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The power of disgust to change attitudes toward abortion

by | Sep 24, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

prolifeprochoiceIt was like a walk down memory lane. Buzzfeed (which describes itself as an Internet news media company) headlined its story, “This Summer’s Battle Over Abortion Rights Was The Most Fierce In Decades, Both Sides Agree.”

On the pro-abortion side Ema O’Connor called on Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who stepped down in 2004! “I think this is one of the most aggressive attacks on abortion rights I’ve seen,” she offered unoriginally. (They include a 2000 photo of Michelman and then presidential candidate Al Gore.)

For good measure O’Connor interviewed Dawn Johnsen, a former member of President Bill Clinton’s administration! From these two we learn that

both brought up an effort from anti-abortion groups in the 1980s and early 1990s in which they spread medically unfounded rumors that abortion caused infertility and cancer.

And, alas (from their perspective) courtesy of the Internet, distributing incorrect information

is more effective than ever before, Johnsen and Michelman agreed. “Social media is excellent at communicating incorrect information … preying on negative attitudes and bringing them to a boiling point,” Michelman said. The methods used by anti-abortion activists aren’t much different than they were 20 years ago, Johnsen said. “It’s just more than ever before.”

Of course what they mean by “incorrect information” is anything that challenges their claim that there are no after-effects of abortion. That physically abortion is on par with taking an aspirin, emotionally no more taxing (at most) than a momentary bout of the blues

But the most interesting comments come from an academician:

What the anti-abortion activists do well that the pro-abortion activists don’t is “mustering public, moral emotions in their favor,” Emily Winderman, an academic at the University of Georgia and expert in abortion rhetoric, told BuzzFeed News. Most of the political and social success anti-abortion activists have had since the early 1970s, Winderman said, have been when they are able to elicit feelings of disgust from both sides of the aisle. “Disgust is an extremely necessary and powerful emotion.”

That’s not entirely true, but is 100% correct in one important sense. Disgust suggests something is seen with clarity, not through a distorted lens or buried in euphemisms.

Disgust was at the core of the opinion-changing debate over partial-birth abortion. And disgust will eventually characterize not only the public’s response to the nauseous 10 undercover PPFA videos but also with more and more knowledge about the capacity of the unborn to feel pain, the hard-heartedness of the abortion industry which does not want to do anything for babies who survive abortions, and the stomach-turning methods used to tear babies apart by sheer brute force.

Categories: Abortion
Tags: abortion