May 14, 2015
Two weeks ago I wrote a letter about empathy because of some upsetting threads I read on Facebook. You can read that letter here. Before and after I wrote the letter, arguments ensued on both sides of the pro-life, pro-choice debate. After my initial engagement in one discussion, I bowed out realizing I would not convince someone I should have the rights to my own body when he believed the government should have that right. Besides, my goal at that point was to encourage people to stop casting stones and start looking at the issues.
As others continued to discuss the topic, it became clear that many people- especially those in the pro-life camp, use the label pro-choice to mean pro-abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would venture a guess, and there are Gallup polls to back this up, most people who are pro-choice are anti-abortion. Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. It is about women having the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions. It’s advocating the belief that government should not legislate our bodies.
Pro-choice means you believe women should have access to affordable birth control. It means you believe age-appropriate reproductive education should be taught. It also means you believe the government should not legislate a woman’s body or impose laws that prohibit or impede a woman’s right to an abortion if she makes that choice. Pro-choice means you believe a woman should not be coerced into having an abortion or coerced into having the baby. It means you believe a woman, not the government, should choose her own future.
Pro-choice also does not mean one does not value life. Life, and when it begins, is a controversial topic. Some believe it begins at conception, some believe it’s when the fetus has brain waves, and others believe it’s when the fetus can survive outside the womb. If the medical world believes death occurs when there are no more brain waves, then should life begin when brain waves begin? If life begins at conception and needs the right environment to develop, does that mean fetuses that attach in the fallopian tubes aren’t people? The science community cannot authoritatively say when a person is a person without science getting in the way of their own religious bias. Pro-choice people value life just as much as pro-life people. We also value and respect people’s religious beliefs. We believe it is up to each individual to choose what is right for them.
Perhaps it’s the label itself that is an issue. Pro-choice infers a choice. What about women who don’t have a “real” choice. I can say you can choose whether to take the train to work or take a cab, but that choice implies you have a job. What if you don’t? Choosing how to get to it has no relevance. It’s not a real choice. One only has a choice if real options are available. A woman who does not have the resources, funding, or access to a facility that performs abortions, does not have a choice. Conversely, a woman who does not have the emotional or economic resources, or support system, may believe she doesn’t have a choice.
Whatever the label, it’s important people know what it means before they use it. Debating about controversial topics like abortion can have some positive outcomes, but only if everyone understands the labels in use. Next time you argue this topic, please make sure you understand what it means to be Pro-choice and realize we value life just as much as Pro-lifers. We also value the right to own our own bodies and refuse to give that away.
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