On Choice, Millennials Say No to Absolutism

Clayton Jarrat

The first question most people seem to ask me is why, as an 18-year-old guy about to start college, are reproductive rights so important to me, important enough for me to become an activist of sorts.

The first question most people seem to ask me is why, as an 18-year-old guy about to start college, are reproductive rights so important to me, important enough for me to become an activist of sorts. 

For me, reproductive rights are synonymous with human rights.  I can’t think of any greater, or more important human right than the right to control your own body.  In the United States no significant movement threatens to infringe on individual rights more than the movement to control women’s reproductive systems.  The implications of that lack of respect for and diminishment of privacy, individual rights, and human dignity for all people everywhere are intolerable.  The focus on controlling women’s bodies devalues them as individuals, and as members of society, and the extreme gravity of that injustice strongly compels me to action with or without immediate personal stake in the issue.

In pursuing activism around this issue, I have been overwhelmed with the response I’ve received.  Once people understand the issues, they have been extremely supportive.  Of course I’ve appealed primarily to my peers, and found that social networks are a great way to engage even issues as serious as reproductive rights.  In organizing and promoting the rally against Operation Rescue in Albuquerque, I found that the only thing preventing most of my generation from taking a much bigger interest in this issue is the fact that many of them don’t realize how fragile their freedom is.  Having grown up decades after Roe v Wade, a surprisingly high percentage of my peers think that a woman’s right to choose is as secure as her right to vote, and choose to ignore anti-choice views rather than respond to them.  Complacency is the enemy of choice and potential, reproductive and otherwise, and it is a common, but tremendous mistake to think that the freedoms we were born under are secure without our engagement.

One motivating factor for me was the Operation Rescue claim that my generation is more anti-abortion than my parent’s.  The response from the social networking we conducted and in particular from the people who came out to help with the rally (and who intend to continue activism) expose the real truth: we value the work of our parents’ generation, and feel strongly about maintaining the rights for which they fought. 

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Some “pro-life” friends of mine, who would never get an abortion themselves for any reason, were extremely helpful in organizing the rally because they see the ethics of abortion as something that each person has to figure out for themselves.  I think the reality is that “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are not mutually exclusive, and that pro-choice remains descriptive of the majority in my generation. 

Most of my pro-life peers do not subscribe to the absolutism of the anti-choice fringe, and many will defend others’ right to come to their own moral and ethical conclusions just as they did, making them as pro-choice as I am.  The principle Voltaire articulated when he said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” is making a great comeback in my generation, as we acknowledge the subjective nature of our own conclusions about how best to think and act.  Tolerance is the greatest weapon against the moral absolutist anti-choice fringe, and most of my generation, both willing to have abortions and not, wield it very well.

My generation already possesses exactly the weapon it needs to secure reproductive rights in this country.  We have only to recognize the magnitude, extent, and urgency of this threat, and decide that it is worth our time to stop it.  I have great trust in my generation’s care for basic social and legal freedoms.  I certainly plan to continue activist activities to defend against attacks on  reproductive and other freedoms.  I think that if my peers are reminded that if they do not make decisions, others will make them for them, they will indeed act to secure the freedoms we’ve been blessed to be born with.

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