Reclaiming Pro-Choice

23 Feb

by Haylie Jacobson

January 22, marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.  Even before Roe the terms pro-choice and pro-life were used to politically frame a point of view regarding abortion rights. In the last 40 years, however, those who believe that abortion is a purely moral issue have distorted these labels. For many of us who support a woman’s right to make decisions about her body, this distortion is troubling. Where once pro-life meant the opposition to legalized abortion, it now seems to encompass anyone who, for personal reasons, disagrees with the concept of abortion. This transformation is clearly demonstrated by the fact that while a majority of young Americans label themselves as pro-life, two-thirds of the same group agree with the decision of Roe v. Wade. While these statistics appear contradictory, they actually reveal that somewhere in the last forty years the pro-choice movement got lost. Rather than being associated with individual freedom and trust in the decisions of our fellow Americans, the pro-choice movement has come to be viewed as radical and marginalized. I refuse to accept this misguided transformation of what it means to be pro-choice.

As a result of the aforementioned statistics and the increasingly distorted meaning of pro-choice, many organizations and individuals have decided to abandon the label and move towards a name-less gray area. This shift represents a seeming lack of conviction that this movement, given the countless attacks it has undergone in the last few years, simply cannot tolerate. Not only does renouncing pro-choice appear to be a concession on the issue, but it also gives the impression that those who are anti-choice, those who oppose legal abortion, have succeeded in seizing the movement and redefining it on their own terms.

Instead of deserting pro-choice we must reclaim it. While there are those who argue that the labels pro-life and pro-choice are too black and white, this is simply not the case. In actuality, pro-choice is the gray area, because it allows individuals to practice their own beliefs, without imposing those beliefs on others. Pro-choice means that, regardless of personal values, moral or otherwise, we trust in the right of men and women to make decisions for themselves and for their bodies without unnecessary outside imposition or restriction. Pro-choice means that we respect the situations and circumstances of other individuals. Pro-choice means that we not only recognize a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, but also her right to make that decision independently or with the help of those she trusts.

In addition, it is incredibly important to recognize, especially here at Georgetown, that, while pro-choice includes the issue of abortion, it encompasses many more decisions that both men and women make throughout their lives. These include, but are certainly not limited to: the decision to have sex, the decision to use contraception, the decision to be tested for STIs and many more.

However, Reclaiming pro-choice here at Georgetown is no easy task. There is a stigma that is attached pro-choice, and many other women’s issues, across this campus. This stigma silences students, rather than promoting “serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs” as the Georgetown Mission Statement advocates. To reclaim pro-choice at Georgetown we must reclaim this university as a space where diversity of opinion is valued, where students, faculty and staff are encouraged to speak up and not be censored, where we engage “Cura Personalis” by holding a “distinct respect for [one’s] unique circumstances and concerns,” and where the pro-choice label is something to be proud of, not something to shy away from out of confusion or fear.

This article originally appeared in The Hoya.


2 Responses to “Reclaiming Pro-Choice”

  1. Kevin Sullivan February 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    While the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that has allowed for the abortion of 50 million American children passed two weeks ago, the week was also marked by the 14th annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. The Cardinal O’Connor Conference, the nation’s largest student-run, pro-life conference and named after Georgetown alumnus and pro-life warrior John Cardinal O’Connor, is important because it directly addressed the concerns brought up by Haylie Jacobson’s viewpoint “Pro-Choice Broader than Abortion Issue” (THE HOYA, A3, Feb. 5, 2013). In fact, if Jacobson and those with similar beliefs had attended the conference, they would most certainly be better informed on the issues they claim to champion.

    As represented in the conference, the pro-life movement has moved far beyond the abortion issue as it follows the calls of Cardinal O’Connor to build “a culture of life,” one which recognizes his ecclesiastical motto that “there can be no love without justice.” Speakers at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference continue to share their expertise in a number of fields and life issues, such as abortion, bioethics, reproductive health, the rights of the disabled, adoption and the death penalty. The conference reaffirms that being pro-life is the proper understanding of “care for the whole person” and goes one step further to care for all persons. That is why — led by our generation — the pro-life movement is winning. We seek justice for all individuals, especially the most defenseless and innocent in our society: the child in the womb.

    On the other hand, the pro-“choice” movement is indeed radicalizing as Jacobson feared, precisely because it cannot reasonably oppose the culture of life in the same way it can legally oppose laws on abortion. Instead of being actually concerned about pregnant women and their children, a fair critique about some elements of the pro-life movement, the pro-choicers have entirely abandoned any pretext of caring about the person. As reflected by Jacobson’s viewpoint, they put the idea of completely unrestrained choice above the person themselves.

    As keynote speaker Helen Alvaré detailed in her impassioned appeal to the over 650 students and adults, it is time that we finally suspend our disbelief that the promises of the pro-choice movement have simply not been met, and have done more harm than good. Fifty million of our potential peers, brothers, sisters, friends and spouses were killed in the womb. As the pro-choice movement retreats to radical ideology, the pro-life movement continues to build a true culture of life and respect for the dignity of all people, from conception to natural death.

    Students at Georgetown have been — and continue to be — leaders in this shift from just a concern about the Roe v. Wade decision to a concern about the “whole person.” The Cardinal O’Connor Conference continues to educate attendees and generate informed discussion on the sound intellectual roots of the pro-life movement. Georgetown alumni founded the Northwest Crisis Pregnancy, Washington’s largest crisis-pregnancy center that has served over 46,000 women and children. Georgetown University Right to Life continues to host service projects like babysitting and collecting diapers for young mothers at Georgetown who balance work and class. Jacobson’s article is certainly right that the pro-choice movement is losing conviction because it focuses on a radical, impersonal idea. In the meantime, I am proud to see my university community leading the incredible pro-life shift in our generation and truly living out the Jesuit values of our alma mater.

    This article originally appeared in The Hoya on Friday, February 8th, 2013.

    • mike April 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      God enough of your shoving morals down everyones throat.

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