Kait’s Propaganda Analysis

Pro-Choice Propaganda

The Ideology and Purpose of the Campaign

The ideology of the pro-choice campaign is that women should have access to safe, legal, accessible, affordable, and destigmatized abortions (Belden 1). The main belief in this is that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies, which includes what to do with a pregnancy. They should be able to make this choice free of judgment, and not have to jump through a bunch of hoops and become bankrupt doing so.

The purpose of this campaign is to both reflect and reshape ideologies of its audience. For those who are already pro-choice, it would be reinforcing their beliefs. For those who are pro-life, this would be attempting to reshape their beliefs. The reinforcement of beliefs is a fairly easy task, but the problem is trying to reshape beliefs of others. Especially with this debate, many people already have their opinions and are unwilling to change them.

 The Context in Which the Propaganda Occurs

The issue with this campaign is that it is surrounding an extremely controversial issue. Abortion is an emotionally charged topic that tends to result in the “us versus them” mindset, as well as the “good versus evil” mindset. Because of this there are many constraints along with this. For example, religious beliefs play a large role in the opinion of this topic. Many people already have a set view on abortions, and any reshaping of those views will typically fail. Also, people tend to get very defensive and judgmental when discussing this. This goes back to the “good versus evil” mindset that I have witnessed, and it usually results in unprofessional and disrespectful debate.

 Identification of the Propagandist

The overall movement is titled NARAL Pro-Choice America. This group is made up of three organizations: a non-profit organization, a charitable organization, as well as a political action committee (“Mission” 1).

The other propagandists in the Pro-Choice campaign are made up of supporters of this movement which are mainly women’s rights groups; women’s health centers, Planned Parenthood being the main one; and varying feminist groups. Since abortion is mainly a women’s rights issue, the propagandists are going to be mainly women in the organizations previously listed, as well as others who support them.

 The Structure of the Organization

The campaign is made up of different groups working together to achieve the same goal. There is the main movement, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and other supporters listed above. The goals they are working toward include giving women access to safe and legal abortions, giving women fundamental human rights regarding their bodies, making abortion a personal decision rather than a legal debate, as well as making the mother’s needs more important than the fetus inside of her.


 The Target Audience

The target audience is mostly women who need a support system regarding this topic. This could include teenagers who do not know where to turn to if they are in the situation of having an unwanted pregnancy. This could also be used to shape pre-teenager’s and teenager’s ideologies early in life. This supports the Cultivation Studies Theory that says that beliefs learned as children will carry on into adulthood (Jowett 203). If a younger girl sees information about the Pro-Choice campaign, she will carry the ideologies from that campaign throughout her life. Also, this campaign is targeting those who are uneducated on the topic or who identify as Pro-Life. This included policy makers who work on creating the laws that could potentially make abortion illegal.

 Media Utilization Techniques

Ads about this campaign are seen on the internet, social media, and are seen as posters at protests and events. What I have noticed is that this campaign does significantly less advertising than the counterpropaganda, which I will go into more detail about later.

Special Techniques to Maximize Effect

Some scare tactics are used to maximize the effect. For example, pictures of women holding coat hangers is used to scare people into realizing that illegalizing abortion poses a great threat to women who desperately need them. This is showing people that women who want an abortion will find a way, whether it is a safe and legal way or not. The nonverbal communication associated with this media portrays the message that women are going to have abortions whether it is illegal or not, and they might as well be able to do so safely. The caption on the right side reading “Pro-Choice IS the REAL pro-life”, is clearly delivering the message that the “life” we all should be worried about is that of the mother, not of the fetus. The combination of these words as well as the image is powerful enough to scare and guilt viewers into at least listening to the Pro-Choice argument.


This campaign also has a huge women’s rights and feminist angle to it, which brings in a lot of emotions and support from women within those other groups. This tends to create tension between women who are Pro-Choice and men who are Pro-Life because men are not the ones directly affected by abortions and some women may feel that they are not entitled to make decisions on the topic. While this might not be a specific “special technique”, it is a unique feature that maximizes the effect of the campaign because of the number of supporters who are so passionate about it.


