Google Trends: Terminology in the Abortion Debate

Pro Life/Anti Abortion and Pro Choice/Abortion Rights: As NPR explored here in 2010, the terms used to describe various sides and opinions in the abortion debate matter. Consistently, news sources prefer to use the terms “abortion rights activists” and “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”

Generally, as can be seen in the graphic, people are more likely to use the search terms “pro life” and “pro choice.” Interestingly, as can be seen below, from Jan. 23-Jan. 25, the searches for “anti abortion” briefly outnumbered the searches for “pro life.”

Google Trends comparison of "Pro Life" and "Anti Abortion" for January 2017

Google Trends comparison of “Pro Life” and “Anti Abortion” for Jan. 2017

The dates coincide with President Trump’s executive order reinstating the Mexico City Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule), which prevents any overseas aid programs receiving US aid from dealing with abortion. The order was first put in place under Ronald Reagan, removed under Bill Clinton, reinstated by George W. Bush and removed again by Barack Obama.

Shortly after the spike for “anti abortion,” the “pro life” search terms surged again. It reached a peak on Jan. 27, 2017, possibly in connection with the March for Life in Washington, D.C. that same day.

The graphs change with the inclusion of the hyphens preferred by news organizations. The surge for “anti-abortion” is smaller but still present and “pro-life” consistently outperforms “anti-abortion.”

Google Trends comparison of "pro-life" and "anti-abortion" in January 2017

Google Trends comparison of “pro-life” and “anti-abortion” in Jan. 2017

The searches for “pro choice” and “abortion rights” are fairly consistent. “Pro choice” is generally the more common search term.

Google Trends comparison of "pro choice" and "abortion rights" in late 2016 and early 2017

Google Trends comparison of “pro choice” and “abortion rights” in late 2016 and early 2017

Consistently, searches for “pro life” and “anti abortion” outpace “pro choice” and “abortion rights,” as shown here. All four terms surged near the end of Jan. 2017.

Google Trends 5-year comparison of "pro life," "anti abortion," "pro choice" and "abortion rights"

Google Trends 5-year comparison of “pro life,” “anti abortion,” “pro choice” and “abortion rights”

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