After I wrote my post, “Has ‘pro-choice’ lost its cool?” I remembered something I read last week I meant to blog on but forgot about after the House Stupak/Pitts vote.
On November 4 Planned Parenthood NYC sponsored a “Voices of Feminism” fundraising event, “featuring 3 of NYC’s leading feminist voices, women’s rights activists and influential writers as they discuss what feminism means to them” – Gloria Feldt (former Planned Parenthood prez), Lynn Harris (feminist author and comedienne) , and Jessica Valenti (editor of
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In a piece entitled, “Three feminists on dirty words, pop culture, and the language of Choice,” the blogger at Jezebel wrote the following day…

The evening seemed to focus on how we talk about feminism, perhaps because it’s what all 3 panelists… do in their jobs, but also because issues of language and rhetoric are a really important part of being a feminist in the larger world….

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Unfortunately, the panelists seemed to feel that a successful diminution had occurred in the linguistic fight between words “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Harris said she had stopped using the term “pro-choice” in writing because “we lost that rhetorical war” – because anti-abortion advocates had successfully cast “life” as representing the moral high ground, and “choice” as somehow frivolous.
I get what she was saying – I, in fact, stopped using “pro-life” in writing a while ago, in response to a consciousness-raising comment on this blog, no less. But I still use “pro-choice,” because even though the opposition tries to frame the term as superficial – like choosing between different flavors of gum – I think it still stands powerfully for a woman’s right to self-determination and autonomy. And I think that any substitute term – Harris mentioned “pro-abortion rights” and “pro-reproductive rights” – will be demonized just as “pro-choice” has been….

Pro-lifers don’t argue that the term “pro-choice” is “frivolous” or “superficial.” We say it’s ambiguous, a purposeful attempt to obfuscate what a “pro-choicer” supports: abortion. Choice to do what? we ask. Why don’t you just say it?
I find it hard to believe Harris and Jezebel have missed our point. I don’t think they did. I think they’re obfuscating about the problem with their obfuscated terminology.

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