Widgets Magazine


The rhetoric of abortion: Not pro-choice anymore

So these nine white guys walk into a room… and out comes the decision that a woman’s choice to have an abortion is protected under the 14th Amendment.

This seems to me one of the least likely results of putting nine dudes in a room for a few hours – in history. There’s that whole historical patriarchy thing, and then there’s the recently resurgent breed of crazy in US politics – the one that denies the importance of birth control or a woman’s right to manage her own reproductive health.

Considering the recent history of conservative male politicians discussing “legitimate rape,” and how the female body has ways to “shut that whole thing down,” it’s amazing to think that nine male judges in 1973 determined that yes, women should have the right to choose a safe and legal abortion.

But of course it’s not that simple. Nothing is. And even as Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is consistently being attacked by opposing legislative forces.

Essentially, the anti-abortion agenda consists of making abortions more and more difficult to obtain until no one can reasonably obtain one. Since local politicians can regulate abortion legislation in their region, barriers to safe and legal abortion have been applied in more conservative counties first. Despite Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion beliefs can effectively scale back the rights of women.

Most often these beliefs are packaged and delivered to the public as “pro-life,” and while that stance spouts from a genuine belief, it seems a tangential discussion to the “pro-choice” opposition; the traditional labels for both sides do not necessarily involve them in a discussion with each other.

In my mind, the implied exchange goes something like this:

Person A: “I fight for life!”

Person B: “Oh yeah, well, I fight for choice!”

Person C: “Cool story, bros.”

Thus has the semantic dance of the abortion debate evolved.

While the binary opposition in this battle has historically been pro-life versus pro-choice, Planned Parenthood recently announced that it would stop using the label “pro-choice,” explaining that the term reinforces binary opposition instead of respecting a larger spectrum of beliefs in the abortion debate.

Rather than continuing to organize around the term “pro-choice,” Planned Parenthood hopes to expand the narrative spectrum of the unique circumstances women face. Rhetorical phrasing has shifted to the phrase “reproductive justice,” respecting that women should have this right, but that different women face different choices. One critique of “pro-choice,” summed up by Tracy Weitz, seems particularly important:

“Pro-choice is a label that connects most directly to the situation of middle- and upper-class women. Childbearing is an obligation for white women, thus abortion is the alternative choice. However, for women of color, whose reproduction has been controlled across time, abortion is not the only right for which women need to fight. Rather women need to be able to have a child, not have a child, and parent the children they have.”

Expanding the narrow term “pro-choice” to the broader label of “reproductive justice” respects the multitude of women who may ultimately face the choice of abortion, and heeds the importance of direct causes such as lack of access to contraception as well as larger systemic issues.

Meanwhile, a physical form of abortion debate played out in White Plaza on Tuesday. Stanford Students for Life set up a mock graveyard to represent the abortions of unborn fetuses, while Students for Reproductive Justice had an information table and a fundraiser benefiting a New Orleans abortion clinic. Our campus also had a special guest in the fundamentalist zealot on Dinkelspiel steps, who rattled off the greatest hits of ultra-conservatism to mourn Roe v. Wade..

And though he showed up on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, decrying the same decision Stanford Students for Life did, I know the physical distance between them represented the deeper chasm of his crazy hate, which they would not support.

But even respecting their intellect, I can never understand the mock graveyard. As a Catholic high school graduate, I’m accustomed to the appearance of similar rows of crosses every Roe v. Wade anniversary, and I am always disturbed. Not disturbed that women had the right to choose to end a pregnancy for any number of reasons, but disturbed at the graves as uniformly representative figures, as if the decision to have an abortion is one type of decision for one type of woman.

Women are black and brown and white and wealthy and poor and capable of making decisions. The fight for reproductive justice aims to ensure that all are equally equipped with the resources to do so.

Contact Annie at aegraham@stanford.edu

About Annie Graham

Annie Graham is a junior from Phoenix, Arizona majoring in English. She is a member of the women’s club soccer team, a founding member of Stanford Athletes and Allies Together, a farming SPOT leader, and she tries to call her grandparents often.
  • pol_incorrect

    You cannot get more liberal than this http://www.salon.com/2013/01/23/so_what_if_abortion_ends_life/ and yet,

    ” I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of
    “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant
    over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of
    “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their
    abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that
    how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that
    it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t
    the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as
    human life only if they’re intended to be born.

    When we try to act
    like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid
    semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second
    trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if
    there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you
    human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the
    womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than
    when you can suck on your thumb?”

    “It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina.”

    The author is pro abortion, but at least approaches the question from an honest point of view. I find it repulsive that the destiny of a human life lies in “a woman’s right to choose”. She tries to justify that “right” by appealing to other instances in which life/death decisions are made: penal system, car accidents or terminally ill patients. However, in each of those instances either the person being killed did something criminal (like those sent to the death row) or the death was justified for exceptional circumstances, circumstances that are legally accepted based on strict standards. None of that applies to “a woman’s right to choose” as understood by the free lunch abortion crowd. So it seems to me that the author is really defending “a woman’s right to kill its own babies”. In that regard, her argument is no different from Peter Singer’s who advocates the right of parents to kill their own young babies (say up to a few weeks old).

