I support a woman’s right to an abortion.

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This post is a part of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog for Choice Day 2013

I’ve been thinking this morning, on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, about the phrase “pro-choice.” There are conflicting views within the feminist community on the value of the “pro-choice” label and that’s a good thing. We need to have those discussions about what it means to support abortion rights for all women and not only for those who can access it the most, because then the choice to have an abortion is easy for some and extremely difficult for many.

Does the label fit me anymore, knowing that my views and understanding of abortion have shifted and expanded from a purely reproductive rights standpoint to one that embraces reproductive justice? Not exactly. But I still believe it’s a simple, useful phrase in theory because it implies that women decide if or when to become a mother. That women are in control of their bodies and fates. Forty years after Roe, this idea is still powerful and radical when so much of our culture and conservative politics dictate the opposite.

As a teenager, I came into reproductive rights activism through pro-choice organizations like NARAL, Planned Parenthood and Feminist Majority. In the spirit of sharing our stories in this blog carnival, and in honor of my pro-choice beginnings in reproductive rights, here is why I will always support abortion rights:

 

  • Without the right to a legal abortion, I lack personhood, autonomy and citizenship. The right to privacy as enshrined in the Constitution (the legal bedrock of abortion rights) means that I have the ability to decide my reproductive future and control my own body.

 

  •  Listening to the women and girls who call the DC Abortion Fund hotline. Their personal stories turn from fear to anxiety, relief and gratitude as they tell me about their struggle to find a clinic near their home, schedule a convenient time for the procedure, find transportation to the clinic and childcare while they’re gone, and pay for an abortion. In other words, the hurdles they need to overcome to exercise their right to a safe and legal abortion. I support abortion rights because I know that I could be one of them.

 

  • My exposure as a teenager to conservative, right-to-life Catholicism that is anti-woman. There is no justification for male clergy of any religion (or religion) to dictate women’s reproductive choices. Religious extremism is inextricably bound to misogyny.

 

  •  I trust women. There is no better reason to support abortion access and rights than this.

 

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39 years of Roe v. Wade

This blog post is a part of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s “Blog for Choice Day 2012,” in honor today of the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This year’s question is “What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?”

“What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?” is a question I have been thinking about for the better part of the morning and I still don’t have a good answer that completely satisfies me.

Here’s what I know for sure:

Today marks 39 years since abortion became legal in the U.S. I have never known a life where I didn’t have a legal right to an abortion and I know I never want to find out what it’s like without that right. The attacks on reproductive rights had been relentless in 2011, and this year looks no better.

Here’s what I’m unsure about with regards to NARAL’s question-of-the-day:

Obviously, I vote for the pro-choice candidate. But it’s not enough to elect pro-choice candidates. We must elect pro-choice candidates and then we must hold them accountable and speak up in defense of women’s reproductive rights when they falter. President Obama was (is) a great candidate for protecting women’s right to safe, legal abortions until the fight over health care, the budget and debt ceiling when he stepped aside and let Congress throw women’s reproductive health care under the bus. (I don’t have to consider the alternative to know that having Obama in the White House is better than a Newt, Mitt, Rick or Ron.)

However, as feminists and reproductive rights activists, we need to do more than work to elect pro-choice politicians, sit back on our heels and say, “job well done.” We need to educate and inform young women and men about the importance of including abortion in the spectrum of women’s health care, to teach comprehensive sex education in schools and seriously think about the framing and impact of our discourse of “choice” versus reproductive justice. (See my previous post on this topic). The work of protecting the legal right to abortion is on many fronts, and not only about electing pro-choice candidates in 2012.

Which leads me to my next question – What if there aren’t any good pro-choice candidates running in your local and state elections this year? Then what do you do? Do you hold your nose and vote for the pro-choice candidate anyway on this one issue even though you might not agree with the candidate on other equally important issues? Do you throw your money and time into a campaign in a neighboring state for another pro-choice candidate?

This election year, the chance for me to help elect a pro-choice candidate boils down to one Congressional race, and I have no idea who the pro-choice candidate is, or if there is one. I live in a mostly red county in a blue state that is supportive of reproductive rights. I’m lucky. I have a Democratic governor who is Catholic and pro-choice and presides over a state legislature that is packed with liberals. I have two pro-choice allies in the Senate. And then there’s my Republican representative in the House – dear, old Roscoe Bartlett, who has managed re-election wins every two years since the early 1990s with the help of Republican Western Maryland. But this year’s election isn’t looking too good for Bartlett. Maryland has adopted a new redistricting map that redraws Bartlett’s District 6 south into liberal Montgomery County.

Nevertheless, the indefatigable Bartlett has decided to run for another term and there’s no shortage of challengers including state Senator David Brinkley (R); state Delegate Kathy Afzali (R); Charles Bailey (D) of Washington County; John Delaney (D) of Montgomery County; state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown; Milad Pooran (D) of Frederick County; Robert Coblentz (R) of Washington County; Robin Ficker (R) of Montgomery County; Joseph T. Krysztoforski (R) of Baltimore County; and Brandon Orman Rippeon (R) of Frederick County.

I don’t know who any of these challengers are, and I have plenty of time to figure out what their positions on abortion and reproductive rights are before Maryland’s primary on April 3.

So, here’s my final answer to NARAL’s question today, on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll vote for the progressive, pro-choice candidate when I can, and assuming she/he wins, I’ll hold her/him accountable. I’ll continue to write and speak out in defense of women’s legal right to abortion. As one person, this is all I can do.