Abortion debate, part deux
Here is a long and thoughtful response to my earlier post on the issue of framing abortion from Amie Newman, who is the communications manager at the Aradia Women's Health Center. (Full disclosure: she is also AlterNet's Associate Editor Evan Derkacz's sister)
I understand your ideas and I agree. However, I also agree with Katha Pollitt and Lynne Paltrow. From my perspective, I don't think Katha Pollitt was saying that we should throw away the idea of reframing the abortion debate. I think Katha and Lynne were pointing out that Lakoff's ideas for a new frame would not do precisely what you (and I) would like to see the new frame do: change the debate to allow for abortion to recede from the public domain.
This "new" idea -- to put women at the forefront of the abortion debate is exactly what we need to bring abortion AWAY from the front and center of women's issues. ( I put the word new in quotes because it is something that abortion providers have been desperately trying to do for a long time now Ã‚Â without NARAL's help or encouragement). I agree 100 percent that abortion should not be the one issue that fuels the women's rights machine. However it has become that issue for a variety of reasons and I believe it is incumbent upon the pro-choice movement to bring it out of the forefront. This is exactly what pro-choicers want - to stop the "abortion" issue from being the one defining issue of the women's movement or of women's lives!
Women do not want abortion to be in the forefront because it is a personal decision - Women are faced with myriad of personal reproductive decisions throughout their lifetime. Sometimes there are heartbreaking decisions to be made, sometimes there are glorious decisions. The truth is that no one can make those decisions for you - birth control, having children, not having children, how many to have, whether to adopt or give your child up for adoption, abortion, etc.
The prochoice movement needs to put women's voices at the front of this movement - we need to listen to women, we need to listen to abortion providers and use these words, stories and language to literally push this debate out of the public sphere.
I have worked at an abortion clinic for 5 years and I can tell you that while the "political messaging" from NARAL certainly works for some (My body, my choice) it most definitely doesn't work for others. In fact, the majority of women who come to our clinic have no idea who or what NARAL is and they certainly have no idea what "my body, my choice" even means. Many women -- young and old -- respond to hearing that making this decision is a courageous act of mothering; that the desire to be a good mother to the children they have or the children they would like to plan for someday is what is helping them make this decision. That abortion can mean the most selfless act for the potential life inside - if they are not ready to be a mother then they will not bring this child into the world. This they respond to.
The truth is more anti-choice legislation has been passed in the first half of 2005 then was passed in all of 2004. We need to come up with not just a new way to talk about abortion but we need to understand as a movement and on an individual basis what our own feelings and biases around abortion are. I think George Lakoff and you and all of the abortion providers around the country (who tirelessly discuss this on a daily basis!) are doing this.
I am on the board of a new, bilingual zine "Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades" which seeks to bring this kind of balance to the abortion movement by highlighting women's (and men's) experiences, political analysis and art. Only when we are able to view abortion in an entirely new light by listening, truly listening, to women who have been faced with this decision (and 40 percent of all women in this country will have had an abortion by the time they are 45) can we move past this exhausting debate.
When women's voices and women's experiences are at the front of the prochoice movement I predict we will see what I believe we all want to see: abortion finally slipping back into the private and personal domain where it belongs. Then we can focus on the hundreds of other challenges women in our society face: equal pay, freedom from violence, quality and affordable childcare, welfare rights, etc.