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Abstract

The Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973 brought to the fore of public consciousness in the United States two dominant stances on the issue of abortion (i.e. pro-life and pro-choice), each organized around a rhetoric of moral vilification. As the sites of abortion practice, abortion clinics have since become theatres of contention, where conflicting imaginings of agency, reproduction, and personhood take shape and are experienced. This paper seeks to explore the relationship between morality, place, and imaginative practice in the narratives of pro-life activists working at the doors of Affiliated Medical Services, a women’s health clinic providing abortions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Discourse about abortion experiences and activisms is treated reflexively as landscape talk – talk of how places are culturally recruited to stake out the values, histories, and identities of the individuals who occupy them. This paper argues that to better understand this process, there is a need to investigate how talk temporally and spatially located in the lived landscape is rooted in the imaginative landscape. How is abortion imaginatively rendered in talk? An answer to this question is approached by adopting Randall Lake’s (1984) heuristic model of an ascent-descent structure of moral discourse.

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