Pro-choice, not pro-abortion

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December 7, 2006

11:09 PM

In a country where over half of all citizens self-identify as “pro-choice” (according to a 2004 Gallup poll), I am sick of how twisted and misinterpreted this label has become. Since when do pro-choice activists hate women and try to trick them into abortion? Since when did “choice” become an undesirable ideal? (I don’t have answers, but you could ask the “Feminists for Life” flyers lining the halls of Morton.) I want to re-claim my name.

p. In truth, owning a pro-choice identity speaks for itself: it advocates an attitude of acceptance and support for whatever reproductive decisions women make. Pro-choice politics assigns no value to one choice over another — it only promotes women’s agency and self-determination in this realm of private-decision-turned-public-discourse. In the midst of political messaging, soundbytes and slogans, the real convictions behind a pro-choice ideology get lost in a cloud of misunderstanding and mendacity. While I fear redundancy from advocates such as myself, I fear even more the reality that many individuals still misconstrue a basic tenent of the pro-choice movement: pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. It seems almost silly to write. I mean, do thousands and thousands of American women and men actually devote their valuable time, money and intellects to a campaign pleading unsuspecting women to get abortions?

p. I don’t mean to imply that all pro-life individuals feel this way — in fact, I’m sure they don’t because I’ve known some very intelligent pro-lifers — but many pro-life organizations push the idea (an accusation, at worst, and an implication, at best) that we pro-choicers are out to coerce women into choosing abortion. I would ask them to re-read our name.

p. The whole idea behind the pro-choice movement in America has always been to offer more alternative reproductive choices to women. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commonly known in this country solely for its abortion services, has been working for over 90 years to provide women with every resource they need to make the right choices for their lives. In fact, only 9 percent of Planned Parenthood patients actually use abortion services. The remainder of the approximately 5 million clients served by the organization and its affiliates take advantage of contraception and family planning services, gynecological care, STI testing and treatment, adoption referrals, sex education and information on reproductive rights advocacy and the needs of women in developing countries. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood’s official mission statement asserts that “It is the policy of Planned Parenthood Federation of America to assure that all individuals have the freedom to make reproductive decisions … Planned Parenthood asserts that both parenthood and non-parenthood are valid personal decisions.” I must have missed the fine print that says, “Oh, by the way, we only support women’s choices if they choose abortion.”

p. It seems that the “real” debate around abortion should simply remove itself from the current liberal/conservative pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy. The issue has nothing to do with personal decision-making or opinion. And frankly, the issue doesn’t need to focus on abortion. What a pro-choice ideology encompasses is a belief in the need for every woman to have the ability and resources to make her own decisions regarding reproductive health and parenthood. Yes, it includes abortion, which is not secretive or shameful for the pro-choice movement, but it also includes the right for a woman to detest abortion and vow never to obtain one. It allows women to delay childbirth and to receive high-quality prenatal care once they are ready. The pro-choice movement lets women escape their culturally circumscribed roles as mothers and celebrate that role if they so choose.

p. If we reject this ideology of choice, what we are left with is simply non-choice: a lack of agency, a lack of resources, a lack of self-determination and a lack of personhood. To respect women is to allow them to control their own reproduction, in whatever manner they desire. That is what it really means to be pro-choice.

p. __Devan Barber is a junior at the College. Her views do not necessarily represent those of The Flat Hat.__

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