Why Not Use the Term Pro-Abortion?

Rachel Larris

If we don't paint abortion in positive terms does the reproductive rights community lose the semantic war on abortion?

A few weeks ago MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer used the phrase “pro-abortion” to describe a pro-choice viewpoint. It wasn’t meant to be derisive; she clearly just had a brain freeze. On twitter a reproductive rights activist said she “cringed” to hear Brewer’s slip.

I asked, why? On the face of it what’s wrong with being “pro-abortion.” Reproductive rights activists, such as myself, believe that access to abortion is a positive medical service that is provided to women. And since providing medical service is always seen as a positive, why is it automatically wrong to say you are “pro-abortion.” What makes the terms “pro-abortion” different from declaring oneself “pro-dental care” or “pro-mammogram?”

Amanda Marcotte replied to my twitter question by stating it’s critical that people understand feminists support the choice *to* have a baby. To use the term pro-abortion, which is what the anti-choice activists call us, is to presume to be against babies and for mandatory abortions. Pro-choice, is just that, pro-CHOICE, to allow women to make the decision WHETHER to give birth or not.

Logistically, the use of the term “choice” is necessary to fit within our political beliefs, but many in the reproductive rights community admit it’s not the best semantic terminology for a political fight. “Choice” brings with it the connotation of the personal, but also of the “option.” You support the option for women to become mothers, but also the option for them not to do so. It lacks the glaring black/white furor of other side’s terminology. Consider: anti-choicers on abortion: NO NO NO. Pro-choicers however are not saying YES YES YES. We’re saying IF YOU WANT, IF YOU WANT, IF YOU WANT.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

Politics is about the reductive; nuance is untranslatable as a political position, and possibly unwinnable. Consider the number of times a pro-choice candidate or organization has used some version of the phrase that we need to “reduce the need for abortions.” As if the only difference between us and those who dislike legal abortion is the sheer numbers. Ask if there were only 5,000 legal abortions allowed each year there would be the same amount of condemnation? Then consider the South Carolina budget was held up because of six abortions! Just six.

Logistically, however, it makes sense for reproductive rights groups to talk about reducing the need for abortions, because it joins with other goals we support. Every repo activist I know also supports greater access to free or cost-effective contraception and better sex education. But don’t we support those goals independent of the idea that such actions reduce the “need for abortions.”

I happen to believe that both actions would reduce the need, but that’s not the point. By painting abortion as something that should be reduced, the reproductive rights community may be painting themselves into a semantic corner.  

But I don’t think a winning option is changing the phrase “pro-choice” to some other euphemism either. Collectively the community has not been able to settle on alternate terms — although there have been some contenders — none have been whole-heartedly adopted.

One reproductive rights activist said that she didn’t think it mattered what terminology our side used; whether we changed our standard phrase from pro-choice to any other word because it ultimately hides what we are supporting, the right to access abortion when it is desired by an individual. In that sense lumping abortion with all the other reproductive rights goals does not help our fight for abortion-rights in the specific. After all, anti-choicers seem pretty focused on abortion, even when they talk about contraception.

Which leads me to my final question, are reproductive rights activists, either by design or by accident, moving away from owning the word abortion as a positive term? After all, there is only a single advocacy group that still uses the term in its full name, the National Abortion Federation.

So I return to my first question: what is wrong with using the term “pro-abortion?” If we do not paint the term as a positive one; procedure that is not to be any more shameful than kidney biopsy have we not already lost the terminology war?

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

credo_rewire_vote_3

Vote for Rewire and Help Us Earn Money

Rewire is in the running for a CREDO Mobile grant. More votes for Rewire means more CREDO grant money to support our work. Please take a few seconds to help us out!

VOTE!

Thank you for supporting our work!