The topic for this year's Blog For Choice Day is: What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?
"The first thing I'd do, as president, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do."
President Barack Obama spoke these words at a speech given to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in July 2007, during his campaign.
There are many who may feel that the issue of reproductive choice has been somewhat overtaken by events – that there are more important things for our country to worry about. There are big problems facing us, especially when it comes to the economy. Many may feel that President Obama needs to worry about these issues first, that Congress needs to worry about these issues first.
They are indeed important issues that stand to affect every aspect of American life.
It doesn’t need to be the first thing he does.
It needs to be on the short list, however.
My top pro-choice hope for this year is for Congress to pass, and President Barack Obama to sign into law both the Freedom of Choice Act and the Prevention First Act.
The Freedom of Choice Act declares that “it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child; terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or terminate a pregnancy after viability when necessary to protect her life or her health .”
To me, those are powerful words – words that acknowledge the importance of choice in a woman’s life. Words that acknowledge the validity of both choices, or rather the whole spectrum of choice. The choice is not between two extremes, but about so many issues in between. The choice is not only about whether or not to have children, but about how many children, the spacing between pregnancies, and sometimes, making the hard choice to end a pregnancy. It is a choice that women should be free to make, according to their own consciences, their own circumstances. The rest of us should not stand in judgment of a woman who decides to terminate a pregnancy. The Freedom of Choice Act says to me that the sponsors trust women to act as responsible adults, and to make the choice that is best for them.
“Pro-abortion” is a label that anti-choice advocates like to throw at the pro-choice supporters. I don’t think anyone is pro-abortion. No one wants to see more abortions. How do we get less abortions? The key to that is less unwanted pregnancies, and the key to that is prevention, and education.
The Prevention First Act will increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex methods. The Act will also end insurance discrimination against contraception, improve awareness about emergency contraception, and provide compassionate assistance to rape victims. All of these are definitely causes I can get behind. Women deserve to have information, they deserve to know their options, for only when women know about their choices can they make the best choice.
If we have time for some more pro-choice activity, we could repeal the global gag rule and repeal the Hyde Amendment. The repeal of the Hyde Amendment would benefit servicewomen and female military dependents in cases like “Jane Doe”, the plaintiff in this case : http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/219175_abortion07.html?dpfrom=thead
"Jane Doe" was a 19 year old military wife who sued to make the government pay the $3,000 cost of terminating her pregnancy due to the fact that the fetus – to "Jane Doe", a wanted child – was anencephalic. The regulations and the Hyde Amendment don’t cover a doomed pregnancy that doesn’t endanger the woman’s physical life, don’t recognize what mental trauma being forced to give birth to a child who will die. The Hyde Amendment also helps make choice something that only some women can afford – just as only some women could afford safe abortions in the days before Roe v. Wade, the women whose families could send them to other countries.
Let’s be honest. Making abortion illegal does not stop women from having abortions. It just stops women from having safe abortions. It forces abortion underground, forces women to do things that aren’t safe or smart. There are some among the anti-choice movement who no doubt believe these women get what they deserve, who feel that the sluts should have kept their legs shut, that they played the game and now have to live with the punishing consequences. I know that they do not speak for all those who are opposed to abortion, but they unfortunately have the loudest voices. The shouts and hatred that come from those protesting outside a Planned Parenthood clinic drown out the reasonable voices calling for reducing unwanted pregnancy, calling for us to find a middle ground where we can accomplish something positive, something more than namecalling.
For me, supporting choice is not an abstract. I have been, as a teenager and a young woman, a Planned Parenthood customer and supporter. I will always remember my first pelvic exam because I will always remember the Planned Parenthood doctor who performed it. She was calm and informative, making sure that I knew what she was doing and why. She, and other clinic workers, took the time to ensure that I had information about the contraceptive choices available.
My support of choice is not abstract for another reason – the threat to a woman’s right to choose does not just affect me. It also affects my daughter. We are not fighting for our right alone, but for those of the women who will come after us, and the girls they are now. I’m looking at her picture as I write this, hopeful that the right to choose will not be endangered as she becomes a woman and must face these choices. Let’s give her – and all our daughters – the chance to have as much knowledge as possible, to understand how their bodies work, to have the information they need to be safe when they do decide to become sexually active, whether it’s at sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, or after. Let's make contraception a health issue, not a moral issue. Let's empower girls and women by giving them the information they deserve.
My daughter deserves it – all our daughters deserve it.