It’s About Being Pro-Woman
by Liz K
When you see people shouting epithets at women in crisis, something has gone haywire in our democratic society.
But that’s abortion in
in 2012. Clinics are firebombed. Providers and their families are harassed, threatened and even murdered. Women who need health care are bullied and shamed, even as their access to birth control and abortion services is beaten back nationwide. America
The movement that promotes this hate and violence? They call themselves “pro-life,” and society lets them get away with it.
That’s a Big Lie, and it’s time we put a stop to it.
How did we get here? I’ve watched this language evolve for decades. As a young woman, I saw
and then the nation recognize that our Constitutional rights include self-determination, bodily integrity and reproductive freedom. I’ve been part of the fortunate generation freed from the choice between the danger and shame of back-alley abortions or the sometimes ruinous results of carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. New York
I’ve also watched as the seeds of today’s War on Women were sown. Outraged by Roe v. Wade, the Religious Right set out to confront supporters of reproductive rights, at debates, demonstrations and, increasingly, outside clinics. I saw the media fumble for neutral ways to report these tense events. No one wanted to use the term “abortion” – they were uncomfortable with the word, and ambivalent about the procedure – and so the euphemisms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” came into use. Maybe it even seemed equitable at the time; everyone got to be described as “pro” something.
But in that moment, the anti-choice movement was allowed to mischaracterize its motives and hide behind a lie, conveniently framed to incriminate the other side. If you’re not pro-life…are you pro-death?
They stole the language of caring, and I want it back.
Why does it matter? Because language shapes perception, and perception alters behavior. This distortion has given undeserved legitimacy to a movement that is really about denial of women’s rights and basic freedoms. It has convinced some otherwise decent people to gather outside clinics and pressure vulnerable women, because they’ve been told it’s about “Life.” And it has probably pushed the self-righteous over the line to violence and hate, under the false pretense of defending “Life.”
We all know the truth. The media know it. Politicians know it. There is nothing life-giving or positive about antisocial acts like these:
- Violence, including arson, anthrax threats, murder.
- Harassment, including publication of patients’ and providers’ personal information
- Restrictions on who can get an abortion, when, and with what unnecessary costs, delays and humiliation.
- Attacks on access to contraception itself.
- Disinformation campaigns designed to frighten women and skew perception of abortion. (In fact, abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer or depression or future infertility. Legal abortion has fewer complications than childbirth.)
The anti-choice movement is the very definition of anti-life. They threaten our health, our safety, even our society.
We know that the answer is not to fight violence with violence. But our culture seems blinded by the opposition’s sanctimonious claims. If we don’t challenge these perceptions and defend our rights, real women will die in the name of “Life.”
How do we start on the road back to sanity? How do we defuse the violence? How do we turn these clinic protesters away from bullying and harassment, and toward respect for the Constitutional rights we all share?
I say we begin by changing the way we talk about abortion rights – specifically, the labels attached to this issue decades ago. Let’s call on the media, our elected officials and our society to change the language. Let’s insist on truth in labeling.
Because the truth is that the anti-choice movement isn’t “pro-life.” It’s pro-repression, pro-maternal morbidity, pro-poverty. It’s anti-woman.
The pro-choice movement is pro-health, pro-planned families, pro-safety. We are profoundly pro-woman. That is, in the end, the only proper frame for abortion care, which is all about women’s lives.
So here is a modest call to action: When you read or hear the term “pro-life” used to describe violence, bullying and restriction of health care, call the question. Literally. Call the station or newspaper. Email the magazine. Harassment, shaming, attacks on clinics and health care – these are not pro-woman. If it’s not pro-woman, it isn’t “pro-life.”
Let’s go back to the beginning and reshape this debate. Language is power. Let’s take back the language and take back the truth.