I recently read an interesting entry in the pro-life vs. anti-choice semantics debate from an author who identifies specifically as pro-abortion. I highly encourage you to read it, but for those who are too lazy, the brief synopsis is that she argues that pro-choice is a euphemism, and that by using euphemisms, we suggest that abortion is something wrong, shameful, or tragic. She points out that abortion is the the “subject which dare not speak its name,” and that we should use terminology which reflects the nature of the debate.
In doing so, the author inadvertently falls into the trap of assuming that the debate is about abortion. It’s intriguing to see someone opposed to the “pro-life” position taking their bait, which is designed to distract people by creating a polarizing focus. The author stops just short of realizing what the debate is really about, even though she explicitly states it, when she says:
It’s not about the notion of choice philosophically or in all arenas of life – it’s about choice with regards to abortion and other reproductive rights. It’s not about the idea of life – it’s about the life of a parasitic fetus. This debate is about abortion and reproductive rights.
In fact, her pro-abortion position puts the debate squarely into the discussion about abortion, and takes attention away from reproductive rights, which is exactly what the right wants to see happening. It’s much easier to argue an anti-abortion position than it is to argue an anti-choice position, because one is about whether or not a fetus has a right to life, and the other is about whether or not women have control over their own bodies.
Being pro-choice is about supporting full reproductive rights and control over family planning. Family planning is about empowering women to choose the timing and spacing of their children, in addition to choosing whether or not they want to have children. A variety of means can be used in family planning, including abortion, but overall, the goal is to promote total reproductive freedom and control over your body. As someone who is pro-choice, I support the choice to abort, I support the choice to take birth control, I support the choice to use condoms, I support the choice to have a wanted child, I support the choice to adopt.
By identifying as pro-abortion, the author of this piece sadly marginalized the core of the debate, which is not about abortion, but about whether or not women should exercise autonomy over their bodies. Abortion creates a convenient front for the anti-choice movement because it can be used in emotional appeals, but not many people want to openly admit that they are fighting women’s rights as a whole. One of the commenters pointed out that a better phrasing might be a pro/anti-reproductive rights dichotomy, which really does sum up the issue very well, and is perhaps better than pro/anti-choice.
The anti-choice movement isn’t about putting a stop to abortion. It’s about trying to restrict funding for all women’s health services, including family planning services and routine gynecological exams. It’s promoting abstinence-only education, instead of comprehensive sex ed which provides teen girls with valuable information which they can use to make choices about their sexuality. It’s about making birth control harder to access and preventing the American government from providing funding for sex education and family planning services in developing nations. Let me say it again, as I have said a thousand times: It’s not about abortion.
Abortion is the poster child of the anti-choice movement, sure, but simplifying it to “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion” totally ignores the crux of this debate, which is this: are women capable of controlling their own bodies? Should they be allowed to do so?