Background Antenatal diagnosis of a fatal fetal anomaly (FFA) confronts parents with their child’s mortality and creates difficult decisions including whether to terminate or continue with the pregnancy. Media offers an insight into health-related information available to the public. Readers are both active and selective in their interpretations of text, however the influential nature of media is well documented as readers are constrained by the framing of these texts. This study aimed to examine how information on FFA, termination of pregnancy for FFA (TOPFA) and perinatal palliative care (PPC) were framed in Irish published media.
Methods This qualitative study applied a critical discourse analysis, which examines the relations between discourse and social and cultural phenomena. The analysis of the text, actors, language used and its context assists in the deconstructing of text to facilitate interpretation and understanding of socially produced meanings, recognising the ability of language to generate a social world. An Irish broadsheet and online journal, both of which were easily accessible online with daily outputs and both having a daily readership in excess of 3 00 000 were chosen for this study. An online search of FFA, PPC and TOPFA was undertaken. Language and visuals of the articles were analysed to identify the potential influence on the reader.
Results 130 articles, dated from 2012 to 2017 referencing FFA, TOPFA and PPC were identified. Themes of power and politics, international influence, ethical dilemmas and emotional appeal were embedded in the discourse, creating political influence and appealing to the emotional side of the reader to influence perceptions and views. The use of different terminology e.g. ‘FFA’ versus ‘life-limiting condition’ and the use of the word ‘fetus’ versus ‘baby’ were evident throughout the results. Representatives with different ideological standpoints chose these terms in attempts to create varying contexts and support arguments e.g. those from pro-choice groups used ‘FFA’ to convey the lethal prognosis and those who were pro-life used ‘baby’ to personify the individual who is being terminated.
Conclusion Connotations and intentional terminology were evident within the articles to convey a particular influence to the reader. Language is not neutral and therefore it is important to analyse the information being delivered through media to the general public. This is of additional relevance as a referendum to adapt Irish Abortion Laws is imminent which has the potential to change health service provision and requires the delivery of accurate knowledge to the public.
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