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Abortion is one of the most controversial and talked about topics of our time. It is discussed in classrooms, work places and even on the Internet. Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in or closely followed by the death of an embryo or fetus. This definition includes accidental abortion such as, miscarriage and stillbirths. But this is not what is being debated. People want to know if abortion is ethical, if the fetus can feel pain, and when it is more human than non-human. These questions are very difficult to answer and may never be answered in our lifetime. But one thing we as humans do know is that we have opinions, ranging from completely anti abortion (pro-life) to completely for abortion (pro-choice), and anywhere in the wide spectrum in between. Abortion is a movement that was erected almost 40 years ago. This movement has been very controversial over the years; the main reason being that it is something that there is virtually no in between. You either are, or you are not. Both movements, (pro-life and pro-choice) have been one of the most controversial movements in a political presents. The opposition feels that pro-choice does not mean Pro-abortion, it is the right in choosing whether to reproduce, adopt, or abort. It is every human being’s right to make there own decisions, and so it is a woman’s right to make the choices that affect her life as she see’s morally right. It is a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body and it should not be altered or influenced by anyone else. As you can see, there are two sides of this movement that are constantly looking for contradictions in what other believes.
There are many different viewpoints on abortion in the United States of America. Where most Americans do not feel that abortion is necessarily ‘good,’ they do believe it is a ‘right.’ Others have similar opinions. They embrace contradictory opinions and consider abortion a form of murder and yet still feel it should be legal for the truly desperate. However, most Americans think abortions are morally troubling. A recent study by George Hunt shows that neither age nor gender appears to have any effect on people’s current views on abortions. – (Wolf p54)


Now that we know so much about what each movement stands for, it would be rather imperative that we know what a movement is. A movement is constituted by human beings engaged in discourses and practices designed to challenge and change society as they define it – Contemporary Movements and Ideologies p.12. To simplify this definition, it is a change in the status quo of society. To simplify even more, it is changing from the norm. The normal way of life 70 years ago had always been the freedom to make your own decision. In most cases that’s perfectly OK, however the pro-lifers feel differently, and that is no one should have the freedom to take another life. So essentially what they are trying to change is the taking of life from another innocent human being. They’re trying established laws in attempts to protect and support the discourses and ideologies of their movements. One question that will often arise is this, why are people engaged in a social movement rather than coping with these problems on the individual basis or through institutionalized channel? The answer to this question is fairly simple. Pro-live supporters are involved in this for the simple reason that they feel passionately enough about it that they want to make a difference in society.

Discourses and Ideologies

Discourses and ideologies are what make a movement a movement. Essentially what a discourse is, is what the actual movement is trying to say. What the pro-lifers say about this movement is that abortions should not be legal. They say that every innocent human being has a right to life. Pro-life advocates are involved in many practices that enhance what they say. Some simple statistics that are in support of the pro-lifers discourse are these. 1.5 million babies are aborted each year, whereas there are 1.6 million that wish to adopt. -Medical Economics, p.33. Another staggering statistic, between 1973 –1984 there were 15 million babies aborted. That number alone is unbelievable, that is ten times the number of Americans lost in all of are nation’s wars. Now in all honesty tell me, who is against who. . -Medical Economics, p.88. “ Blessed is the mother who would never think of asking her child to give up its life for hers”.-Thou Shalt Not Play God p.2. Pro-life advocates convey that these are only a few reasons in which to support their movement. These points and one’s similar to them helps to dictate what is really important, hence, their discourse.


