Thursday, January 22, 2009
I am blogging for choice to celebrate Roe's anniversary. The theme this year is our hopes for the new administration and/or Congress.
We have much to celebrate this year as Roe v. Wade turns 36. Our brand-new President is unabashedly pro-choice. President Obama took an immediate, important first step toward demonstrating that commitment by expressing his intention to withdraw or reconsider President Bush's last-minute, reproductive-rights-related regulations.
I hope that Obama will continue to pursue common sense strategies to promote reproductive health and safety and to prevent unintended pregnancies. But I hope for more than that. Rhetoric is President Obama's forte. I hope that he uses his eloquence to change the nature of the public conversation over women and pregnancy, and over women and abortion. We need to stop accusing and shaming pregnant women; we must resist the impulse to judge women for making pregnancy-related decisions of which we disapprove.
We need to learn to respect the rights of low-income women and women of color to bear children. For a woman who desperately wants a child but cannot afford it, we must remember that an abortion is not a "choice" but a sad necessity. We ought to provide more services and financial support for low-income pregnant women and mothers so they do not feel coerced by financial circumstances into ending wanted pregnancies. We also need to understand that we can most help pregnant women who abuse drugs or alcohol by providing support and services, not by throwing them in prison.
On the flip side, we must stop the public shaming of women who choose abortion. Every one of us knows a woman who has had an abortion, whether we are aware of it or not. These women are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends. Yet the word "abortion" cannot even be uttered in a Hollywood movie today. We need to learn to talk about abortion without shame, and to treat women who have abortions with respect.
I am confident that President Obama will take take concrete steps as President to improve access to safe and comprehensive reproductive health services. He can also help a great deal simply by talking about pregnant women and abortion with compassion and understanding, without judging women for the weighty, personal decisions that ultimately must be theirs to make.