This week we focus on the media’s portrayal of events and how it can potentially shape the public’s opinion. The two articles that perfectly explain this phenomenon are “Christmas Abortion,” and “She Looks the Abortionist and the Bad Woman”: Sensation, Physiognomy, and Misogyny in Abortion Discourse.” Both articles focus on the controversial subject of abortion and how the media has portrayed abortion and how that perception has changed over time.
The subject of abortion has always been a very controversial subject and has remain such, even in modern times. While public opinions have evolved over the years regarding abortion, it still remains controversial. Abortion is more often portrayed currently as a women’s right to choose, but detractors focus on abortion being a deplorable act of ending the life of an innocent, unborn child. Perhaps the change in the public’s perception to abortion could be attributed to the media’s portrayal of abortion, a portrayal that has softened over the years. While abortion is still viewed negatively in the public eye, it isn’t nearly as negative as past media portrayal.
According to the article “Christmas Abortion,” in the 19th century, abortion was mostly discussed in terms of the mysterious abortionist, who was typically portrayed as the silent” evil villain.” In contemporary media, the mysterious abortionist isn’t mysterious, with anti-abortion hatred focused upon Planned Parenthood. The media did not publicly name the abortionist by name, but mostly wrote about the evils of the mysterious abortionist, allowing them to retain some form of anonymity. The public expressed anger about the abortionists performing abortions, but since they could not place a face to the accused, the anger was more than likely placed upon the woman who sought out the services of an abortionists.
Decades later, the media went from focuses on abortionists to the women who sought those services, portraying them loose and lacking in moral integrity. This caused the public to view abortion as an act of promiscuity, and poor morals. One can assume the shame women endured when having an abortion, which of course led to dangerous, back alley abortions. The story of a botched abortion that led to murder in the article “She Looks the Abortionist and the Bad Woman”: Sensation, Physiognomy, and Misogyny in Abortion Discourse,” set in the 1950’s, was a testament to how the media can shape public opinion. Rather than focusing on the horrors of the botched abortion, and murder of an innocent young woman named Jacqueline, the media focused on the salacious details of her murder. According to the article, by focusing on Jacqueline’s murder and abortion, the reader is distracted by hard facts that should concern them regarding abortion. The fact that births from unwed mothers had increased, and more importantly, the fact that botched abortions occurred due to public stigma against abortion and how difficult it was to obtain a safe abortion due to harsh, anti-abortion legislation. Journalists would later bring attention to the criminalization of abortion, which possibly changed the public’s view of abortions why legalized abortions are so important to reproductive rights of women.