By: Michelle Nguyen
As a pro-choice advocate and organizer, I engage in many conversations with voters about pro-choice and reproductive health issues. These conversations can range from vociferous anti-choice opponents to emphatic pro-choice supporters. Most recently, a conversation with a voter touched on a debate that has troubled the reproductive rights movements for quite some time: to be or not to be pro-abortion?
In this conversation with the voter, she mentioned that no one wants to be pro-abortion because “abortion isn’t right.” However, she believed in being pro-choice because women should be able to make decisions about their own bodies. This narrative implicitly supports what anti-choice opponents have successfully espoused: abortion is murder. This is a problem for pro-choice supporters, and the movement, because we, the supposed gatekeepers to abortion access, are continuing the stigmatization of abortion procedures. We should be disengaging and pushing back on this false narrative that abortions are a morally unacceptable decision and instead, voice our support for abortion care as a medical care.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) agrees. In a statement on abortion policy, ACOG affirms, “Induced abortion is an essential component of women’s health care. Like all medical matters, decisions regarding abortion should be made by patients in consultation with their health care providers and without undue interference by outside parties” (Abortion Policy). They continue by offering support for sound and responsible medical care for women who choose abortion. Therefore, I believe, as reproductive health advocates and organizations, we should adopt this stance and support a pro-abortion message.
A pro-abortion position follows the framework of reproductive justice. According to SisterSong, the three tenets of reproductive justice are the right to bodily autonomy, the right to have children or not have children, and the right to raise children in safe and sustainable environments. To proclaim a pro-abortion status is to adhere to one of the tenets of reproductive justice: the right to not have children. This is essential for reproductive rights activists because it can further the movement forward. Pro-choice and its accompanying narratives have far too long aligned privilege with choice and dismiss critical government intervention to support families and communities. Choice also implies that one can make “good” and “bad” choices. Therefore, pro-choice narratives can suggest that abortion is a “bad” choice.
In a very divisive time for women and reproductive justice, being “pro-abortion” is inherently polarizing. However, it is necessary to discuss because I believe it can strengthen the movement. For too long, the communication campaigns of reproductive rights organizations have excluded both pro-choice and pro-abortion supporters because there is no singular message. It is not enough to announce your pro-choice stance and dismiss pro-abortion organizing because it continues to support the narrative of abortion that anti-choice opponents have successfully espoused in their messaging and campaigns. By engaging in conversations about this controversial topic, perhaps we can start to unite supporters and the movement under one message: abortion care is health care. The critical work of reproductive rights organizations should not only guarantee access to abortion but should also work to destigmatize the procedure.