• http://twitter.com/Ranmore Ranmore

    I think you should stop arguing about labels and semantics and focus on
    the fact that women’s rights are under attack. You need to actively
    remind people and educate the younger generation of what life was like
    before Row vs. Wade and what life is like for nowadays for women in
    countries without legal access to abortion. We need to get young people angry and motivated and active in attacking politicians who are driving an anti-abortion agenda.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

    Semantics and associated ideology matter a great deal. I think some points are well-taken in this article. However, RJ ushers in a human rights platform which better allows us to consider the most marginalized woman’s perspective. Rather than obfuscate discussions of abortion, RJ instead positions abortion within a larger human rights perspective accounting for language barriers, culturally-sensitive healthcare, and isolation factors (to name a few). This lens illuminates what it’s like and what resources and understandings are necessary at the intersection of multiple oppressions. Cultural and linguistic considerations are obscured by choice. For example, consider the rhetoric of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. This group argues that choice is a transcreation and fails to carry the same meaning in Spanish. Furthermore, the life-choice binary does not reflect the nuances of Latinas’s lived realities and other diverse groups. While I am still an advocate of the potential of choice and its importance, I have now stepped beyond my white privilege (I am part Latina, although the world views me as white given my light skin). Through my research I began imagining what it’s like to be a woman living in a border town; what it’s like to not be able to afford the next meal; what it’s like to have people stare at/report me because they think I’m undocumented. I think the intrepid and inspiring Loretta Ross would agree that choice is a stale term that fails to encompass the multitude of factors which affect women’s right to choose. Yes, we need to work together, and yes we shouldn’t quibble over which terms engender synergy and alliance building. We already know the answer. All we need to do is listen to our sisters. Let us continue to summon RJ and the associated ideology which allows for an expanding agenda inclusive of diverse stakeholders in our ranks. Language is integral in shaping social movements; the terms we rely on shape our beliefs, values, and actions. Words just aren’t words; they do something. What RJ offers us is a new opportunity to secure human rights and dignity for all people. Si, se puede!

    • http://www.facebook.com/Feral.9.Hex Carla Clark

      Life-choice, binary? Umm, you do realize that you just put choice in the same category as abortion all the time, no matter the circumstances? Choice represents a whole lot more than that. And, perhaps the reason it’s become so stale, is because people lack understanding of what the term choice actually MEANS? For example, it means women can choose to terminate OR remain pregnant. So, the binary is NOT life-choice, but FORCE-CHOICE.

      Also, if the term choice does not carry a specific meaning in Spanish, that is reason for Latin women to use a different term. It isn’t as if we’re saying that one word/term must fit all circumstances, after all.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

        I agree exactly with you that the term “choice” has become stale because “people lack understanding of what the term choice actually MEANS.” That’s the problem. Until the dominant ideology can expand to encompass a broad agenda for “choice” that better recognizes some of the intersectional barriers that affect women’s ability to decide if, when, and under what conditions they choose to mother, then I think some changes need to be made. I absolutely agree that “choice” could encapsulate more than abortion and undoubtedly should. However, it’s a matter of adjusting society’s dominant perspective of what the term means and how it functions with other terms such as “life,” “reproductive justice” and “reproductive freedom.”

        Also, I think the 2004 March for Women’s Lives is a fitting example of why “choice” should be used with caution if we’re looking to synergize efforts and create a more inclusive movement and support-base. (Of course, I’m not the first to argue this; such claims emerged in the early 90s from various women of color groups). As you may know, women of color groups vowed not to participate in the march until the demonstration’s title was changed from “March for Freedom of Choice” to “March for Women’s Lives.” Future movement-building efforts would be wise to consider various perspectives. Also notice that here “lives” is used to encapsulate a broad agenda. So, depending on its usage these key terms can expand but also contract based on their usage. The same is true for RJ; however, it’s more often than not used in a broader, more inclusive sense than “choice.”

