The pro-life movement is built on the means of persuasion rather than coercion. Simply put, persuasion is the process of convincing without using anger or threats. Coercion, on the other hand, uses bullying to achieve results. Supporters of the right to life use ethos, pathos, and logos to try to persuade the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973).
Pro-life supporters demonstrate ethos, or credibility, in their movement by gaining the trust of the public. One way they do this is through testimonials given by women who have been affected by abortion. Many pro-life enthusiasts are women who have had abortions and regret their decisions. One woman, Carrie Camilleri, said the following: “I was an emotional wreck. The following day I was empty, sad, numb. I knew that day I had made a huge mistake. I wish with all my heart I would have done things differently.” These women have gone through the tragedy of abortion, so they try to persuade the public by telling them that they lived through it and know how horrible it is.
Pathos, or emotional appeal, is a popular means of persuasion in the pro-life movement. Graphic images or videos of abortion procedures are often shown to evoke anger or sorrow from the public. Seeing what actually happens to a fetus may cause people to change their views to a more pro-life standpoint. Thousands of images have been shared on the Internet of fetuses with captions like, “This is what your baby look like at 16 weeks.” What is pictured looks like a human baby, not a clump of tissue.
A logical appeal, known as logos, is also used in the pro-life movement. Pro-life citizens use statistics and quotes from experts to gain support in their effort to make abortion illegal. One might use the fact that as of Jan. 14, 2016, 58,586,256 abortions had been performed since Roe v. Wade in 1973. That’s bigger than the population of the Northeast U.S. Another fact pro-life supporters may use is that one third of American women have had an abortion by the age of 45. Logos is implemented to reason with people. They hope that once given the facts, the public is more likely to choose pro-life.
According the Rhetorical Model of Communication, all judgments are fallible and are thus open to criticism, argument, and revision. Obviously, not everyone agrees with the pro-life movement. In fact, some see it as inhumane to disregard the life of a mother for that of an unborn child. The pro-life movement, while not universally accepted, will continue to use its voice until they see a change in U.S. abortion laws. Manuel Castells said it best when he said, "The faster and more interactive the process of communication is, the more likely the formation of a process of collective action becomes, rooted in outrage, propelled by enthusiasm and motivated by hope."
Manuel Castells, “Networking Minds, Creating Meaning, Contesting Power,” in Networks of Outrage and Hope (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012), 8.