Practices are fairly self-explanatory, “they include talking, writing, engaging in physical violence, and many other kinds of interactions. Practices can also involve physical objects-flags, guns, desks, books”.-Contemporary Movements and Ideologies, p.12. In short, practices mean doing something. Some of the obvious practices in the pro-life movement are as follows: one of the biggest practices that pro-life supporters engage in, is picketing. This is the most prevalent practice; this is where pro-life supporters will actually stand in front of an abortion clinic. This is where much of the collective behavior has arisen. Along with a lot of these practices comes hypocrisy. In 1994 pro-live supporters were picketing outside an abortion clinic when things started getting out of hand, riots broke out, people be an fighting, and as an end result the abortion clinic was burned down leaving thirteen people dead that worked inside. Think of the irony of a whole bunch of protesters trying to say lives of innocent people and killing thirteen themselves. This is not the only practice that the pro-lifers participate in. Being that abortion is predominant in the political world, they utilize with called the political opportunity structure. What this does essentially, it says that someone in power such as a president is much more motivating and has much more of an impact on society. This is someone in support of your movement. Someone opposed to it is known as an agent of social control. With the presidential candidates, whether their pro-life or pro choice actually dictates who will vote for them. This is why political power is very sought out by movements similar to the pro-lifers movement. Other pro-life practices include TV commercials. These are very successful again because all of society gets to see them and base a decision upon that. There’s definitely power in numbers, and what that means is as many supporters as you can have in your movement the better off in movement will actually be. This movements practices are utilized to try to capture the ideology, a system that is of the most important. In order for any movement to gain recognition and support it must have practices and discourses.

Revolutionary Movement

There are two types of movements, a revolutionary movement, and reformative movement. For the single reason that abortion is very cut and dry, I would definitely say that pro-life is a revolutionary movement. What a revolutionary movement is, is a movement seeking total change, going from one extreme to another, and leaving the previous status quo behind. I will say this again, you either are, or are not. There are only two directions this movement can go pro-choice of pro-life. As it sits right now in society pro-choice is the favorite of the two movements in society today. This is the case because there are no laws prohibiting it. An effective change for pro-life advocates would be to have laws saying that it is illegal to abort an unborn baby. This would be the very definition of revolutionary movement, (seeking total change). The other type of movement is not so drastic as the revolutionary movement. It is what’s called a reformative movement. A reformative movement is not asking for a complete 180 degree turn around, it is asking for change within a movement that already exists to satisfy that particular organization or movement. For obvious reasons you can see how abortion would not fit into this category. Essentially what a reformative movement is saying is that it seeks only partial change rather than total change.


Mobilization is especially important in the bigger organizations such as the pro-life movement. The pro-lifers try to mobilize and involve as participants a large proportion of its support base in one or more of their organizations.-Contemporary Movements and Ideologies,p.24. It is important to this movement do the fact that it is taking part in electoral politics. Trying to enact new laws to get your movement through congress absolutely requires mobilization. Again recognition of the pro-lifers is the ultimate goal, and mobilization helps acquire that recognition that’s so necessary. Some easy ways that the pro-life advocates accomplish this is the mere fact that they are so widely known and so widely recognized. Along side that every TV commercial, every picket, every march, every parade, is a form of mobilization and practice.


Contrary to popular belief, a movement is not something that someone could wake up and devise in one day. What a movement is essentially is an organization, and a very complex one at that. There are many contributing factors to movement’s success, far more than listed above. In my opinion when I have listed above is the skeletal structure of a movement success. Why do movements exist? Furthermore, why would people contribute to them? Why did they decide they wanted to deal with this problem in they movement rather than deal with them independently? These are all very complex questions with very complex answers. In short, because there is a demand for it. If and when a group of people decides that they are not happy with the regular status quo, they decide to take that initiative to get that changed. My personal opinion is that movements are extremely necessary in today’s society. People in this world are living a specific way, and when that way is not suitable for them, they need to make that decision to create a movement to ultimately achieve their discourse. Through researching movements, furthermore, the pro-life movement, I have to revert to an original statement I already made and that is, movements in today’s society are essential.


Books Used

Clark, Thomas. “Thou Shalt Not Play God” The Humanist July-August 1995: p3
Hunt, George W.. “Of Many Things” America 31 January 1998: p2
Lavelle, Marianne. “When Abortion Comes Late In Pregnancy, Though Rare, Most
Lefevere, Patricia. “Ex-abortion Providers; Conversation Tales” National Catholic
Reporter 16 March 22 2000: p6
Merril, Ted. “Abortion; Extreme Views Ignore Reality” Medical Economics 15 July 1996:
McMillan, Jeff. “Focusing On a Woman’s Right To Self Defense” The Chronicle of Higher
Education. 6 December 1998: pA12
“No Easy Quick Fix Solutions To Abortion Issues” National Catholic Reporter 8
November 1996: p20
Thomas, Judy. “Pro-life Turns Deadly” Newsweek May 13 2000: p64
Wallace, Bruce. “When One Fetus Lives and One Dies” Maclean’s

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