“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”: Themes and manifestations of pro-life rhetoric

Plan Author

Hannah Noblewolf, 2018

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Inequality and US Social Policy
  • Course: Subculture and Society
  • Tutorial: Statistics for Social Science Research
  • Course: Urban Sociology

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • James Collins, State University of New York at Albany


For me, my Plan is about better understanding the beliefs of others so that we can better understand how to interact with each other in a productive, meaningful way. It includes four parts, starting with a paper titled “Sin, sympathy, and slavery: Themes in pro-life rhetoric.” This is followed by a “Ministry at the gates of Hell: A semiotic analysis of protest” and Legislative analysis: An examination of fetal burial laws in the United Stated. I finish with a paper titled “Mourning the loss of a fetus: An examination of Mizuko Kuyō”


The pro-life movement is known in part for its public demonstrations. From marches, to clinic blockades, to projecting images of bloody fetuses onto the sides of buildings, pro-life protesters are not known for easily ignored displays. Some of their most effective tools at these demonstrations are protest signs. In this paper, I will demonstrate that these signs and the Sign-Systems they belong to reflect the themes of Ignorance and Harm, as well as employ Gothic device as discussed in “Sin, Sympathy, and Slavery,” in addition to using intertextuality to engage with larger conversations surrounding racial injustice.

Mizuko kuyō serves as a way of acknowledging a potential life, and the societal value of life. It also serves to reaffirm societal values of motherhood and the mother/child bond. A vital aspect of identity for women in Japan is “double identity”, a dual identity between mother and child. A mother’s identity is child-focused – motherhood is not a role, but an identity. For someone who has had an abortion, especially a woman, taking care of their child’s spirit signals that they are still a good mother because they are taking care of the mizuko’s spirit. This helps some people to reconcile their decision to abort or feelings of guilt over a miscarriage with societal expectations and the value placed on motherhood, and maintain that aspect of their identity.


I remember long nights, lots of tears of frustration, and biting my nails ‘til they bled. I also remember the sense of solidarity I felt with my fellow seniors, how proud I feel of my work, and how prepared I felt applying to graduate schools. It provided me with a way to figure out self-directed learning, how to use resources to the best of my ability, how to do research design, and how to write well.

A protest sign reads “Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.”
Young protesters hold signs reading “1/3 of my generation is missing” and “choose life.”
A Mizuko Jizō statue in Ichijoji Precinct, Japan.