Lately, a new element of the ever-controversial abortion debate has emerged: the script.
The New York Times recently published a piece detailing how the term “pro-choice” has fallen out of favor. Many pro-abortion groups are starting to transition away from the term.
The term “pro-choice” came into popularity around the passing of Roe vs. Wade rather than “pro-abortion” in a public relations effort to bring people who were personally pro-life but were wary of government restrictions into the movement.
But now, according to the New York Times [emphasis added]:
“By 2010 some abortion-rights activists began to sense in their outreach to young women, whose support was needed not only for the midterm elections but for the movement’s future as well, that the term pro-choice was virtually meaningless. That was confirmed by postelection polls and focus groups that women’s organizations and Democrats commissioned to understand what went wrong.”
“Choice” is defined by Webster’s as “the act of choosing, the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities; the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities; the opportunity or power to make a decision; a range of things that can be chosen.”
Pro-choice activists hold placards during a rally outside of the Supreme Court January 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. Activists on both sides of the abortion issue are rallying on the 39th anniversary of the landmark Roe vs Wade case. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Therefore, by definition, in order for there to be a “choice,” a variety of options must exist. For someone to truly be “pro-choice,” one must embrace the fact that there are a variety of options.
No wonder the phrase has become meaningless! “Choice” never actually meant “choice!” Too often, “choice” is just a euphemism for abortion.
To quote Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride”: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Here is a prime example of where “choice” is meaningless:
In 2011, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan issued a press release congratulating Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) on her election as chair of the Democratic National Committee:
“Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a vocal and effective champion of our pro-choice values. Without a doubt, Rep. Wasserman Schultz will clearly communicate the difference between pro-choice policies that protect our privacy and anti-choice attacks at the state and federal levels that open the door to even more political interference in our personal decisions. This is an especially good day for the DNC, President Obama, and the voters who will be voting pro-choice in 2012.”
Therefore, Wasserman Schultz is described - by her own movement – as a “champion of pro-choice values.”
Let’s examine just how much Wasserman Schultz supports the choices of women.
In this Jan. 25, 2013 file photo, pro-abortion rights activists, rally face-to-face against anti-abortion demonstrators as both march in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in a demonstration that coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
In 2013, a Florida woman named Remee Lee discovered that she was pregnant. She was thrilled. Despite being only six weeks pregnant, she had already selected a name for her child.
Unfortunately, her boyfriend, John Andrew Welden, was less thrilled.
He disguised the abortion-inducing drug misoprostol as amoxicillin. Believing the drug she was taking was a cure for an infection, Lee was horrified when she began to miscarry shortly after.
"It's a nightmare,” she said. “It's not something I can turn off. It's something that affects me every day.”
Her nightmare became even worse when she discovered that Florida state law does not protect unborn children separately from their mothers. There was no way to charge Lee for the crime under Florida law, just federal law for “product tampering.”
Lee then sought to protect other women from her nightmare. Her efforts towards passing the Offenses Against Unborn Children Act earned it the nickname “the Remee Lee bill”.
The bill neither condemns nor supports abortion, it simply seeks to punish those who would induce an abortion without the woman’s knowledge or consent. In fact, according to Lee, "This will not affect women who are choosing to have an abortion or the medical professionals choosing to do so."
A women's rights activist holds a sign during a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. Activists are calling for equality for women in the work place and stronger laws against discrimination and human trafficking for child prostitution, along with strengthening abortion rights. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
All in all, the bill seeks to protect a woman’s choice.
Yet Wasserman Schultz was quick to condemn the effort:
“Florida Republican lawmakers have wasted taxpayers time and money by passing these extreme bills that further limit women’s reproductive rights. It is senseless and it’s wrong,” said Wasserman Schultz.
If she is so pro-choice, then why does she see protecting a woman’s choice as “extreme?”
Of course it would limit women’s rights to punish men who trick them into an abortion they don’t want! It’s anti-choice to suggest that blob of cells needs protection! We can’t grant anything resembling personhood to a fetus! How extreme!
This is the reason why the term ”pro-choice” has become so completely ridiculous: If mere “choice” is the ultimate good, why isn’t Lee’s “choice” worth defending and protecting? Shouldn’t real feminism seek to free women from the whims of men who wish them (and their children) harm?
Abortion rights supporter Sarah Pope, left, and abortion opponent Katherine Aguillar, second from left, demonstrate at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, while the Texas Senate debates the abortion restriction bill, House Bill 2, on Friday July 12, 2013. The Texas Senate convened Friday afternoon to debate and ultimately vote on some of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions, its actions being watched by fervent demonstrators on either side of the issue. Credit: AP
If anyone “limited” Lee’s reproductive rights, it was Welden. And Wasserman Schultz. What a “champion of pro-choice values.”
If NARAL wants to congratulate people for their “choices,” will they issue a press release congratulating Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) for her “choice” to carry her child to term, despite being told by doctors her child had no chance to survive Potter’s syndrome? By the way, Abigail Rose just turned one.
So what is an organization to do when their choice of words turns out to be a failure?
“You just have to take more words,” said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the political-advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood.
Abortion is a very serious subject that deserves careful consideration. Those who are really, truly, looking out for women should be able to have a transparent, open and honest conversation. They should say what they mean and mean what they say. The words used, the script, should be real and honest – not limited to what a public relations firm considers in vogue.
Early feminists didn’t shy away from controversial topics, hiding their true intent in pretty language. They said “vote” not “pro-political expression rights.” They said “equal pay” not “pro-financial compensation rights.” Yet, there are some in the modern manifestation of the movement who feel the need to mask “abortion” behind platitudes like “pro-women’s health,” “pro-financial security,” or my personal favorite, “pro-whatever-the-situation-is.”
To quote Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, “You know you’re losing when you try to change the subject.”
That’s why the “pro-choice” label should be dropped.
If you, like Wasserman Schultz and NARAL, mean “abortion” rather than “choice,” then say so.
If abortion is such a wonderful thing, a necessary right for women like voting and equal pay, then why are you afraid to use the word?
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