Caitlin Moran and A.G. Sulzberger are two writers who are passionate about the same topic. Both wrote articles regarding the freedom of women to choose abortion and consider it as a medical solution to unwanted pregnancy. It is indeed a controversial subject matter but Moran and Sulzberger found it important to speak against those who seem determined to shutdown abortion clinics one way or the other.
They agree on the idea that women have the freedom to choose what they want with the fetus that is inside their body. However, they used different rhetorical techniques to drive their message across. As a result Sulzberger provided enough information to keep the reader occupied for days to come while Moran was able to appeal to the emotions of the readers, inspiring those who are on her side and making her detractors sympathize to what she was going through. Sulzberger made enemies while Moran gained sympathizers.
Sulzberger used an argumentative style to her rhetoric and utilized journalism techniques to provide facts and sharpened her arguments using a logical approach.
The author appealed to the mind by stating facts, arguing about the law, moral principles, freedom etc. She was able to achieve all these by pointing to recent legislative activities affecting South Dakota. Sulzberger pointed out that in South Dakota women who had made up their mind to abort their unborn baby had to first undergo counseling sessions in a facility labeled as pregnancy help centers.
The author asserted that the primary purpose of the said pregnancy help centers is not to help these women but to convince them not to go through the process of abortion. The author cried foul and began to present an argument complete with references to bill of rights and the danger of state sponsored coercive measures against abortion.
Caitlin Moran on the other hand is a dutiful wife and mother of two. She phrased her argument in this context. She appealed to the hearts of the readers, instead of their minds. She began to explain why a third baby would be disastrous for her marriage, for her family in general and for her well-being.
It was a moving account bringing the readers with her to a journey replete with pain, frustrations, depression, making one feel as if being dragged into the preliminary stages of a nervous breakdown. It is difficult for any reader not to sympathize with her. Not everyone agreed with what she said but it was hard not to give her the consent to go ahead and kill her baby. This is proof how effective her writing was.
Logos vs. Pathos
It has been said that there are always two sides to a coin. In a manner of speaking, strength has a corresponding weakness. Applying this to Sulzberger’s article one can say that her strength was also her weakness. Sulzberger appealed to the mind rather than the emotions and she proceeded by using logic to prove her point.
This is one of the most effective ways of communication and making an argument. But the topic that was discussed is something that is controversial and a very emotional subject matter for many because it involves the life of another person.
Moran on the other hand steered clear from the use of logos. It is possible that as a housewife and a mother of two she may have felt that she does not have the authority to speak about abortion from a legal and scientific point of view. It was a smart move because by focusing on what she knows and by focusing on what she felt, she was able to connect to a great number of people who can easily understand the struggles of motherhood. If she used legal jargon then she could easily confuse her readers and limit the scope of her influence.
Sulzberger chose to attack the law. Moran chose to deal with the heart and emotions. Sulzberger took the moral high ground pointing out conflicting interests in rapid succession. First of all Sulzberger highlighted the seemingly ridiculous logic as to the legal requirement of sending a woman – who wanted to abort her baby – into a facility that was dedicated to saving the unborn infant.
Secondly, she focused on the legal aspect of that argument and proceeded to point out that this law was the byproduct of partisan politics and interest groups with hidden agendas. Sulzberger did not make a mistake when she highlighted the fact that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state of South Dakota.
Finally, Sulzberger took the U.S. Constitution and waved it in the air as if it was a form of weapon and proceeded to shout a battle cry. She cried out that what the legislative body was doing is grossly unconstitutional. The author went on to say that it is tantamount to government intrusion into the lives of people.
Sulzberger could have been more effective if this line of argument was pursued and stirring the passion of the readers with regards to freedom and their rights as American citizens. But the author did not go into that direction and instead Sulzberger ended her rhetoric with one last stab using the sword of logic and said that in South Dakota that coercion is now legally mandated.
Caitlin Moran chose another path. Her goal was clear. She does not want others to judge her actions and she wanted her readers to have an open mind when it comes to the decision of some mothers to terminate their pregnancy. Instead of using law and logic she instead directed her readers to examine what happened to her in the course of her marriage and the suffering she went through trying to be the ideal wife and mother.
In just a few words the author made the readers felt the strain of having to take care of children while balancing work, career and marriage. It was a difficult life and many can relate to that. The pressure was crushing her and she was able to communicate that to the readers.
She also made a comment on the danger of illegal abortion and it would be better to have an intelligent choice over the matter. Moran went further by stating that it is not just the mother that benefits from abortion but also the unborn child. She said that she is trying to spare the child from all the darkness and the pain that the world can bring. She capped the argument by pointing out to what happened to children that did not experience all the love and care they needed. She said they became monsters.
Arguments of Definition
There is another reason why Moran’s piece was better compared to that of Sulzberger. She redefined the meaning of abortion, unborn infant, and motherhood. Sulzberger on the other hand was lost in translation in the sense that the author did not clarify the terms used.
Sulzberger relied heavily on pointing out the legal dimensions of abortion without allowing space for the discussion on what was meant by abortion, freedom, coercion, and other words that the author dispensed easily without considering how the readers may have interpreted these terms.
Moran did not make the same mistake. She started by redefining motherhood. She said that being a mother does not require one to be long-suffering like a perpetual machine that continuously receives abuse without breaking down. She tore down the ideal image of motherhood and presented another image – one that is loving and yet vulnerable and also one that is sensitive and yet prone to stress.
In addition, Moran also redefined the meaning of an unborn infant. She was quick to realize that this is the bone of contention in debates regarding abortion. She said that the fetus inside her should be considered as a mere collection of cells.
She omitted the word “living” to show that this is just a lump of mass. She argued that life begins after the baby was already outside her womb, omitting the fact that even inside her body the baby is already breathing, feeling, and sensing the world around him or her. She did not delve into that and conveniently dropped the idea of discussing abortion from the point of view of the unborn child.
Style in Argument
Aside from the use of pathos as opposed to logos and the redefinition of terms, Moran’s piece is much better because of the style of argument that was used in her article. Moran did not begin to discuss the core ideas and concepts of her argument without first disarming her readers. In contrast Sulzberger came out with guns blazing and alienated those who are already on the other side of the fence. Moran invited her opponents to her side and showed them her wounds. It was difficult not to empathize with what she went through.
Moran made it clear that a mother knows how difficult it is to consider abortion because she already knows what it feels to give birth to a baby. She went on to say that it is a traumatic experience. By showing herself vulnerable and by saying that she knew the joys and pains of motherhood created an openness that allowed readers to access her heart and mind. On the other hand Sulzberger succeeded in creating a divisive line that says those who are anti-abortion people must stay on the other side of the fence.
Both articles have strengths and weaknesses. The strength of their writing can be determined by looking at how successful the authors were when it comes to achieving their goals. Sulzberger wanted to provoke her readers into action by using logic to point out the unconstitutionality of a recently ratified law for the state of South Dakota.
Moran on the other hand wanted her readers to accept the idea of abortion as part of the rights and freedom of an American citizen. She also wanted the readers not to judge her with regards to her recent decision to terminate her third pregnancy via abortion. Sulzberger failed to achieve most of his goals because the author’s logical argument can be shot down with a well-crafted argument coming from the opposing side.
Moran’s article has holes in it too. Her critics can easily see the selfishness of her actions and desires. In fact, she did not elaborate on the fact that her unborn baby may have rights too and that her unborn baby felt the tools of death that was applied to snuff out its life from this earth. Although Moran was unable to make a believer out of every person who took time to read her article, she succeeded in the fact her readers will find a way to forgive what she has done.