  • Thurgood Marshall

    8 white guys and 1 black guy*

  • Annie

    You’re very right, thank you- yes, his name was Thurgood Marshall. And William Rehnquist and Byron White dissented.

  • A Reproductive Tyrant

    “Rather women need to be able to have a child, not have a child, and parent the children they have.”

    Hmm I think they have these “choices” whether abortion is legal and encouraged or not (unless we subscribe to the belief all the sudden that women do not have any consciousness or self control). I cannot help but notice that the most important debate–whether or not, and when, it is a human life that is being terminated–is not mentioned in this article. Of course, that’s to be expected, but it’s still disappointing.

    Putting a bunch of white dudes in a room has resulted in all kinds of interesting things these last several hundred years. Those poor dudes…they’ll never know the joy of pregnancy and maternity. Where is reproductive justice for them!?!?

  • ScethStXellus

    A notable advantage conferred by the term “Reproductive Justice” is that it accommodates the formal male abortion as well.

  • Anonymous

    I consider myself pro life, because the Constitution guarantees the right to life, and life begins at conception. However, I realize from my Libertarian viewpoint that simply banning abortions right away wouldn’t stop them and would make them more dangerous. Thus, I think we have to devote our resources, science, and technology to making abortions as rare as possible. We can do this by teaching kids from an early age about using birth control. Also, we should encourage sexually active people to test for pregnancy if they accidentally have unprotected sex, and also use the morning after pill if needed (it actually works for like a week)

    Only after the rate of abortion plummets significantly can we overturn Roe v. Wade. However, I would still be in favor of allowing abortions in limited circumstances: life of the mother, rape, and incest.

    I honestly don’t see the need for abortions if people simply had protected sex and if they accidentally had unprotected sex, they used a pregnancy test and the morning after pill.

    Abortion is immoral, gross, expensive, and unnecessary in the vast majority of circumstances. Instead of arguing over pro-life pro-choice, we should focus on the real problem: getting Americans to stop being so freaking stupid!

    Use a condom!

  • sigh

    “I honestly don’t see the need for abortions if people simply had
    protected sex and if they accidentally had unprotected sex, they used a
    pregnancy test and the morning after pill. Abortion is immoral, gross, expensive, and unnecessary in the vast majority of circumstances.”
    I’m not sure if you can hear me shouting this at you waaaaaaaaay up there in your ivory tower, but real life is not that simple. Check your privilege.

  • sigh

    >I find it repulsive that the destiny of a human life lies in “a woman’s right to choose”.

    Almost as repulsive as the destiny of women’s lives around the globe being dependent on “a man’s stolen right to make all her decisions for her.”

  • pol_incorrect

    I think we will agree that except in the case of an abortion (where there is a criminal component involved), women have the choice of saying no to sex.So that’s their choice, just don’t have sex or use contraceptives. After conception happens though, the game should be a complete different one. And I am happy that more and more liberal voices are reaching the same obvious conclusion that we the prolife crowd reached many decades ago. After conception happens, we have a human life. We can enter into a debate of whether women should have a right to kill that life, and I am happy to engage is said debate. But at the same time, we should agree that there are implications such as the moms right to infanticide of young babies as defended by Peter Singer.

  • Anonymous

    if you cant have a sex responsibly and deal with the circumstances, you probably shouldn’t be doing it….abortion should not be used as contraception. It really shouldn’t get that far, and there’s no reason to let it if you use protection. The problem is that American youth, especially those from bad backgrounds, aren’t taught about responsible sex. This needs to change.

  • Muie Zog

    it’s easy to speak for those already born…..

  • Annie
  • Z

    Check your privilege–what a stupid response. Privilege, that has become you Commies newest catch all when you have no argument.

  • kev

    as usual you completely gloss over the main point that your “choice” is actually killing a human being. that’s what the graveyard thing is all about! strange how you can write an abortion article without even debating that point. that’s the only point.

  • kev

    morning after pill is an abortificant in many cases. so it’s no magic pill. but still, good comment.

  • kev

    you were disturbed that the graves were “uniformly representative figures”? really? you didn’t get that they were markers for killed babies? ding ding? abortion isn’t about women! why can’t you see that? it’s about something more important than your precious equality and women’s rights and your conveniences. babies lives trump your princess conveniences. and why should anyone care what planned parenthood labels these atrocities as? that despicable group is still trying to execute the plan of it’s founder MArgaret Sanger who wanted poor and blacks exterminated from the country. she was a racist eugenicist who was a fan of hitler. have you ever read her quotes? she damns herself with her own words. open your eyes princess noresponsibility. its not about your equality or God given reproductive rights. its about a baby. a life. human life. so much more important than your ill perceived rights.

  • bubbawithab

    How do you feel about feminicide, the act of aborting a fetus solely because it is female?
    Please be coherent.