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Being Pro-Choice is About Much More Than Just the Right to Abortion Care

12:19 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

With the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, the words “pro-choice” seem to be everywhere. You’ll hear them in impassioned speeches, and see them on colorful posters, on blogs and in tweets.  And when you do, you’ll probably think of abortion.

That’s understandable. And undeniably, the right to choose an abortion is something that must be protected.  A woman chooses abortion for the most intimate, personal reasons, and no one else is qualified to make that choice.

But abortion is far from the only choice a woman makes about her reproductive health. And if you really think about it, why wait to defend those reproductive health choices until she is at the door of an abortion clinic?

True freedom of choice — about sex, and if and when to have children — starts way before then. A woman’s ability to choose the family she wants often depends on her economic status, her knowledge, and her access to health services, including contraception.  It also depends on where she lives; services varies greatly from state to state and country to country

And in every state and country, politicians are at the center of the decisions about women’s reproductive choices.  Last year, conservative forces in Congress and many state legislatures proposed, and in some cases passed, laws that restricted women’s access to vital reproductive health services. Some politicians even talked of banning birth control. And the assault wasn’t limited to within our borders. Proposed cuts to international family planning funding and an attempt to reinstate the Global Gag Rule threatened to further limit the choices of women in developing countries. 

Already, 215 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to or information about modern contraception. Some women can’t get accurate information, and don’t use contraception because of myths about side effects or infertility. Others travel long distances to the nearest health clinic, only to find the contraceptives they need are out of stock.

There are child brides who go on to become teen moms, many against their own wishes. There are 53 million unintended pregnancies and 251,000 maternal deaths each year that could be prevented if we met women’s needs for family planning and maternal health services.

Having better choices in any of these scenarios could make a profound difference in a woman’s life. And that’s something to get passionate about too. So as we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let’s understand “pro-choice” with its intended, more holistic meaning, and fight for the full range of reproductive choices for all women.

Let’s be “pro” not just about abortion, but also about:

  • The choice to get accurate, comprehensive information about contraception.
  • The choice to marry or be single; and to have sex only when ready.
  • The choice to delay childbearing, space births, and decide when to stop having kids.
  • The choice of health clinics with competent professionals, that don’t take hours or days to get to.
  • The choice of birth control pills and IUDs and condoms and other contraceptive methods.

It may not be the stuff of buttons and posters, but it’s the stuff of everyday life.

Mary’s Choice: What the Annunciation Story Tells Us About Moral Agency

12:45 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

In my twenty-five years of ministry I have often been challenged about my pro-choice theological position. It happens during the Advent season especially, when those who oppose my position exclaim in loud and sometimes threatening tones, “What would have happened if Mary had had an abortion!”

I am always stunned by such a remark, of course. How did that person get from the Advent story of the Annunciation to abortion?

The Annunciation story, and for that matter, the remarkable story of God becoming human, says nothing about abortion. But it does say something about choice, and perhaps that is why it is a lightning rod text for those who seek to deny women the right to choose a safe and legal abortion.

The season of Advent is, for Christians worldwide, the time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. The Annunciation story is found in the Christian New Testament’s Gospel according to Luke. One of the two gospels to tell the birth narrative of Jesus, Luke’s Gospel includes the story of two women facing unplanned pregnancies. The story of the Annunciation begins with the angel Gabriel and a young girl whose name is Mary.

Mary is seen in her room, reading Torah perhaps, or a book of prayers, when suddenly an angel of God appears before her. We like to imagine Mary this way because we see in her the ideal candidate for the role she is about to play.

The angel is in dazzling clothes, a sight to behold. “Greetings, favored one,” we hear Gabriel announce. Mary, not surprisingly, is perplexed by his words and wonders what might be happening.

“Don’t be afraid,” the angel continues. “You have found favor with God.” But what kind of favor is in store for Mary? The story goes on to tell us that the angel pronounces that Mary will conceive and bear a son, who will be named Jesus.

A pro-choice reading makes one thing very clear. Mary, the young woman who has just received a visit from an angel, is blessed by God with the ability to make a choice. Mary is a young woman charged by the holy with her own moral agency, a woman able to reflect on her life and on the world around her. Read the rest of this entry →

UN Human Rights Council Resolution: Maternal Death, Illness Are Human Rights Violations

11:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

In 1988, I stayed for a week with a married couple, both physicians, who ran what was then recognized as one of the best rural clinics in the state of Maharashtra, India. Even so, they could not work miracles in a setting in which reaching the clinic itself represented a problem. While there, one woman died of haemorrhage due to the combination of a complicated labor and delivery and her inability to get to the clinic in time to be saved. Another was dying of metastatic breast cancer, which had gone undiagnosed for months during her fourth pregnancy.

A couple of years later, attending a maternal mortality conference in Zimbabwe, I visited with a doctor who spoke about the number of women he’d watched die due to infection, haemorrhage and complications of unsafe abortion. While I had long worked from a policy perspective on and had passion for these issues, seeing them close-hand had a profound effect on me. I could not fathom why we were not doing more to address these problems…..except of course for Read the rest of this entry →

McCain Repeats Debunked ‘Born Alive’ Attacks in Debate

9:05 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

In the final presidential debate, Senator John McCain repeated long debunked lies about Sen. Barack Obama’s record on the Illinois Born Alive Protection Act, lies that heve been repreated and promoted since Alan Keyes lost to Obama in the US Seante race in 2004. This full frontal effort may appeal to the extreme far-right of his base, but it was a dial test loser on CNN. Americans are fed up with the far-right’s Culture War. The CBS insta-poll shows Obama winning the debate 53 percent to 22 percent with 24 percent saying is was a draw.

The extreme fringe of anti-choice community has been pushing this attack for months, in television and radio ads from 527s and special interest lobbyists like the National Right to Life Committee.

The coordinated efforts are suggest that in voting against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act Senator Barack Obama is "responsible for killing a bill to provide care and protection for babies who are born alive after abortions" and that "he later misrepresented the bill’s content." NRLC has filed a request for an advisory opinion from the FEC as to whether the ad falls within FEC guidelines, TPM reported.

The anti-choice movement says it needs Read the rest of this entry →