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Why the Pro-Choice Movement Needs to Talk About Children

12:46 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Sarah Erdreich’s book Generation Roe

I was recently reminded of the old pro-choice slogan, “Every Child a Wanted Child.” Along with my personal favorite slogan, “Pro-Child, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice,” this decades-old mantra succinctly sums up a powerful pro-choice argument: that supporting reproductive rights is also supporting families, children, and choice.

Yet in large part, the mainstream pro-choice movement seems to have moved away from this focus on the family in favor of concentrating on the arenas of courtrooms and state houses. While the urgency of fighting increasingly severe challenges to abortion care is hard to understate, this shift in attention, messaging, and resources means that the anti-choice movement has been able to make the idea of family, specifically unborn children, central to its emotional power and success. As a result, the pro-choice movement has been left open to charges that it is anti-child and anti-family.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Look at the name of the best-known pro-choice organization—Planned Parenthood. In these words is embedded the very idea of healthy families and children: the idea that people can and should plan their families. Being deliberate and thoughtful about when to have children ensures that every parent is as prepared as possible for the responsibility of raising a child. This is a message that any compassionate person would respond to.

Talking about family planning also places abortion care firmly on a larger continuum, along with contraception, access to good prenatal care, and the right of any woman to have a child. This also allows abortion to be correctly discussed as one part of the larger issue of reproductive rights and justice, rather than as an exotic medical procedure deserving of judgment and stigma.

The majority of women who have abortions are mothers. Millions of women and men have been able to plan their families through access to contraception. There are hundreds of thousands of women like myself, whose own experiences with pregnancy and parenting have made them more pro-choice than they were before they had children.

Our stories and experiences stand as a visceral rebuttal to the anti-choice movement’s desired narrative, which is that every pregnancy should be continued and no one should have a choice after a certain, arbitrary point in gestation.

How to change the national discussion is a big question with many valid answers. For my part, I’d like to see organizations and individual activists alike engage with the idea of respecting the desire of many people to have children while at the same time fiercely advocating for reproductive rights. More tangibly, I would love to see even one of the mainstream pro-choice groups launch a campaign of collecting and highlighting the stories of pro-choice parents—mothers and fathers—that directly affirm the idea of being both pro-choice and pro-family.

Until then, it’s once again on us in the grassroots and online community to be the innovators. And no, I don’t mean that I’m going to start scouring Etsy for tasteful abortion-themed toddler clothing. As I learned through dozens of interviews for my book on the future of the pro-choice movement, one of the most effective ways to increase support for reproductive rights is by doing so one conversation at a time. Emphasizing the pro-family roots and goals of abortion activism is an excellent way to keep these conversations open. If the conversation isn’t so much about abortion per se, but rather abortion’s role in protecting the rights of each family, it can avoid the feeling of discussing a “third rail” and perhaps illustrate that ever-elusive common ground. I’ve lost track of how many times even my most conservative friends have told me that they’re having X number of children, no more. And the next time they do, they’ll be sure to get a gentle, friendly reminder that they can thank the countless pro-choice Americans who are defending their right to make those plans. Read the rest of this entry →

STOKING FIRE: Increase in Legal Abortions in South Africa Galvanizes Anti-Choicers

9:33 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

South African woman

American right-wing groups support a war on women in South Africa.

Eighteen years ago, people everywhere cheered as apartheid fell. But despite the collapse of the despised regime, conditions in South Africa remain bleak and large segments of the population continue to live in abject poverty, with little access to healthcare or schooling

According to The Lancet, under ANC rule life expectancy for both men and women has plummeted to age 60. HIV/AIDS is at epidemic levels, with 5.5 million of the country’s 50 million residents living with the virus. In addition, the injury death rate, 157.8 per 100,000, is twice the global average. What’s more, each year 23,000 newborns die within the first four weeks of life and an additional 23,000 births are stillborn. Other health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney disease, and mental illness are also on the rise. And then there’s domestic violence. The Lancet highlights the fact that the nation’s female homicide rate is six times the world average, with 50 percent of victims killed by partners with whom they’d once been intimate.

Abortion, however, has been legal since 1997. Although 14 African nations presently outlaw the procedure, South Africa — along with Cape Verde, Tunisia, and Zambia — has liberalized its law to allow women to terminate unwanted pregnancies — for any reason during the first trimester and in specific circumstances later on.

Aaron Motsoaledi, the country’s health minister, reported that 77,771 legal abortions were performed in 2011, a 31 percent increase over 2010. This statistic has rattled South Africa’s growing anti-abortion movement, sending it into a frenzy of activity to roll back the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act passed 16 years ago.

