What Being Pro-Choice Really Means

What Being Pro-Choice Really Means

In America the conflict between whether we should be a pro-choice or a pro-life nation is consistently at the forefront of political debate. However, a few months into the new year – and a few months into President Trump’s first term – the debates surrounding this topic have become even more heated and urgent. Pro-choicers are well aware that President Trump and his administration do not want abortion to be legal. After all, not only did the president promise throughout his campaign to nominate an anti-abortion judge for the Supreme Court, but this past January Mike Pence also openly attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“Life is winning,” Pence said to the crowd.

For pro-lifers, it was a welcome statement. But for myself and many of my pro-choice friends, it sounded like a politely-worded warning of what’s to come.

According to Pew Research Center, support for current abortion laws are at 69%. Despite the majority of the country supporting a woman’s right to choose, this right is more threatened than ever before. Just as Trump did not win the popular vote, one can only presume by the Pew poll that a national vote concerning the overturning of Roe vs. Wade would not win. As Americans, we are represented by an anti-choice government – executive, legislative, and possibly, soon to be judicial – whether we approve or not.

I grew up in a pro-life environment, not within my home but within my community. Most of my friends and classmates absolutely abhorred abortion, and I often kept my opinions on the topic to myself, knowing they would be met with negativity. My mother had raised me to believe there was nothing wrong with abortion. It was legal, and if it was between my future success and my future as a “barefoot and broke stay at home mom”, she would prefer I get an abortion and save my success. I would sometimes question this logic, wonder if I could actually go through with an abortion, but I would never bring up my doubts. The issue I had was not with the idea of America being a pro-choice nation – it was with the idea that, because abortion was legal, I should get one as a hypothetical pregnant teenager.

As I’ve gotten older and escaped the confines of southern Alabama, I am no longer surrounded by an overwhelming amount of pro-life peers. Surprisingly, though, I have grown more understanding of those who label themselves “pro-life”. Generally speaking, pro-lifers believe in giving every possible form of life a fair chance. They believe abortion is murder. They believe putting your own life before your fetus’s is selfish. I understand all these things and, yet, I feel as if they are forgetting the term for their opponent is “pro-choice”, not “pro-abortion”.

Supporting a woman’s right to choose is not saying that abortion is a “good” act. Some individuals who are pro-choice do not feel guilty when considering or having an abortion. Chelsea Handler, for example, recently opened up about having two abortions at age 16. Now 41, she insists, “I don’t ever look back and think, God, I wish I’d had that baby.”

Others, like myself, have more trouble imagining having the procedure. But there is not a right or wrong way to be pro-choice – I do not judge Chelsea Handler, nor do I judge other women who do not regret their abortions or feel guilt at the idea of one. I do not believe the action is either “good” or “bad”. Abortion is a reality, a medical procedure which is legal in our country and should not be left for any one person or group to decide.

“Pro-choice is simply respecting a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body regardless of your personal preference,” said Dana Martinez, a junior at New York University.

NYU Junior Susan Rattigan echoed this statement, adding, “I think a big part of what pro-choice means to me is giving women the right to say no, to refuse giving up their body in service to someone else, which they are often expected to do just because they can.”

Pro-choice is traditionally understood as a term for those who support abortion, but out of those I questioned, most individuals agreed being pro-choice was not based on their personal abortion opinions – nor necessarily even solely based on abortion at all. Being pro-choice is about giving a woman agency to make decisions in all aspects of life. She has the right to have or to not have an abortion; she has the right to use or to not use contraceptives; she has the right to remain a virgin until marriage or to sleep with multiple partners.

Even knowing how many Americans support Roe vs. Wade, or discussing a broader idea of pro-choice, I do not expect the Trump administration or pro-life individuals to entirely change their opinions on abortion. However, I do believe understanding the broad beliefs within the pro-choice community – ones that, in the end, are often unselfish in their goal of affording women the right to say “yes” or “no” – is a first step to understanding pro-choice individuals’ intense belief in keeping women’s health services funded and legal.

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