Abortion debates in Finland and the Republic of Ireland: textual analysis of experiential thinking and argumentation in parliamentary and layperson discussions




The ethical discussion about abortion has been polarized in Finland and the Republic of Ireland, two European countries with very different abortion legislation (liberal vs. highly restrictive). The aim of the present study was to analyze experiential thinking patterns and argumentative strategies in political and layperson debates regarding induced abortion. The content of Finnish and Irish texts (n?=?493), consisting of transcripts of parliamentary debates and online texts, such as blogs, was analyzed systematically. The texts were investigated for the aspects of experiential thinking, for selected argumentative moves and for any differences in the prevalence of these features between countries or between political vs. layperson debates. The Finnish and Irish discussions about induced abortion relied heavily on experiential thinking patterns and emotionally laden arguments instead of objective research data. This was evident in the very high prevalence of testimonials, narratives, loaded language and appeals to emotion in both political and layperson debates regardless of the country or the debater's position on abortion issue. Research data that did not support the position of the debater were relatively often omitted by confirmation bias. The Irish debaters appealed to popularity more often than the Finnish ones, while magical/religious thinking was mainly observed in the Finnish layperson discussion. The national history and the prevailing cultural and religious atmosphere of the two countries could explain these differences. The abortion debate mostly reinforces the opinions of one's peer group rather than convinces the opposite party to change their position. The stalemate and continuation of the same arguments being repeated could be associated with experiential thinking and emotional argumentative strategies in both political and layperson debates.



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