I was lucky enough to spend time a few weeks ago talking about the language we use as a society to describe abortion. (Not everyone’s chosen way to spend a Saturday, but you can see why I enjoy my work at Planned Parenthood now, right?)
Continuing legal access to abortion has been one of the most important – and bitterly divisive – fights of the last 39 years. And yet we’re still using the same language to talk about abortion as we were 39 years ago – choice, privacy, rights – as society has changed all around us.
It’s time for some new words.
Let me make this very clear: no one wants to make the decision to have an abortion. But that’s what we are entitled to do – make a decision, not a choice. It’s not a choice of breaking the law anymore or disappearing from your hometown in shame. It is a decision that you are legally allowed to make and no one, especially the government, should be able to take that away from you. Women are not like livestock, much to the bewilderment of a Georgia State Representative; we are empowered individuals who can decide what is best for us. No bureaucrat should be involved in important life decisions better left to a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith.
If we have to ask permission to make a decision that we are legally entitled to make? If there are restrictions put in place to hinder us from making this decision, from 24-hour waiting periods to forced transvaginal ultrasounds to being forced to carry a stillborn fetus to term?
Then, in a very real sense, the power to make a decision on abortion has been taken away from us and we are seeking reproductive justice. It’s justice for being wronged, justice that we deserve, justice for all to make a decision on whether or not to have an abortion. It’s a difficult decision, but it’s ours to make.
I don’t know about you, but the words “choice,” “rights,” and particularly “privacy” don’t mean anything to me, a woman born post-Roe and who grew up in the Facebook era, where your life is very public. Whether or not to have an abortion is a decision that I have been able to make my entire life – and maybe you have, too.
So, what words do you think we should use when it comes to talking about abortion and reproductive health? What words resonate with you?