Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level





Lisa Corrigan

Committee Member

Ryan Neville-Shepard

Second Committee Member

Lauren DeCarvalho


Abortion, Gender, Rhetoric, Wendy Davis, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, Women


This thesis provides a rhetorical history of abortion discourse with an emphasis on the rhetorical moment from 2013-2016. To uncover the rhetorical strategies used to shape consensus on abortion, I highlight three major events—Senator Wendy Davis’s (D-Fort Worth) notorious 13-hour filibuster against Texas’s HB2, the conservative capture of Davis as Abortion Barbie, and the Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). Because of these key rhetorical moments, pro-choice and anti-choice publics cultivated a period of heightened tension that reinvigorated abortion debates. While pro-choice groups employed narrative to centralize women as rhetorical agents and open spaces to discuss abortion, anti-choice publics used visual rhetoric to vilify women and accentuate the fetus. But with both ideologies adopting scientific rhetoric, the Supreme Court intervened to determine evidenced-based truth and settle disputed abortion law. This helped make abortion a major political issue in the 2016 presidential election and accentuated how legal, political, and public discourses perpetuate reproductive oppression.