Today I decided that we need a new paradigm for women’s reproductive rights. By that, I mean looking at why we say “Choice” when talking about reproductive rights. The dictionary defines choice as:
1) an act of instance of choosing; selection: Her choice of a computer was made after months of research. His parents were not happy with his choice of friends
2) the right, power, or opportunity to choose; option:The child had no choice about going to school.
3) The person or thing chosen or eligible to be chosen: This book is my choice. He is one of many choices for the award.
4) an alternative: There is another choice.
5) an abundance or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of candidates.
6) something that is preferred or preferable to others; the best part of something: Mare’s Nest is the choice in the sixth race.
Which definition truly fits to describe reproductive rights? Really, none. It could be argued that options 2 and 3 fit, but only partly. What we are talking about is not the choice, but the fundamental right of a woman to determine whether or not she will carry a child. Yes, choice applies, but it makes it too simple. A choice is typically what flavor ice cream do I want today, am I going back to school, should I apply for another job? All of which we have the right to do as people and as women. It is also our right, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, that as women, we can control what happens with our bodies, with our reproductive organs, and with ourselves.
It is time that we change our words and our framework. We need to be as vocal about our right to bear or not to bear children as others are about the right to bear arms. We need to be absolutely, unequivocally clear about the dangers and the threats to our well-being that being forced to carry an unwanted or unplanned fetus can pose. We need to be clear that if our life is in danger, we have the right to not see a pregnancy to term and not leave a potentially motherless child to fend for herself. And fend for herself she will have to do, because those who rail against a woman’s right to reproductive rights have no interest in the child once it is born. We have the fundamental right to protect ourselves, both mentally and physically.
There are many new laws on the books, as well as ones making their way through the legislative process, both on the state and federal level that aim at removing the right of women to make the most personal of decisions. This is not a right that can simply be voted on. We cannot bargain away our bodies and our lives.
This is the time. This is the moment. For too long we have allowed our rights to be diminished, chip by chip, restriction by restriction, law by law. The word is not “choice;” the word is “Right.” It is simply and fundamentally our right to bear, or not bear, children.