New Goals for the Pro-Choice Movement in the United States? Accessible, Affordable, Destigmatized

Based on conversations I’ve had with people across the field, it’s clear that the pro-choice movement in the United States is ready for an expanded set of goals for abortion that go beyond safe, legal, and rare. 

These additional goals have emerged:

1.       Accessible – The Guttmacher Institute reports that 87 percent of all counties in the United States lacked an abortion provider in 2008; 35 percent of women live in those counties.  Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others, has zeroed in on those areas where there are no family planning clinics and no abortion providers and is pursuing plans to expand access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion.

2.       Affordable – Forcing poor women to continue pregnancies they do not want is cruel, discriminatory, and certain to deepen their economic troubles.  Unless abortion is subsidized for those who cannot afford it, we are essentially forcing poor women to continue their pregnancies.  In addition, a woman should not have to give up her ability to have abortion covered as part of health care simply because she lives on an Indian reservation, wants to serve in the military, or works for the federal government. Restrictions on the use of federal funds to pay for abortions keep clients of the Indian Health Service, members of the military, and federal employees from having health insurance coverage for abortion, a common benefit in the private sector.

3.       Destigmatized – Reducing stigma is an essential step if we are to make abortion accessible and affordable. Exhale, an after-abortion counseling service, provides a talkline and website that can serve as supportive spaces for women who want to share their experiences. Upcoming efforts seek to more rigorously verify whether this support leads some women to feel more comfortable talking to others about their abortions.  Individual women can help reduce stigma by sharing their stories about having had abortions with acquaintances. There are many reasons why a woman might feel reluctant to tell her story, and no one should feel she has to. However, those women who do want to disclose should be supported.  A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that those who say they know someone who has had an abortion are significantly more likely to be pro-choice then those who say they do not know someone who has had an abortion.  While this poll does not prove causation, and additional research on the impact of disclosure is needed, common sense and experience suggest that it is far too easy for voters and politicians to restrict abortion when they have not heard directly from a friend who has had an abortion. 

What would you add or remove to the list of the pro-choice movement’s goals for abortion?


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  • julie-watkins

    Educate about human reproductive biology. Too many people think “fertilized egg” automatically means “future health baby”. When that doesn’t happen — either elective or spondaneous abortion or birth defect — these people will say the pregnant woman did something wrong. Obviously.

    Stress our public discourse is out of wack and out of proportion. (This is a subaspect of “destigmatizde”, I suppose.) No woman asks to be a fertile woman. It’s a combination of chance of genes and environment and upbringing. There’s no choice about genes, and very little about the environment & upbringing. There’s so many unjustices and unfairness in the world, but somehow how a woman treats an unexpected pregnancy is So Much More important than societies sexism & classism. It’s So Much More important to write laws & policy about than hungry children or immoral, illegal wars, etc.

  • kate-stewart

    Great list! I would also add the need to address how we view young people’s sexuality in our culture. Much of the concerns around abortion we hear from people are grounded in the perception that it is mostly “young, irresponsible, girls using abortion as birth control.” To address this myth, we need to go to the heart of the matter which is how we view young people and their sexuality. With 95 percent of people having sex prior to marriage and 70 percent of young people having sex by the age of 19, we need to realize as a society that trying to stop this behavior by censoring and denying young people access to the information and services they need is not only counterproductive it is also dangerous and irresponsible. We need to move from seeing young people as irresponsible, blobs of hormones to a place where young people are empowered and have agency. This means changing not only policy around sex education and the availability of services to young people such as emergency contraception, it also means taking on how we talk and think about and portray young people and their sexuality in our culture.

  • rachel-roth

    Thank you for initiating this discussion.

    A critical step to achieve affordability is repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion under Medicaid as well as the programs listed in this article.

    Women who use Medicaid for their health insurance are by definition low-income and cannot easily come up with the cash to pay for an abortion.

    Learn more about the Hyde Amendment here in this reflection by Marlene Gerber Fried.

  • julie-watkins

    Yes. Getting rid of Hyde is very important.