Last week I opined about the future of the pro-choice movement in response to the announcement that the head of NARRAL, Nancy Keenan, was stepping down to make room for the next generation of pro-choicers. I said I would talk a little more about what the movement could do to energize the young folks who, according to some polls, are more pro-life than pro-choice.
To me, the first issue is where exactly are we? I mean, who is winning?
I’m not even sure how to answer that question because I don’t know how you judge. But I’ll give it a try.
To me, the first thing I’d look at is whether abortion is still safe and legal? After all, that is what we were hoping for when the Supreme Court was considering Roe v Wade, right? When the decision came down, we were very happy, although a few pro-choicers were apparently miffed that some restrictions were imposed by the court. Sure, today Roe v Wade is under siege, as it always will be. There are these “personhood” amendments, most of which have failed. But one might make it to the Court and if it got there soon, we’d win but only by a slim margin. Meanwhile, for the most part., women still have access to abortions. Sure, if you live in Montana, it might take a little more effort to get one but specialized medical care of any nature is probably difficult to access in such a rural state. No, the plain fact is that women can get abortions so in that regard we are “winning.”
Meanwhile, those fundraising letters that say the sky is falling refer to the incredible amount of activity taking place on the state level. The vaginal ultrasound bills, clinic regulations that are really let’s close the clinic bills, parental consent, etc. There’s a lot going on but because some of these things actually pass, does it mean we are losing? Not necessarily. Sure, it will only make it harder for some women to obtain abortions and make it more expensive. And we have to fight them with all the energy we can muster. But, in determining whether or not we are winning, I would say that a woman who needs an abortion in this country can still get one.
Once we’ve had that discussion, if I were there at the NARAL offices strategizing about how we can garner even more support for our position, particularly amongst the younger generation. And, as I’ve said in the past, is ditch the old, weathered and nonsensical “choice” mantra. What? Do you think most 21 year olds, men or women, know what “choice” even means? I’ll tell you this – my bank uses the phrase, suggesting that we have a “choice” in banks. I’ve seen it used elsewhere. The term has been co-opted and by using it over and over again, we lose sight of our main goal – to preserve safe and legal ABORTION.
Indeed, just recently I read about a fundraiser that NARAL is having on May 24 and it’s called the “Power of Choice” reception. Putting aside the verbiage for a second, the thing that got me was that the celebrities hosting the event are Sally Kellerman and Amy Madigan, among other octogenarians. Do you think anyone under 50 knows who Sally Kellerman is? This is not the way to pass the mantle on to the younger generation.
Meanwhile, the antis use the word abortion all the time and our silence or worse, our “choice” response, is killing us. It’s getting us nowhere. I’m sorry, it’s just not sexy enough – and that’s what you need to get people’s attention.
So, I’d ditch “choice.” Where I would go after that, well, I don’t have the energy at this time nor the space. I gotta think more about that…
- President Of Abortion Rights Group NARAL Will Step Down In January (npr.org)
- President Of Abortion Rights Group NARAL Will Step Down In January (wnyc.org)
- NARAL Pro-Choice Leader To Step Down (myfoxdc.com)
- Abortion rights leader Keenan steps down from NARAL (billingsgazette.com)
- Hayley Rose Horzepa: The Importance of Choice (huffingtonpost.com)