Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States

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Using controversy over abortion as a lens through which to compare the political process and role of the media in these two very different democracies, this book examines the contest over meaning that is being waged by social movements, political parties, churches and other social actors. Abortion is a critical battleground for debates over social values in Germany and the U.S., but the constitutional premises on which arguments rest differ, as do the strategies that movements and parties adopt and the opportunities for influence that are open to them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Shaping Abortion Discourse is an outstanding empirical study of media coverage of abortion politics in the United States and Germany." American Journal of Sociology

"How do societal contexts shape the way people talk about abortion? This theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich comparative study of abortion discourse in Germany and the US seeks to provide answers to this question.... If this were not enough, the authors also seek to assess the quality of discourse, and in so doing, explore larger issues that can be drawn about the public sphere in contemporary liberal democracies. This highly ambitious book deserves sustained attention and a wide readership. Highly recommended." "Choice cultural and political debate will benefit academics, political leaders, members of the clergy, and students of political science. Recommended." Choice

"Shaping Abortion Discourse is a fascinating study and a great intellectual inspiration for students who are looking into the role of the media in democracy."
Barbara Pfetsch and Silke Adam, Political Communication

Four sociologists, half from Germany and half from the United States, comparatively examine the use of rhetoric in the abortion debate in the two countries and the ability to present that rhetoric to the public. They examine the historical roots for the different framing of rhetoric, such as the divergent footing the two countries' high courts placed their abortion decisions upon. The ability of different actors to present their views through the media is then examined and the changing frames of the debate are analyzed. After this focus on cultural and institutional forces, they examine the ability of actors from the public sphere to insert themselves in the debate. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Tables and figures; Foreword Friedhelm Neidhardt; Preface; Glossary; Part I. Introduction: 1. Two related stories; 2. Historical context; 3. Methods; Part II. Major Outcomes: 4. The discursive opportunity structure; 5. Standing; 6. Framing; Part III. Representing Different Constituencies: 7. Representing women's claims; 8. Representing religious claims; 9. Representing the tradition of the left; Part IV. The Quality of Abortion Discourse: 10. Normative criteria for the public sphere; 11. Measuring the quality of discourse; 12. Metatalk; 13. Lessons for democracy and the public sphere; Methodological appendix; References; Index.

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