Owning The Language

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Reading blog articles concerned with abortion, the subject of labeling or mislabeling comes up frequently. Isn’t it time we work to clarify what we call opposing viewpoints in the abortion access struggle? This isn’t a unique idea. It is one I have heard said repeatedly.
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Numerous times the comment has been made the protesters against abortion have much better marketing plans than the various groups supporting the right to abortion. The antis have a much better grasp of the emotional content words bring to a debate.
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What a stroke of genius to label their viewpoint pro-life. How could anyone oppose them without sounding like they are anti-life?
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Recently I attended a speech concerning reproductive justice. There were several good points brought up for discussion that I am still giving a great deal of thought. How do I personally feel about these ideas? Some I am able to embrace wholeheartedly and others I need to explore my feelings about the long-term benefits. Like all of us, I need to unlearn some of my viewpoints to embrace change.
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Among other subjects discussed, the topic of how important what we call things was brought forward. The idea was put forth that we need to change or take back some of the language we call things concerning reproductive issues.
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Antis have appropriated the words we should be using to describe our position. Our position is actually pro-life. We support the living person in their decisions about reproduction. The antis are only concerned with life pre-birth, even at the cost of the woman’s life. Their position is anti-woman and their attitude is often detrimental to poor families.
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The comment from this speech resonating the most with me was, “Choice implies consumerism.” The idea was put forth that the term “choice” comes from a place of privilege and implies every individual has a choice in their decision to terminate a pregnancy or carry the pregnancy to full term. This is very far from reality for so many.
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Many do not have access to abortion as a choice. They may not have the money. They may not have transportation. They may not be able to get time off from work without risking their job. They may have an abusive partner who will coerce them into carrying a pregnancy. They may have a combination of these factors or others that will not allow them to choose abortion.
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In the reverse, many cannot choose to carry a pregnancy to full term. The realities of poverty make this impossible for many. They may already have children and cannot afford another one without jeopardizing the welfare of their existing family. They may be struggling to support themselves and cannot afford to bring a child into their life at this time. They may be just starting a career and are not ready to be a parent. They may have a combination of these factors or others that will not allow them to choose to carry a pregnancy to full term.
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Physical health and mental health reasons may prevent someone from having a choice. They may have life-threatening health issues that prevent them from carrying a pregnancy to term. The fetus may be dead. They may have an ectopic pregnancy.  All of these reasons and more move abortion from the realm of choice to the realm of necessity.
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The proposal was made to substitute access for choice. Our position would be described as pro-access. ‘We believe every person should have access to the reproductive care they need.’ I like that statement. It covers everyone and doesn’t assume that everyone comes from the same life situations.
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