This post is part of our "What Does Choice Mean to You?" series commemorating the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
About 2 years ago, I attended a workshop with the Pro-Choice
Public Education Project’s Executive Director, Aimee Thorne-Thomsen on how
“choice” is non-inclusive and why the movement should shift from a “pro-choice”
perspective to a “reproductive justice” lens. It had never previously occurred
to me that there was a difference between the two terms until that workshop. I
had not considered how the word “choice” could possess negative connotations,
even after it had been thrown at me in conversation in that manner. Here is why
choice is not for me.
father has always had a tendency of proclaiming to me “Well, that’s the choice
you’ve made.” when discussing an aspect of my life that he does not agree with.
And every time he uses “choice” in that way, in that context, I want to vomit.
At 19, I know I have made my fair share of choices. But I also know that a good
deal of my actions are not choices, but outcomes of the way my life is
constructed. They’re not choices, they’re facts. “Choices” like falling in
love, going to a community college instead of a private university, and putting
myself on birth control.
is a non-inclusive word because it assumes that everyone, everywhere, always
has the ability to choose. Just think about what any young person would say if
they were asked if they felt they were able to – freely – make choices in their
lives. Now do you think everyone has the ability to choose, or even thinks they
do? Choices are socially constructed, influenced by friends, family, and
partners. Even the most independent person has relied on those they love and
trust to help them make a decision. Who is allowed to make certain choices is
also a socially constructed idea, as the example of the young person
illustrates. As a young woman of color, I didn’t have a choice but to put
myself on birth control because neither I nor my partner have the support
systems to allow us to have children and continue our lives, careers, and
education. In the same respect, I don’t have a choice but to deal with the
stigma of being a young woman of color on birth control. Yup, I mean the “You’re
just gonna have rabbit sex now and know no consequences.” conversation that
happens with adults after “choosing” to be on birth control.
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will always be a part of me that is fond of “choice.” The part of me that
believes in the reproductive justice movement; the part of me that’s learned to
embrace my sexuality, my career, my education, and the other parts of my life
that I’ve constructed. But the part of me that must endure seeing my sisters
denied access, or scrutinized for using the resources they do have, knows that
choice is only for a few. That until my choice of wearing tight jeans does not
yield me being harassed on the street, choice in not for me. Maybe one day
choice will be accessible to me and mine. Until then, I congratulate those who
have “choice” and ask that they fight with me and my sisters to gain our