All it takes is a simple browser click to see that the right to a safe and legal abortion is under attack with increasing fervor in this country. North Dakota just banned all abortions after six weeks, outdoing Arkansas’s recent ban on abortions after 12 weeks. And while seven in 10 Americans support the right to legal abortion and wish to see Roe v. Wade remain the law of the land, we must come to terms with the fact that pro-choice is not enough.
It is not enough to be pro-choice when 87% of American counties do not have an abortion provider. It is not enough to be pro-choice when less than half of all states help to fund abortions to low-income women and women in need. It is not enough to be pro-choice when we must qualify that with, “I support choice, not abortion.” If we truly respect choice and women’s right to choose abortion, then we have to begin to be more comfortable with saying: I support the right to an abortion.
The statement that “I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-choice” is inherently defensive. Rather than embracing abortion as a viable and respected choice, it sidelines abortion; it delegitimizes that valid choice. By rhetorically sidelining abortion, we are distancing ourselves from that choice. If a woman wishes to have an abortion, then I support abortion. I support the right to have a child, to have an abortion, to have in vitro fertilization, to have a natural childbirth, to have a cesarean section, to adopt, etc.; I support all reproductive choices that are made freely. I support your right to choose, and I support your right to choose abortion.
This often myopic view of “choice” evades the harsh reality that the constitutionally protected right to an abortion is a choice that is accessible to an ever-decreasing number of women in the United States. The right wing attacks on abortion rights disproportionately affects low-income women and women of color. The right to an abortion is not a reality for many women in this country. In the United sates, nearly one in ten of the women obtaining an abortion must travel over 100 miles to reach their nearest abortion provider. The Hyde Amendment, voted on every year in Congress, has barred Medicaid coverage for abortions since 1976. This means that low-income women who choose abortion are severely hindered from making that choice. We cannot call ourselves “pro-choice” and accept a two-tiered level of reproductive health care to those who can afford abortions and those who cannot.
We need to embrace abortion as a part of comprehensive reproductive health care for women. We need to actively work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which discriminates against low-income women and violates their reproductive human rights. We need to question why anti-choice extremists often support the death penalty and oppose state funding of childcare, education, and welfare, and yet still call themselves “pro-life.” And yes, we need to start saying that we support abortion. Abortion is not now, nor has it ever been, a bad word.
We must stop stigmatizing that which we are supposed to be supporting. Say it loud and proud — I support abortion.