Not surprisingly, this pleases the U.S. antiabortion movement and they’ve primed their African allies to organize Life Chains, rallies, marches and picket lines in front of the clinics and hospitals that offer abortion care. But that’s not all. Heartbeat International,  a 41-year-old anti-abortion group that is headquartered in Ohio, is one of several groups that have assisted the troops in establishing a network of nearly 100 Crisis Pregnancy Centers throughout the country. Their ethos? Opposing not only abortion, but contraception, too. According to Heartbeat International’s website, their mission is to “promote God’s plan for our sexuality: Marriage between one man and one woman, sexual intimacy, children, unconditional/unselfish love, and a relationship with God.” Consider them cookie-cutter replicas of their U.S. counterparts — luring women into mock health centers through offers of no-cost pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling.

Read the rest of this entry →

Three Strategies for Promoting Women’s Right to Safe Abortion Care

11:55 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


Written by On The Issues Magazine for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. Originally written by Ayesha Chatterjee and Judy Norsigian for On The Issues Magazine.

As current staff members at Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS), an organization that has advanced the health and human rights of women and girls over four decades, and longtime reproductive justice activists, we continue to hope that safe and affordable abortion care will, someday, become a reality for everyone. With increasing attacks and restrictions on abortion access worldwide, we have our work cut out.

Here, in the U.S., the debate around abortion has become especially polarized. Right-wing and anti-choice groups bombard young people with messages that stereotype and stigmatize those seeking abortion services — both individuals and entire communities. Think: billboards have popped up around the country equating abortion to the genocide of African-American children, who are further described as an “endangered species.” These — and other — oversimplified messages mock a personal and often complex decision, not to mention the right to a constitutionally-protected and medically- safe procedure. They influence how people, especially young people, articulate and align themselves on abortion. They drive our activism — our tireless commitment to alliances across aisles and opinions, and to conversations that move beyond “pro-life” and “pro-choice” rhetoric to focus on the individual, her needs, rights and circumstances.

Engaging, mobilizing and building alliances on an issue like abortion can be an uphill climb. But as 2012 rolls in, we want to take a few minutes to remind you about why it is important and suggest a few ways you can go about this challenge. Read the rest of this entry →

The Newsweek Article: Reflections by a Young Prochoice Activist

7:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Elise Higgins for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

My name is Elise, and I’m a pro-choice activist from Kansas. I have never-ending gratitude for those who have devoted their lives to reproductive rights. At the same time, I have some serious problems with comments made that disparage my generation’s involvement in the pro-choice movement.

For the last four years I’ve grown as an activist, surrounded myself with other activists and helped to train new activists at my school. I’ve pretty much devoted my college career to making a ruckus for reproductive justice. So imagine my surprise when I read Newsweek’s piece “Remember Roe! How can the next generation defend abortion rights when they don’t think abortion rights need defending?”

My peers and I are full-time feminists. We’re planting pro-choice gardens at the University of Northern Kentucky and throwing Sextivals at the University of Kansas. We’re working with organizations like Choice USA that lift up the voices of young people. We’re volunteering for local, statewide and national organizations. And we’re blowing up the Internet with the tools and information to create change. There are thousands of us working hard for the movement every day. How disappointing to find that those in positions that we will surely take someday doubt our passion.

We are more passionate than you can imagine. We know that the right to an abortion alone is meaningless without contraception, sex education and freedom from sexual assault and domestic violence. We’re expanding our understanding of “choice” and talking about all the ways that race, gender identity, class and sexual orientation impact reproduction, AND we’re doing it all while performing underpaid or unpaid labor that sustains giant, national pro-choice organizations.

Some say that millennials don’t view abortion as imperiled or in need of defense. I beg to differ with this massive generalization. Do I think we need to be defensive about our abortion rights? No. I think we need to launch some offense. From the Hyde Amendment to the Nelson Amendment, universal rights to safe abortions have eroded since Roe, and no one knows that better than young people. We are on the front lines; we’re victims of policies that marginalize poor people, queer people, people of color and people with disabilities. We’re more than aware that abortion rights are imperiled. We live that reality every day.

Meanwhile, about the moral complexity some claim that advocates haven’t quite grasped: I have never heard a pro-choice activist tell me that the decision to make an abortion is an easy one. In fact, from the beginning of my involvement in the pro-choice movement, great pains have been taken to demonstrate to me what a complex, difficult decision abortion is. I have been inside a clinic and heard the stories of women who have chosen abortion. Those experiences have only solidified my conviction that we must listen to Dr. Tiller’s words: Trust Women. No one understands the complexity of a reproductive decision better than the person making it.

One of my favorite things about the feminist movement in general and the pro-choice movement in particular is our tendency toward self-reflection. Self-reflection is only effective, though, when you listen to dissenting voices and not just your own. So take heed: Youth are advocating for choice, and the pro-choice movement must do better by us. Leaders in the movement need to acknowledge our contributions, and work to make us the movement’s next leaders.