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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Pro-choice

Or take “the right to choose.” I hate the term. I much prefer “reproductive rights” or the honest “abortion rights.” Hey, why are we do afraid of saying the word abortion? Do we think there’s anything wrong with it? 

“The right to choose” is dumb because I don’t see anything particularly good or important in choices. Dumb choices are made all the time. People chose to vote for Trump, didn’t they?

The rhetoric of choice obscures the fact that choices are not made in a vacuum. If a woman doesn’t really want to abort but still seeks an abortion because she’s poor and desperate / doesn’t have access to healthcare / is afraid of losing her job or her living arrangement / knows she won’t have childcare, etc, what kind of a “choice” is it? We hide from our collective responsibility for her hopelessness behind the neoliberal rhetoric of choice. 

I want to live in a society where everybody has healthcare and nobody suffers from poverty that forces them into unwanted choices of this nature. I want prenatal and neonatal care for everybody. I’m very eager to pay higher taxes to achieve this goal. Let’s make this happen and then talk about choices. But until then, let’s leave the rhetoric of choice aside. 

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9 thoughts on “Pro-choice

  1. Yes, this was invented decades ago to defend against the idea that abortion rights meant forced abortions, or preference for abortions, and to emphasize the idea that it was the mother’s and not someone else’s decision. And it was considered to be palatable, and I suppose you could have called it a code word. You weren’t electable if you used terms like abortion rights and reproductive freedom, so yes, people were afraid to say the word abortion (I am not sure whether it would have even been allowed on tv in the 60s, you know?). This was before the neoliberal rhetoric that came in in the late 70s and before the use of the word revolutionary to describe a new detergent, so current contexts are different.

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    • Thank you, this explains a lot.

      I say, let’s reclaim the word abortion. There’s nothing wrong with the word or the concept. It’s not like hiding from it helped Hillary get elected, so why keep pretending?

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      • The other thing, perhaps, is that abortions were more de rigueur back then because you simply could not have a child out of wedlock. You could not expect to have daycare or work, and you would be facing exile from family. So realistically it was, join a maternity home where you’d be mistreated, the child would be taken from you at birth and given in adoption to who-knows-who and you ejected after having already lost the chance at an education, or have an abortion (if you wanted to finish school, for instance, or get married, or do anything). When I was in my 30s, I had a student who had had a child in high school and her parents had not thrown her out, but were helping her, and she still got to go to college. It was the first case of this I had met, and it seemed so kind — she hadn’t been forced, I felt. Just the idea of not having been marched off to a clinic, the decision made for one with threats over one’s head, seemed so incredibly kind. That’s how used I was to the idea that maternity was a disaster (also, you’d never be able to get married if you had a child), that abortion was a requirement, and that there would be no choice about it. And abortions weren’t legal (they became legal my senior year of high school, but it took a while for that to seem normal), so they were expensive, risky, and hard to arrange. Yet if you got pregnant, they were basically required, there was no escaping them.

        These situations took place in a context in which it was incredibly shameful to have a child out of wedlock and there were no resources. Of course an abortion is the best idea in many cases, but where maternity is so stigmatized that it must be hidden by abortion, then abortion feels repressive as well.

        All of these things were why choice was a good word insofar as it emphasized the element of choice (i.e. that one did not feel it should be the only option). At this point, though, “abortion rights” — the more accurate term in the first place — would work a lot better.

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        • You know, it’s interesting that I was raised in this way, too. A different continent and a different time, yet so similar. Soviet women had abortion as the only kind of contraception, and there was no escaping them. Plus, they were done in the most barbaric way ever.

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          • Recently I figured out that these sentences in letters by Western European poets “le han operado a mi mujer” are also allusions to [illegal and barbarically done] abortions for people with no or faulty birth control.

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  2. Dreidel on said:

    The terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are equally silly — each casts dispersion on the other viewpoint, implying that opponents are “anti-choice” or “anti-life.”

    Fanatics on both sides of the abortion issue always refuse to acknowledge the other side’s basic position. Adamant pro-abortion feminists never mention the other side’s belief that abortion kills a human being, and adamant anti-abortion people never acknowledge that another human life (that of the pregnant woman) is at least as important as the welfare of the fetus.

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  3. Shakti on said:

    You know, practically speaking, I shouldn’t care very much either way. But it insults my dignity as a human being to have so much oxygen in politics taken up by what I do or don’t do with my reproductive organs.

    The responsibility is all mine but every goddamned asshole on the planet wants a veto.

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