        • colleen2

          As you may know, women of color groups vowed not to participate in the march until the demonstration’s title
          was changed from “March for Freedom of Choice” to “March for Women’s
          Lives.”

          and what groups would those be?

          • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

            The Black Women’s Health Imperative and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Loretta Ross was a key figure in ensuring these groups’ interests and concerns were addressed. With the demonstration’s name change also came the support of more diverse women.

        • http://www.facebook.com/Feral.9.Hex Carla Clark

          Actually, no. Choice often refers to a broader perspective, than Reproductive Justice.

          When I was referring to the lack of understanding surrounding what choice actually means, I was referring to the context you used it in.

          Now, here’s how the two preceding statements are connected: Choice refers to all individuals or groups of humans being granted the equal ability to make informed and consensual decisions about their lives rather than one group or individual being FORCED into an untenable situation.

          See, I’m saying that the reason some people may think it is stale, is because people so often conflate it with something that it should not be. When you conflate it with the term force, what it actually opposes, the meaning of the term becomes broader, less ‘stale’ and more pertinent.

          In that case, I’m suggesting that we change our language surrounding the topic, rather than letting it become exclusionary because of the results of our own (white, privileged) efforts.

          However, I am not saying that, in the meantime, if our efforts conflict with a group that is more underserved, we should not listen to them and change our own discussions to reflect theirs. That is feminism’s purpose, after all.

    • colleen2

      However, RJ ushers in a human rights platform which better allows us to consider the most marginalized woman’s perspective.

      How? Look, I can understand the limits of advocating for the right to effective contraception and abortion. I am myself primarily concerned with poverty issues, but the fact of the matter is that, at least for women, access to safe legal abortion and effective contraception are as central as an education.

      To my eyes you seem to be advocating for a paradigm shift a generation too early and my concern is that if we follow this strategy we will lose the present battle and that those very women we are both concerned about will lose access to effective contraception and safe legal abortion. This is not “quibbling over terms”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

        I think it’s very important that you raise issues of poverty and education in your post! These are key! The reason I state RJ better facilitates a human rights platform, and thus a more inclusive approach, is that systemic issues are foregrounded, which “choice” has yet to succeed in doing. (Please see some of my responses below, as I think they help clarify my argument.) “Choice” has been used for decades by many women, but these were mostly white, privileged women. Because you and I seem to both be interested in addressing women’s empowerment issues as it pertains to more structural issues (e.g., education and poverty), I think RJ allows the conversation to broaden because the term doesn’t have the same problem as choice–being equated with abortion narrowly defined (which obscures issues of poverty, education effects, and countless other factors).

        Yes, I am arguing for a paradigm shift. And as I’m sure you’ve seen through various posts on feminist and women of color blogs and other postings, I’m not alone in such a call. It seems to me we’re making no headway in our present battle if we look at how narrow articulations of “choice” continue to be eroded from Montana to Mississippi. (That’s a US-centric approach I know…and I should not make this merely a US issue, as it’s a global one.) If appeals for RJ are a generation too early, then what about the women who embrace this term and who want to achieve this for themselves but who don’t identify with “choice”? We have the opportunity to broaden our support-base and evade the problem that early mainstream feminist groups had with excluding women of color and poor women. If “choice” were helping us effect change and secure women’s liberation from procreative oppression and otherwise, I might agree that we should continue using the term. However, I don’t see this happening legislatively or in the majority of everyday discourse. I hope we can continue this conversation, as I’m always open to considering another perspective and, like you, care deeply about these issues.

