More Than a Choice

Finally, we have a vision! After years of asking what has regrettably been a rhetorical question, "We know what we're against, but do we actually know what we're for?" the Center for American Progress has provided an answer. In issuing "More Than a Choice: A Progressive Vision for Reproductive Health and Rights" last week, the Center lays out a new approach to reproductive rights.

Kudos to the Center for prioritizing this issue[img_assist|nid=564|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=85] (it's still at the top of their website after three days!), and to author Jessica Arons, for laying out an agenda that can help us shift the debate and bring a new generation to our side. Arons moves us one step further down the path of broadening the discourse beyond its historic myopic focus on abortion.

Arons outlines four cornerstones of reproductive rights: the ability to become a parent and parent with dignity, the ability to determine whether or when to have children, the ability to have a healthy pregnancy, and the ability to have healthy and safe families and relationships.

These cornerstones lay the groundwork for an approach that all progressives, indeed all who care about individual rights and liberties, can agree with. With these in mind, as Arons pointed out this week, we can continue to strengthen the connections between those who care about reproductive rights and those who are focused on immigration (i.e., prenatal care for immigrant women), environment (the impact of pollution on maternal health), workers' rights (parental leave), and other issues.

It's a great step toward breaking out of the silos that the progressive movement has been in for too long and a blueprint for a winning agenda.

However (you knew there was a however coming, didn't you?), it's not enough. While tearing down some silos, the Center's approach leaves one still standing tall – that is, the international side of the discussion.

We all know that we have lost the battles for UNFPA funding, for comprehensive approaches to HIV prevention overseas, and against the Gag Rule, because of that same myopic abortion debate that drove the Center to write this report in the first place.

The right wing doesn't separate us into "the domestic reproductive rights people" and "the international family planning folks," yet we still do. They have a unified message that transcends borders, while we continue to develop separate and uncoordinated strategies for the domestic and international debates – even though they stem from the very same issue.

Why can't we agree that all people, no matter where they live, have a right to Arons' four cornerstones, and that the U.S. government has an obligation to help them access these rights? Why can't we agree that, in changing mindsets around domestic reproductive rights, we should at the same time urge Americans to think of the reproductive health needs of their brothers and sisters around the world?

I truly hope that as the reproductive health and rights field continues to work to bring our issues together with others, we first do so within ourselves.

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