Social Fdns
The Abortion Controversy
Analyzed According to Coser's Functions of Conflict
©1999 Joann Cosgrove

edited 8/2/09

In the US it is legal for a woman to have an abortion performed by a licensed medical practitioner. People who support this legal act are called Pro Choice. There is a group of people who believe abortion is murder of the unborn and should be outlawed. These people are called Pro-Life. This paper will explore what purposes this conflict serves to the two groups involved. The five functions of conflict as described by Lewis Coser will be used to organize the analysis.

Connection - The Pro-choice group and the Pro-Life groups maintain a connection with each other by engaging in this conflict. For example they both show up to protest at abortion clinics. The Pro-choice group may act as escorts for the women seeking abortion and the Pro-Life group are present outside the facility with their placards and pamphlets. This puts them in close proximity to each other. They both may be called upon to speak at political rallies and political conventions. If one group gets newspaper coverage the other usually seeks it as well. All these activities keep them connected with each other.

Definition - Each group defines itself by its beliefs. The Pro-Life people believe life begins at conception and any termination of that life is murder. The Pro-Choice people believe that life begins legally at birth and that a woman has the right to decide if her body will nourish a fetus or not nourish it as she sees fit.

Revitalization - The more active and vocal each group becomes the more energy seems to be engendered in the opposite group. If Pro-Lifers stage a demonstration decrying abortion then the Pro-Choicers also stage a demonstration. This keeps the energy level high in both groups.

Reconnaissance - Each group tries to find out what the other may be planning so that they can plan something to counter it.

Replication - As the Pro-Choice group has become successful in passing laws to legalize abortion the Pro-Life group has become increasingly violent until they have committed murder and mayhem with bombing abortion clinics and putting up a web site listing abortion doctors that should be eliminated. Each group can now be said to have killed..whether it be fetuses or living people. In this way they are beginning to replicate each other's behavior.

Who benefits from the conflict

Pro-Lifers can feel self righteous about their position at the same time they plant bombs and plot to shoot doctors who perform abortions. They feel they are morally justified and that this is like a war. Members of the group feel they are supporting a worthy cause and one that might get them into heaven since many have religious affiliations. Members may feel like celebrities when they are portrayed in news and media coverage. Most of these are symbolic benefits.

Pro-choice - Members can also feel they are morally superior to others because they feel they are helping and supporting women especially poor and young women. They believe they are supporting a social service that might lead to decreased poverty and unhappy lives for abused children. They may feel patriotic in that they are supporting the law of the land. These are symbolic benefits. If they actually work in the clinics they may accrue substantial benefits in the way of salary.