142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Abortion in U.S. newspapers, 2013

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014 : 2:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Katie Woodruff, MPH , ANSIRH, San Leandro, CA
Background: How the news covers a highly contested issue like abortion can have significant impact on how policymakers and the public understand the issue. Advocates for women’s access to safe abortion care need to understand current news coverage in order to shift the debate toward a more productive framing of the issue.

Method: A quantitative and qualitative content analysis of eight “constructed weeks” of news and opinion articles on abortion published in three major US newspaper sources in 2013.

Findings: Substantive stories on abortion increased throughout 2013, as events like State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster of Texas’s abortion restrictions and the debate over proposed 20-week abortion bans increased the salience of abortion on the news agenda. Preliminary findings suggest that abortion is increasingly framed in the news as a battle between constitutional rights and fetal rights, while women’s actual experiences of unintended pregnancy and abortion are rarely represented.

Implications: These findings suggest that current news frames on abortion could impair public understanding of the importance of this care to women’s lives. For example, reporting of claims about “fetal pain,” empirically unsubstantiated and biologically unsupported by scientific consensus, may influence policy makers and the public alike to accept the “personhood” of the fetus, which may in turn lead to further restrictions on women’s reproductive decision-making. Implications of these and other findings will be discussed, with the goal of helping public health advocates understand the current public conversation on abortion and consider ways to improve the public debate.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
Name at least three ways major US newspapers have framed the public debate on abortion. Discuss potential impact of dominant news frames on policy efforts related to abortion access.

Keyword(s): Abortion, Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have spent 20 years (at Berkeley Media Studies Group and as an independent consultant) studying how various public health issues are framed in the media. I have published many papers on the subject, including making several prior APHA presentations. I've spent the last two years focusing on how the media frames reproductive health and abortion, and will enter the DrPH program at UC Berkeley in fall 2014 to deepen this work.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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