Despite the fact that abortion has been legal everywhere in the United States for the last 40 years, many Americans remain uncomfortable with the categories “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” At least that’s according to newly released data from Planned Parenthood. The evidence is so overwhelming that the women’s health group has decided to move away from “pro-choice” as it moves forward advocating on behalf of women’s health care.
Sample responses to Planned Parenthood focus groups include things like “I’m neither pro-choice nor pro-life,”and “I’m pro-whatever-the-situation is” which has been interpreted to mean people appear soft on choice. The problem, of course, is that those who see themselves as “pro-whatever-the-situation is” are pro-choice because only “choice” supports the notion that a woman has the ability to take more than one course of action. You know, CHOICE. Rather than run away from the label, isn’t it Planned Parenthood’s job to explain what that labels means?
Yes. But moving away from “pro-choice” doesn’t necessarily mean Planned Parenthood can’t use this information as a way to drive home the point that “pro-life” as a label is completely meaningless. “Pro-life” policies are not the same as “forced birth” policies, and the current anti-abortion movement is a forced birth movement.
To the same measure, much of the pro-choice movement has been apologetic about abortion, leading with stories of rape victims, women facing life-threatening conditions and non-viable pregnancies to make the case for keeping abortion legal. And while those are certainly compelling stories, no woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that is unwanted, for whatever the reason. Instead of “safe, legal and rare” pro-choice should mean “as many abortions as necessary for the women who need them.”
Hopefully Planned Parenthood moving away from the label “pro-choice” doesn’t mean abortion rights activists have ceded ground on this fundamental point — that choice is judgment-free for women, where “pro-life” is not.
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