 Audience Reaction to Various Techniques

The reactions to these techniques are emotionally charged. It either creates guilt and sadness (like when you see women with coat hangers) or gets women riled up and passionate about the cause. The guilt and sadness angle could be what persuades policy makers to provide safe and legal abortions to women instead of outlawing them and allowing women to take their chances with home abortions. On the other hand, for those whose beliefs are being reinforced by these techniques, it could cause immense passion and even anger in regards to women not having the rights they believe they should have.



 Pro-Life Propaganda

           The Ideology and Purpose of the Campaign

The ideology of this campaign is that a fetus is a person and that they should have the same basic human rights as everyone else. They believe that abortion is murder and that the mother should not be able to legally murder their child. Same as the Pro-Choice campaign, the purpose is to reshape and reflect beliefs.

This campaign reflects the Kenneth Burke theory of propaganda (Dramatism 1). This campaign dramatizes abortion, and uses guilt to try to persuade people to join their cause. They also partake in scapegoating. An example of this would be when Congress was seeking to eliminate federal funding to Planned Parenthood because they offered abortion services to women, even though that was only a small percent of the services they offered (Annual 1).

             The Context in Which the Propaganda Occurs

This context is the same as the Pro-Choice campaign.

              Identification of the Propagandist

The main propagandists of this campaign are the various Pro-Life groups including Pro-Life Nation, National Right to Life, Pro-Life Action League, and Pro-Life America. Within these groups includes certain healthcare organizations who are particularly passionate about this topic as well as religious groups and policy makers who want to make abortion illegal.

            The Structure of the Organization

The structure of this campaign is similar to the Pro-Choice campaign because there are various groups working together towards the same goal. The goals, however, are very different from the Pro-Choice campaign. According to Pro-Life Nation, “Our ultimate goal is to bring an end to the horrific practice of abortion and create a culture of life in our nation where all life is cherished and protected” (“Goals” 1). In order to achieve this ultimate goal, they plan to restrict abortions, create legislation to outlaw abortion, and to “educate America” about the Pro-Life movement (“Goals” 1).

            The Target Audience

The target audience for this campaign is women in particular and especially those who are Pro-Choice. They are also targeting young people and trying to shape their beliefs early, similar to the Cultivation Studies Theory mentioned previously (Jowett 203). Also, they are targeting policy makers who would be in the position to promote the change in law to outlaw abortion.

            Media Utilization Techniques

Many of the ads I see on the internet or on television are Pro-Life rather than Pro-Choice. Also, I see many billboards and yard signs about Pro-Life ideologies rather than Pro-Choice ideologies. It seems to me that this campaign is much more bold and loud in their advertising strategies than the Pro-Choice campaign. The black backgrounds used in the signs and the big, bolded words give across the nonverbal message of the perceived importance of this message. Also, in the billboard, the use of the fire and devilish figure nonverbally communicate the “evil” sin of abortion. Using words like “pray” and “Jesus” are also used to incite guilt to those who may be religious but also Pro-Choice.

             Special Techniques to Maximize Effect

Even more so than the Pro-Choice campaign, this campaign uses mostly scare tactics. They show pictures of dead fetuses and other disturbing images. The problem with this is that not all of their sources are credible. According to Pro-Choice Action Network, “Most anti-choice propaganda uses misinformation and fear-mongering to dissuade women from having abortions” (“The Truth” 1). The disturbing images below are used as Pro-Life advertisements, but there are no facts to back up their context. For example, the picture on the right has a caption on the bottom that reads, “The doctor is performing an abortion. The baby that is supposed to be terminated just grabbed the doctor’s finger.” The image makes this claim but provides no knowledge of abortion procedure or source to back up this claim. There is no way to tell if this is the truth or not, but the image is powerful enough that some people may believe it regardless. The nonverbal communication associated with these images is powerful enough to elicit emotion without any real background knowledge or fact checking.

They play off of Aristotle’s Theory by using ethos, pathos, and logos. As far as ethos goes, they use all of those scary pictures and misinformation in an attempt to appear credible, and they often do appear that way. For pathos, they use the emotional influence to guilt the women into feeling sorry for wanting or supporting abortions. Then they appeal to logos, or the logic of it all. They use that misinformation in the context of statistics and quotes from seemingly important and knowledgeable individuals, without actually being logical at all. This theory is a great tool to persuade individuals, and this campaign uses it in a not so credible manner to further their cause (“Ethos” 1).

