentialistclaim to the public; the most persuasive include appeals to scientific and medical factsaccompanied by visual imagery. First brought into the public sphere in 1965 througha series of photographs published in Life  magazine, images of the fetus have becomethe linchpin of pro- B life  rhetoric. 17 One of the most common images found inpro- B life  rhetoric is a photograph of a fetus, typically between 18  Á  22 weeks old.The image frequently includes captions referring to the fetus as an ‘‘unborn child’’ or‘‘baby;’’ often it is accompanied by information about the physical status of thefetus noting, for example, that it can ‘‘feel pain.’’ 18 The images themselves are framedand magnified so that the fetus appears to be a complete, separate individual.Conversely, because everything that surrounds the fetus is expunged, the humanity and personhood  * indeed, the very presence of the woman who carries the fetus  * iserased. 19 Another set of images commonly used by abortion-rights opponents are those of supposedly aborted, often dismembered fetuses. 20 As in the images discussed above,these fetuses are identified as ‘‘babies’’ or ‘‘unborn children.’’ 21 The degree of development evident suggests that these fetuses are the products of late term abortion,a rare procedure most often performed as a result of severe fetal abnormality or athreat to a woman’s health or life. 22 As in the images of the fetuses ‘‘in utero,’’however, abortion-rights opponents ask viewers to understand these images asrepresentative of  all  abortions. Through images of aborted fetuses, pro- B life  advocates invite viewers to see the unjust ending of complete, separate B lives  . 23 The significance of fetal imagery for the articulation of  B life  cannot beoverstated. Part of the power of photography rests in the assumption that it captures‘‘what is there’’ through neutral and objective means. Finnegan refers to thisassumption as the ‘‘naturalistic enthymeme.’’ She writes: ‘‘we assume photographs tobe ‘true’ or ‘real’ until we are given reason to doubt them.’’ 24 Of course, no  photograph captures the ‘‘truth.’’ Photography involves the selection of subjectmatter, framing, and focus; it reflects the perspective of the photographer at aparticular moment in time. Additionally, photographic images are bound by the 114 S. Hayden   D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ H a yd e n ,  S a r a]  A t : 16 :40 14  J ul y 2009
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