The importance of being visibly pro-choice

In the U.S., I think it’s fair to say that the abortion debate, whatever else it is, is first and foremost a legal debate. That is, it is a debate about whether or not aborting a pregnancy (“killing an unborn child”–pick your terminology of choice) should be legal or illegal, and/or under what circumstances. It is possible to regard the abortion question from a moral point of view and to judge that, for example, abortion is probably morally wrong (say) but should still be legal. I know some people who believe this (more or less). I understand that that stance makes it hard for a person to call herself “pro-choice”. But if a person believes abortion should be legal, in our contemporary context, I think it’s absolutely imperative for that person to self-identify, out loud and in public, as “pro-choice”. Here’s why.

(1) Just a few decades ago, massive strides were made towards making abortion safe, legal, and widely available. And yet we are, at present, making massive strides in the opposite direction. So if you think abortion should be legal, even if you personally don’t like it, even if you personally would never have one, or whatever, even if you think it’s wrong, your (legal) stance is currently being defeated. You need to fight back.

(2) Pro-lifers have been excellent at organizing themselves. They are loud and visible. They have succeeded in making people uncomfortable talking about abortion in neutral or positive terms. They have inundated our cultural meme pool with their framing of the abortion question (which emphasizes the fetus above all else, so that the woman who is pregnant somehow disappears, or appears only contingently related to that fetus [or zygote/blastocyst/embryo/whatever]). Pro-choicers have become invisible.

(3) As a result of the invisibility and stigma associated with being pro-choice, the excellent (winning, I’d say) arguments of the pro-choice position have become invisible as well. Most pro-lifers do not know why a reasonable person might think abortion should be safe, legal, and widely available. But in fact pro-choicers have two excellent lines of reasoning for their position. The first emphasizes the difficulties (economic, physical, emotional) of unwanted pregnancy; the second emphasizes the biological facts about developing human beings in utero.

In brief then, however else you think or feel about the question(s) of abortion, if you think abortions should be legal–that is, if you think pregnant women should, legally speaking, be free to choose whether or not to carry on with their pregnancy or to abort–then you are pro-choice, and the rest of us (and all potentially pregnant women across the country) need you to speak up.

Pro-choice and proud.