Abortion advocates beginning to shun “pro-choice” label

Abortion advocates beginning to shun “pro-choice” label July 29, 2014

From The New York Times: 

For all the talk about women’s issues in this year’s midterm election campaigns, something is missing. One of the most enduring labels of modern politics — pro-choice — has fallen from favor, a victim of changed times and generational preferences.

That shift might seem surprising in this political season, when there has been a renewed focus on reproductive issues like access to abortion and birth control. Yet advocates say that the term pro-choice, which has for so long been closely identified with abortion, does not reflect the range of women’s health and economic issues now being debated.

pro-choice-signNor, they add, does it speak to a new generation of young women, who tell pollsters that they reject political labels — not least one that dates back four decades, to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

“The labels we’ve always used about pro-choice and pro-life — they’re outdated and they don’t mean anything,” said Janet Colm, 62, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina, as she prepared to take several younger women to a summer protest at the legislature in Raleigh. “I used to be a one-issue voter” — pro-choice — “but I think most younger people today aren’t.”

…The change “is something that we have been talking about for several years,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “I just think the ‘pro-choice’ language doesn’t really resonate particularly with a lot of young women voters. We’re really trying to focus on, what are the real things you’re going to lose? Sometimes that’s rights. Sometimes that’s economic or access to health care for you or for your kids.”

…By 2010 some abortion-rights activists began to sense in their outreach to young women, whose support was needed not only for the midterm elections but for the movement’s future as well, that the term pro-choice was virtually meaningless. That was confirmed by postelection polls and focus groups that women’s organizations and Democrats commissioned to understand what went wrong.

Among the findings, according to several people familiar with them: Many young women, when asked whether they were pro-choice or pro-life, said pro-life. Yet they supported the Roe ruling. Explaining the contradiction, Ms. Laguens said these self-described pro-life voters were “talking about their personal decision-making, for themselves, and not about what they want to push on others.”

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