Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

United States Abortion Discourse: An Examination of Problematic Terms

United States Abortion Discourse: An Examination of Problematic Terms

Virginia Nastase

This paper examines how United States abortion discourse has changed from the 19th century to the present. As Ahearn and Duranti have shown, language use can generate issues of agency, shape ideologies and create new social realities. This is no different with abortion discourse throughout this time period. Through discourse analysis and literature review, this paper explorse how certain terms used in abortion discourse reflect ideological perspectives and affect perceptions within the United States’ abortion debate of the last two centuries. The research shows that the referents “elective abortion” and “therapeutic abortion” are used in specific contexts and have helped to construct a social reality around abortion discourse. This has had an effect on public perception surrounding abortion which has shaped negative experiences for women considering abortion. Negative connotations surrounding abortion discourse can involve feelings of guilt or shame for a woman and sometimes generate problems with accessibility to the procedure. Using theories of agency, this research demonstrates, on a broader level, how abortion discourse since the 19th century has continued to shape modern perspectives on abortion and how the use of the terms elective and therapeutic abortion remains problematic for a woman’s agency and accessibility regarding abortion. 

April 12, 2021 - Posted by | abstract


  1. Sounds like an interesting piece about the specific taboos and stigmas that surround the topic of abortion. The two terms, “elective abortion” and “therapeutic abortion”, creating a social reality for women sounds appealing from a scholarly and humanistic point of view. How do women shape their realities around abortion discourses? What can we learn about the agency of these women? Overall, this is well-done abstract that presents the research in a thematic fashion. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.

    Comment by medefauw0812 | April 18, 2021 | Reply

  2. This is such an important topic. It would be really interesting to read about how the language used affects women that choose to have abortions for whatever reasons. Especially since abortions are seen as a taboo and as a political tool. Looking forward to the finished paper!

    Comment by Jenna H | April 23, 2021 | Reply

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