            Audience Reaction to Various Techniques

The reaction to these disturbing images are obviously ones of horror, guilt, and fear. There are many emotions that go along with this and guilt plays a big role of why people would be persuaded by this and identify as Pro-Life. Again, the issue is that many of these sources are not credible, and would be known as grey propaganda. According to The Propaganda Project, “Gray propaganda is somewhere between white and black propaganda.  The source may or may not be correctly identified, and the accuracy of information is uncertain” (“Types” 1). Even if the images are real, the context might not be completely explained and may be unfairly skewed to support their own beliefs. In essence, the viewer might not be getting the whole story and the campaign seems more concerned with furthering their cause rather than properly educating its viewers.

Effects and Evaluation

The Pro-Choice movement, to me, appears more as persuasion rather than propaganda. According to Propaganda and Persuasion, “Propaganda is a form of communication that attempts to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. Persuasion is interactive and attempts to satisfy the needs of both persuader and pursuadee” (Jowett 1). The Pro-Choice campaign is more focused on the needs of the audience than their own needs. They are highly focused on the needs of women rather than their own religious beliefs or desires. This is reflected in the fact that they do not advertise a large amount of disturbing and guilt-inciting advertisements. The few advertisements they do distribute are focused on the main people effected by the abortion debate: the women themselves. Instead of focusing on what they should or should not be doing, they focus on the basic human rights that should be given to all women, whether they support abortion or not. This is a campaign focused on the needs of the individuals effected by abortion rather than focusing on bashing the opposing opinion and furthering their own desires.

The Pro-Life campaign, on the other hand, appears much more as propaganda rather than persuasion. They seem much more self-involved and focused on their own desires rather than on the women being effected by abortions. The biggest reason their campaign seems more like propaganda than the other side is because of the amount of advertisements they put out through the media. The amount of billboards, signs, and advertisements on the internet are all focused on the religious side of their argument rather than on the women themselves. They tend to completely ignore the needs of their pursuadee and instead choose to guilt and shame them into compliance with their beliefs rather than proving how these beliefs benefit them as well.

Whether these campaigns served their goal or not is a question that is complicated by the fact that people tend to not change their minds on this topic. In my experience, you can debate until you are blue in the face and still not change someone’s opinion, or even come to some sort of agreement or compromise. In one respect, the Pro-Choice campaign has succeeded in its goals because we do have places like Planned Parenthood that support women and their decision to get an abortion. Although, the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its government funding seems to be a success for the Pro-Life side of this issue.

Thinking short-term, each side has had their share of successes and failures. The Pro-Choice side having the most success because abortion is, in fact, legal at this point in time. Long term, however, I think it is still undecided as to which side of the campaign will come out as the successor.






Works Cited

 “Annual Report.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., 31  May 2016. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. <https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/annual-report&gt;.

Belden, Peter. “New Goals for the Pro-Choice Movement in the United States? Accessible, Affordable, Destigmatized.” Rewire News. Rewire, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. < https://rewire.news/article/2012/01/18/new-goals-pro-choice-movement-in-united-states-accessible-affordable-destigmatize/&gt;.

“Dramatism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 13 July 2016. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramatism&gt;.

“Ethos, Pathos & Logos – Modes of Persuasion (Aristotle).” European Rhetoric. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. <http://www.european-rhetoric.com/ethos-pathos-logos-modes-persuasion-aristotle/&gt;.

“Goals.” Pro Life Nation. Pro Life Nation, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. <http://www.prolifenation.org/goals/&gt;.

Jowett, Garth S., and Victoria O’Donnell. Propaganda & Persuasion. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2012. Print.

“Mission Statements.” NARAL Pro-Choice America. NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, 2016. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. <http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about-us/mission-statements.html&gt;.

“The Truth About Anti-Abortion Advertising.” The Pro-Choice Action Network. N.p., June 1999. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. <http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/anti-truth.shtml&gt;.

“Types of Propaganda.” The Propaganda Project. WordPress, 02 July 2008. Web. 05 Nov. 2016. https://thepropagandaproject.wordpress.com/types-of-propaganda/.


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