Pro-choice, pro-life, pro-voice?

On the left, there’s a great deal of internal conflict about how to handle abortion. Some of us favour abortion on demand and without apology, for any reason, in any context: I unilaterally support abortion and it is not appropriate for me to interrogate people who decide to pursue the procedure. The reason for an abortion doesn’t matter to me and people don’t need to justify their medical decisions. Others on the left seem to favour ‘legal, but…,’ agreeing squeamishly to some restrictions on abortion, whether this is a result of internal moral conflict or a desire to pander to the right and its insistent rejection of reproductive rights.

This is especially clear in the way people are instructed to talk about abortion. People aren’t supposed to express happiness about their abortions, or to take pride in the decision to abort, although they can talk about feeling relieved and how it was the right choice for them. They’re not supposed to express regret, even though a percentage of patients do in fact experience regret — often because of the circumstances of the abortion, and a sense of sadness about losing a wanted child or feeling circumstantially pressured by economics or other issues into not having a baby. They can talk about abortion being a ‘difficult choice,’ but they’re not really allowed to treat it as a routine medical procedure, because otherwise they’re being callous.

Even the left can’t turn abortion into a value-neutral procedure, which is theoretically the goal of ‘pro-voice’ advocates, who say that it’s critical to create an environment for talking about abortion that doesn’t judge patients. That idea is laudable — Exhale, a pioneer of the movement that offers post-abortion counseling, focuses on meeting patients where they are, wherever that may be, without comment. The goal is not to advance a particular agenda or to make people feel a particular way, but to create an environment to talk and process the feelings surrounding abortion.

Yet, this often underplays the fact that abortion isn’t just personal. It’s political. People who talk about their abortions are perforce entering into the public conversation about the procedure, even if they really just want to share their stories and reach out to other people who have gotten abortions, or to those who are thinking about it. Simply admitting to an abortion has become a charged act, especially in the case of those who have had multiple abortions. People are expected to justify the choice in some way — foetal abnormalities, not ready to have a baby, rape, incest, having a child would be too expensive. They also need to perform in the way the left wants them to, the way that will affirm a very narrow and specific reproductive rights narrative.

The left is aware that abortion is a tightrope in the United States, and protecting access to reproductive rights is not simple. Thus, it’s very, very reluctant to introduce context, intersections, and nuance to abortion conversations for fear of creating distractions — or openings for the right to attack. In so doing, however, the left is actually creating more gaping openings for conservatives to exploit, because it’s refusing to acknowledge that abortion is not one size fits all, and that’s perfectly reasonable. For some, it’s a routine medical procedure like having a tooth removed or getting a mole looked at. For others, it’s a choice carefully weighed and considered. For others, it’s a personal tragedy after a miscarriage or in response to a foetal diagnosis that means a baby won’t live long, if at all. There are lots of reasons to get abortions. All of them are valid, and all of them deserve to be discussed with equal respect.

Because otherwise, the left creates a culture of shame around the people who don’t fit this narrative. When you don’t see anyone telling your story or acknowledging your experience, it contributes to the sense that you had the ‘wrong kind’ of abortion. The right hates you for having one at all, and the left hates you because you don’t adhere to the rigid standards of acceptable abortions. That leaves people caught on a double edged sword for failing to comply, and it’s a painful position to be in, but the left is uninterested in exploring the subject.

To be ‘pro-choice’ is to dance around the idea that people should be able to make decisions about their own bodies. To be ‘pro-life’ is to believe that a foetus takes precedence over the living human being that hosts it. To be ‘pro-voice’ is evidently to present abortion without politics or context. To be ‘pro-abortion’ is to be defiant and part of a movement that dare not speak its name, but why not be positive about abortion? Why not be glad that it’s available to many, and focused on making sure it’s available to all? Being pro-abortion doesn’t mean gleefully expecting every patient to experience abortion in the same way, but it does underscore the fact that there is nothing wrong with abortion, and no one owes any apologies to anyone for deciding to terminate a pregnancy.

Image: Your Picture and Voice, Jeremy Brooks, Flickr