What Pro-Choice Really Means
By Joyce Arthur, Pro-Choice Action Network
With support from Everywoman's Health Centre and Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic in Vancouver, and the Kensington Clinic in Calgary.
A localized version of this article was published in the Vancouver Sun newspaper, August 24, 2000
Mainstream media, under the influence of anti-choice lobbying and propaganda, contribute significantly to the promotion of basic misconceptions about the pro-choice position and abortion services to the general public.
A fundamental misunderstanding of the abortion issue lies in the way people often refer to anti-choice and pro-choice as "two sides." In fact, the anti-choice are in favour of forced motherhood, and the opposite of that is forced abortion. We oppose both of these extremist positions.
Pro-choice occupies the broad middle ground on the abortion issue. A large majority of North Americans believe abortion should be decided privately between a woman and her doctor. Pro-choice people include those who are personally against abortion or feel uncomfortable with it, but who would not impose their viewpoint by law onto all women. Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. We do not advocate abortion over birth - we simply defend the right of women to decide for themselves. The pro-choice movement supports and works towards preventing unwanted pregnancies, reducing abortion, promoting contraception, educating women and youth, and ensuring families have the necessary resources to raise healthy, happy children.
But most anti-choice groups oppose contraception and sex education. They want to return to the days of illegal, unsafe abortion, while naively trying to stop women and youth from even having sex. Under those terms, no common ground exists between pro-choice and anti-choice. That's why the pro-choice movement largely struggles alone in our efforts to decrease the need for abortion, and it's why most of us refuse to publicly debate anti-choice spokespersons. Legal, safe abortion is a matter of fundamental human rights for women - because laws against abortion don't stop abortion. They only kill and maim women, turn them into criminals, and reduce them to second-class citizens. We are repelled at the thought of debating those who wish to strip women of their rights and turn them into baby-making machines.
The anti-choice often accuse us of trivializing the fetus - for example, we apparently call fetuses "lumps of tissue" or "blobs." But the only time I've ever heard the word "blob" used to describe a fetus or embyro is when the anti-choice attribute it to us. No matter how much they want us to use that word or similar terms, the abortion services community is well-aware of what is really inside a pregnant woman. But so is almost everyone over the age of six.
The anti-choice imagine that they know what goes on inside abortion clinics, and unfortunately, many of these mistaken ideas make their way into public discourse. Here are the facts:
The pro-choice movement and abortion providers are in the business of protecting and respecting women's human rights, their moral autonomy, and their choices. We want every mother to be willing and every child to be wanted. We are pro-woman, pro-child, pro-family, and pro-life, in the true sense of that term.