Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Constructing a "Culture of Life": Legislation, Rhetoric, and Public Discourse
by Catanzarite, Alexis A., M.A., University of Kansas, 2015, 64; 1590461
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of the study is to 1) demonstrate through content analysis that the rhetorical, linguistic, and contextual choices employed in legislation can shape public discourse about political issues, 2) establish that the state uses legislation as a method of reinforcing heteronormative values, and 3) affirm that more focus should be afforded to legislation in the field of rhetorical studies. The focus of this study concerns itself specifically with Kansas House Bill 2253, or the “No Taxpayer Funds for Abortion Act.” A close reading of the Democratic and Republican Party’s respective platform statements on reproductive rights in 2012 serves as the basis for the content analysis; key words and themes were identified from each of those statements as aligning with the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life contexts, which were then applied to H.B. 2253. The legislation defines how the public should consider and discuss the issue of abortion through a heteronormative lens, framing it as an undesirable and amoral act with the multiple stipulations and mandates found in the legislation. Given the textual cues and the context within which such politically charged language like “unborn child” is used, the legislation is clearly invoking a conservative audience even though it is a addressing a general and diverse audience of women. The rhetorical effect that this language has on public discourse is affirmed with an analysis of the comments section of a Huffington Post article about H.B. 2253, in which 25% of the commenters consistently model the rhetoric employed in the legislation. This study demonstrates that the heteronormative rhetoric employed in legislation has a real, tangible impact on public discourse.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Reiff, Mary Jo
Commitee: Anatol, Giselle, Doan, Alesha
School: University of Kansas
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Kansas
Source: MAI 54/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Political science, Rhetoric
Keywords: Abortion, Audience, Discourse, Ideology, Legislation, Rhetoric
Publication Number: 1590461
ISBN: 9781321799163
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