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Friday, June 9 • 9:50am - 10:00am
United States for Abortion: Generating a New Visual Rhetoric for Reproductive Justice

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For decades, the majority of Americans have supported the right to safe and legal abortion, yet it has been continually under attack in the United States. The Dobb’s decision ended guaranteed access in June 2022, leaving access abortion to be determined by the states. Public support for legal abortion remains largely unchanged, with 62% saying it should be legal in all or most cases, yet more than half the states in the country now partially or completely ban access to abortion.

Abortion is stigmatized, despite being a remarkably common experience. Nearly one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the age of 45. People who receive abortions often hide their experiences due to stigma. Secrecy obscures the frequency and perpetuates the stigma. A major contributing factor to the stigma is the visual rhetoric of anti-abortion factions, which have dominated public discourse on abortion for decades. Misleading claims about the science of human life coupled with graphic images of developing fetuses are intended to produce shame and fear in the viewer, propping up a reductive and narrow moral argument.

Visual rhetoric of the pro-choice movement has been similarly reductive. This short talk will discuss exclusionary, insufficient, and counterproductive rhetoric in the pro-choice movement. For example, outdated images of hangers spread the misconception that illegal abortions are unsafe, which creates fear among people who may want to manage their own abortion. The visual rhetoric of the abortion rights movement must shift and expand to acknowledge the contemporary mechanisms of abortion, to address the wide range of reasons why people get abortions, and to speak inclusively about who gets abortions.

The United States for Abortion project was created in 2022 to generate a design community-sourced visual rhetoric for abortion rights that features diverse and nuanced perspectives. Through an open call that is still ongoing, designers in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and the colonized territory of Puerto Rico are invited to design artwork in support of access to legal abortion. Recruitment has an emphasis on including diverse identities, with regard for gender, race/ethnicity, age, religion, political affiliation, parental status, sexuality, citizenship status, etc. The artwork is sold on t-shirts, prints and stickers, with 100% of profits donated to the National Network of Abortion Funds. The artwork is also shared publicly on social media. The collection will be on view for the public in exhibit installations.

We are building a pluralistic collective of voices that speak to the nuance and complexity of abortion today, addressing critical issues such as trans rights; abortion as reproductive healthcare; and reproductive justice as social, racial and environmental justice. Rather than simply persuade, the project aims to normalize abortion, increase the visibility of support for it, and combat mis/disinformation. By enlisting contributors based on state, we also aim to bring attention to abortion as a state-specific issue, and place critical emphasis on regional political contexts. Through this project, we hope to build solidarity across identities and borders in the collective fight for abortion justice.

avatar for Alison Place

Alison Place

Assistant Profesor of Graphic Design, University of Arkansas
avatar for Kathy Mueller

Kathy Mueller

Associate Professor, Temple University
Kathy Mueller is an award-winning designer, practicing and teaching in Philadelphia. She is a co-founder of the United States for Abortion, which aims to reflect Americans’ majority support for abortion rights using tee shirts created by designers from every corner of the nation... Read More →

Friday June 9, 2023 9:50am - 10:00am EDT
PS 401 (Design Center)