        • colleen2

          “The reason I state RJ better facilitates a human rights platform, and
          thus a more inclusive approach, is that systemic issues are
          foregrounded, which “choice” has yet to succeed in doing”

          I am uncomfortable with your characterization of the pro-choice movement as mostly “white privileged women” in part because I am see a VERY different political landscape and because that characterization is both divisive and inaccurate. Most of the women I know in the pro-choice movement are far from privileged. The movement I see is international and, here in the US, not racist as you seem to suggest

          As far as I can tell the “wealthy privileged white women” you speak of are Republican women and ‘centrist’ Democrats. These are NOT women I would trust to defend any aspect of the lives of the bottom 75% of income earners, least of all something as basic as reproductive rights. Also, these are the folks who are trying to ‘change the conversation’. They are not feminist leaders, they are women who think feminism was invented to help their careers. They wish to lead a movement that does not offend the Roman Catholic Church. Those of us who care about the poor understand that women MUST be able to control their bodies and reproductive lives.
          While I agree that the conversation around poverty issues absolutely must be addressed I refuse to pretend that access to safe, legal abortions and effective contraception is secondary to those concerns because it is not. Such access is essential. So I am going to continue to call myself ‘pro-choice’ and I am going to continue to insist that poor women all over the world want and need access to safe, legal abortions and effective contraception.

          I don’t believe you’re arguing for a paradigm shift. I believe you’re arguing for a capitulation.

          • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

            We must never surrender this fight for human rights.

            My reference to choice and its use by white, privileged women is rooted in our feminist history. The participants in the quest for choice have absolutely diversified in more recent years, as you seem to suggest, and this is exciting! We need to consider the past, though, to understand WHY some feel that choice doesn’t represent their needs. I believe in RJ, and I am also pro-choice. I also believe that every woman should feel included in this important conversation.

          • colleen2

            I was 16 when abortion became legal in my state and an 65 now. I have lived this history. Lots of us have. The movement was never racist as you continue to suggest.

  • Ann Stone

    I think that Jon is right on target. The Choice moniker has been tarnished but not destroyed. It represents the broadest possible consensus when it comes to the public. We need to cast the net wide for support for future victories not narrow it. We also need pollsters to go back to asking the key choice question…”who decides?” That question will show the public still favors choice by margins of 80-20% even today…no change contrary to what our opponents claim. They have been more effective in their sales pitch in the last two decades but their core beliefs of controlling women’s decisions remains a loser when exposed. If you want reproductive justice…women must control their decisions about their bodies first and foremost.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

      I enjoyed your post and think that, yes, to achieve reproductive justice women must be able to control their own decisions. However, what RJ does (that I argue choice does not) is open our eyes to more systemic barriers which limit many women’s ability to make desirable choices. So for me it seems first we must try to use the appeals of RJ and address those structural issues which can then make real choice possible.

    • http://twitter.com/ircrc S.E.B. MD

      No, Ann, this is a state by state contest. “Choice” is failing badly in red states, where it is understood in the narrowest abortion-centric sense. I am hopeful that RJ in Indiana can engage the people — especially people of faith — who have previously been silent on abortion by calling out how withholding resources for fertility management contributes to growing inequality. Indiana legislates on conservative morality and religion, not rights. Autonomy is not widely regarded as a positive value. People in power feel a duty to decrease the autonomy of those whom they perceive as problem citizens. If you ask “who decides?” in Indiana, the answer is whoever has the power to claim moral authority. “Choice” is toxic to a meaningful public conversation in Indiana.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.onis Kathleen de Onis

        Well put! I, too, hope RJ can be the catalyst for change we so desperately need toward securing women’s reproductive rights.

      • colleen2

        ‘Choice’ is failing in red states for a number of reasons. The religious right sincerely believes in the natural spiritual and inferiority of women. This is the glue that holds their coalition together. They do not believe in rights for women. Indeed they are OPPOSED to rights for women. They use abortion as an excuse to control and manipulate, to violate medical privacy laws and to justify spending cuts that exacerbate the maternal mortality rate. For starters. If they ‘win’ and manage to make abortion illegal they will not stop there.

        I would also like to point out that autonomy is regarded as a positive value in and for men. Why else would we have a majority of ‘fathers’ in this country contributing little or nothing to the welfare of the children they should be responsible for. Why else would ‘men’ like Randall Terry and Newt Gingrich

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