Examining the Types of and Use of Personal Narratives in Abortion Bans at Early Gestation in Four States in the US South Open Access

Schlotman, Kristen (Spring 2021)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5m60qt19b?locale=en


Introduction: In the United States, abortion provision is challenged despite its necessity, legality, and safety. Personal narrative is a common tool used in state-level abortion legislation hearings yet is understudied. This study examined supporters’ personal narratives in four Southern states and their use to further arguments in abortion bans at early gestational age.

Methods: We used a sub-sample of data coded “personal narrative” from a parent study of Committee, House, and Senate legislative debate from 2019-2020 in six states. Only four states - Louisiana, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia - included sufficient verbatim personal narrative data to be analyzed. Supporters’ data were coded and analyzed using a constant-comparative method to identify emergent themes. Themes were grouped into common stories or archetypes. Within archetypes, categorization extended to tactical use of the narrative.

Results: Among the narratives, four archetypes emerged: (1) fathers who see birth as a life-changing event; (2) women who chose pregnancy over abortion; (3) women who regret an abortion; and (4) female health providers whose own pregnancy compelled them to stop providing abortion. The archetypes focus on birth and pregnancy, but most narratives omitted real discussions of abortion. The most common narrative, fatherhood, was espoused by men describing limited, third-person accounts of a pregnancy and a transformation of attitude that occurred at a “life changing” birth event.

Conclusion: This study described four narrative archetypes in early gestation abortion bans and their tactical implications. Understanding of these narratives is essential in advocating for reproductive rights and autonomy during abortion ban hearings. 

Table of Contents

Literature Review 1

Introduction 1

1. Abortion in the United States 1

2. US Abortion Restrictions via Legislation 3

3. “Heartbeat” as an Indicator for Life 5

4. Personal Narrative and Abortion Storytelling in Abortion Legislative Debates 6

Conclusion 8

Introduction 9

Methods 10

Research Design 10

Participants 11

Data Management and Analysis 11

Ethical Considerations 12

Results 12

Discussion 20

Conclusion 25

Manuscript References 27

Recommendations and Public Health Implications 29

Full References 31

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