In order to reach our target audience when they are most in need of our services, we must understand how our language is perceived by those we serve. Research conducted by the Vitae Foundation and other sources show us that secular, woman-first language is the best way to present our ministry.
Understanding crisis decision making
Many college aged women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy experience a crisis, defined as a short, dramatic feeling of instability. Those in crisis situations seek a resolution that will quickly remove them from the instability and restore their sense of control.
The Vitae Foundation has conducted qualitative research studies into the emotions and thought process of women in crisis pregnancy, and have found that abortion is most often perceived as the ‘least of three evils’. The unplanned pregnancy threatens the woman’s perception of herself, her control over her life and her future. Even if a woman knows that abortion ends a human life, she is likely to choose abortion because in her moment of crisis she believes it is the only way to preserve her own life. (Swope 1).
Abortion as the least of three evils
|Abortion||Either my life is over, or this pregnancy is over||Self-preservation||Least of three evils|
|Parenting||My life is over||Death of self|
|Adoption||My life is over, and I am a bad mother||Death of self, death of baby by abandonment||Worst of three evils|
While abortion is seen as the quickest way to resolution, other options are seen as prolonging resolution beyond the birth of the baby even in the case of closed adoption, as the mother may worry about the well-being of the child or the possibility of the child re-entering her life at a later time. Adoption is perceived as the worst option, because the woman believes that her life over and that she is also a bad mother for not parenting the child. For this reason it is important to use messaging that focuses on the woman herself, rather than the baby.
Secular, woman-first language
Given the feeling of self-preservation experienced by women in crisis pregnancy, our clinic must use woman-first language. Research by Paul Swope with the Vitae Foundation has shown that messaging focused on women’s thoughts and emotions are more effective than language that focuses on the baby.
“The pro-life tendency to focus exclusively on the child, rather than on the woman’s own circumstances and emotional needs, only deepens the woman’s sense of isolation and despair – the very emotions that often lead her to choose abortion.” -Paul Swope
Our target audience of millennials and teens are exceptionally unchurched and pro-choice-I believe that language that is pro-life or religious will prevent us from seeing patients and serving women. Successful PMCs around the country have come to the same conclusion, and use secular, woman-first language in all patient marketing and communications. “Using language and imagery that will attract rather than alienate, the [we] must show that abortion is actually not in a woman’s own self-interest, and that the choice of life offers hope and a positive, expanded sense of self.” (Swope 1).