February 10, 2013

If Not “Pro-choice,” Then What?

I learned today from the radio program On the Media that Planned Parenthood has decided to drop the term “pro-choice,” but the organization seems not to have devised a replacement for the label.

I have written previously about how “pro-choice” lacks the power of “pro-life,” and Planned Parenthood has apparently come to the same conclusion. On hearing the On the Media piece, I immediately thought that “pro-freedom” would be a good alternative. Conservatives love “freedom,” so they would find this term more compelling.

A quick Google search revealed that I am not the first to propose the “pro-freedom” description. Katie Roiphe proposes it in the essay “Good Riddance, ‘Pro-Choice’” at Slate. She writes
“Freedom” is at least a more expansive word than “choice,” with glimmers of promise, of possibility, of amber waves of grain; it has a patriotic undertone that might appeal to those confused people who do believe in at least a limited right to abortion but won’t call themselves “pro-choice,” because “choice” seems to belong to a pampered elite.
I recommend her essay and won’t try to recapitulate her ideas here.

Whatever the deficiencies of “pro-choice,” it is firmly associated with choices in a particular context. Any neologism that isn’t explicit as to context will need some time to become established; “Pro-choice” will be hard to displace.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ll suggest one other possible choice—“pro-woman.” This may actually be a more honest term and counters the pro-life position, which might be characterized as pro-baby and anti-woman.


  1. I like pro-women. I also have been refusing to accept, "pro-life" referring to it instead as, "pro-birth." The logic is obvious, they do not care a bit about born children or adult women. Conservatives hate being called on that!

    But consider, they want to deploy the full force of law on pregnant girls and force them to carry to term. Then they think the government should ignore the consequences of their IMPOSED choice. What do they really favor? I submit the answer is merely birth.


  2. I like “pro-birth,” which really gets to the heart of what the movement is about.

  3. The anti-choice side never seems to tell us what the penalty should be when they make abortion a crime. If it is murder, why not give the death penalty or life in prison without parole to a woman who performs her own abortion? How about the same penalty assessed for any murder for hire crime if she has a doctor perform the abortion. I think I would keel over if I ever met an anti-choicer who actually has read a pro-choice (sorry pro-freedom!) book. The Facts of Life by Drs. Trefil and Morowitz is a good place to start.

    Whatever we want to call it, we need to protect the right of women to choose for themselves when and if to become a parent. The government shouldn't make that decision. And certainly religious extremists should not be allowed to meddle in this most personal of decisions.

    Bob Button

  4. Jim, after writing on your last post not to demonize the opposition, are you really sure that conservatives hate all women and children? It's definitely not the Episcopal church running the local crisis pregnancy center, or the safe house for battered women, or the "emergency house" for kids before they get foster parents. I know several Evangelicals who've adopted drug babies and more who have foster kids. There are many more here in the Catholic church and conservative churches who do that than in the local EC. Can I say that all liberals hate kids because they want them exterminated by abortion? Can I assume that if I know somebody was an "accident", you and all liberals think they should be dead because their mother should have aborted them? She just wasn't progressive enough to do what she should have? Of course not. So please don't tar all conservatives with the same brush.

    There's just as much hatred/contempt on the "liberal" side as the "conservative" one.


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