The objective of this study was to analyze the national press coverage of abortion in cases of Zika infection and examine whether it reinforced discourses already associated with the practice or broadened and qualified the discussion of the subject. It is a qualitative study based on the analysis of 43 news stories on Zika/microcephaly/abortion published in the newspapers O Globo and Folha de S.Paulo between November 2015 and December 2016. Based on concepts from Journalism and Discourse Analysis, we identified the sources present in the coverage and analyzed the arguments they used in order to justify their positions, in addition to the strategies, types of knowledge and values they mobilized in the argumentation. We found that both newspapers privileged specialized sources – physicians in Folha de S.Paulo and lawyers and legal scholars in O Globo – and silenced the voices of women directly affected by the epidemic. As for the argumentation, sources that were favorable to the right to have an abortion in cases of Zika infection mainly denounced social injustices, while those who oppose it used a defense-of-life discourse. We observed the predominance of knowledge derived from beliefs and moral values in the discursive arena we analyzed, which was further marked by analogies loaded with negative meaning on both sides of the debate. Comparing our data with those from other studies on abortion in the media, we consider that the media coverage of Zika/microcephaly/abortion played a relevant role in reconfiguring the media discourse on the subject, characterized by a more technical focus, by a plurality of voices and positions and by a greater attention afforded to favorable arguments based on constitutional principles.
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