Argumentative Complexity of Abortion Discourse


Using integrative complexity theory and its associ- ated coding scheme, this article explores the structure of argu- ments on abortion articulated by single- and multi-issue "pro- choice" and "pro-life" groups between July 1989 (following the Supreme Court Webster v. Reproductive Health Services opin- ion) and May 1991. A simple random sample of 13 paragraph- sized statements representative of each organization's position was rated by two trained coders on a 7-point scale measuring conceptual differentiation and integration. The debate, as a whole, was conducted at a low level of integrative complexity. Contrary to the "rigidity of the Right" hypothesis, both pro- choice and pro-life arguments were characterized by similarly low levels of integrative complexity. Supporting an ideologue hy- pothesis, the arguments of multi- as opposed to single-issue orga- nizations were more integratively complex.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Public Opinion Quarterly


Oxford University Press

Document Type



© 1993 American Association for Public Opinion Research