False Dichotomies and the Pro-Voice Movement

6 Sep

If you are reading this, you probably think about abortion more than the average citizen.  Like myself, you would write-off reading through 25 personal abortion stories in succession as a somewhat simple task.  But I can assure you, it’s not.

Reading these accounts from self-identified antis, pro-choice peoples, and the many unidentified folks in-between not only brought out the mushy middle, but also that in the real world it is not so much about labels as about people and their life trajectories.  I think one blogger coined the spectrum best as “falsely dichotomized.”

Pro-choice, anti-choice, whatever, it may all collapse when you realize you have an unintended pregnancy.  Everyday women walk in and out of a clinic anti-choice, before and after an abortion.  We just often fail to recognize this because it’s all so illogical.  People love their boxes.  I love my box.  I am a liberal, pro-choice New Yorker, and I am so comfortable in my box.  Occasionally though, we have to recognize that much like latitude and longitude, these are imaginary lines made-up by people to assist them in navigating their lives.

So where does that leave us?  Get rid of the boxes.  Embrace people exactly where they’re at.  Simply accept that one woman can say “The whole thing was about as exciting as a pap smear,” while another can regret her abortion years down the road. Embrace that everyone from professional volleyball players to professional antis will be compelled to write about this experience anytime from the day to years after. We just support them all to make the best decisions that they know how to.  That philosophy, ye olde end o’boxes, to me is what distinguishes reproductive justice.

Take for example, Aspen Baker of Exhale’s abortion story.  She introduces the term “pro-voice,” which easily could be used to coin this new wider vision of abortion advocacy.  Focusing on women’s empowerment through internal and not external factors.  She even goes so far to highlight this “gray area of human experience,” in regards to the morality and ethics of abortion.  The difficulty from me came in when Baker discusses how a strict vision of “abortion on demand” and similar mainline pro-choice “movement” rhetoric and theory is incompatible with a more morally reflective individual experience of abortion.

These are not mutually exclusive.  This is a fallacy, and I believe it speaks to the rift between older and younger feminists.  Perhaps, older feminists don’t think we exist because we don’t think like them.  But that, my friends, is what we call progress.

We, young feminists, see humanist and feminist as synonymous.  We see justice not choice as the framework.  We grew-up writing Amnesty International Urgent Actions and watching girl power afterschool specials.  We expect feminism and work for justice. We see a full-range of reproductive options from abortion to birthing babies to contraception access as one battle.

Second wavers didn’t generally work across all these realms.  They operated in isolated buckets, much like their remnant nonprofits do today.  But like our personal and political imaginary lines, these buckets too are imaginary.  Herein lies the crux of the generational disconnect.  If you’re working on abortion rights, how could you possibly understand or truly care about ethical dilemmas around abortion?  My thinking, how can you not?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I don’t have the utmost respect for all of these women and men.  I do.  Their work is incredible.  But we are here to push boundaries.  At the same time, I also sincerely doubt I’ll be sitting in a circle holding hands with antis anytime soon.  I still call myself pro-choice and am astonished how someone can state they felt they made the right decision about having an abortion and come back years later to regret it because of something they thought they heard through divine intervention.  That I will never understand.  But that doesn’t mean I cannot accept it.  It doesn’t mean that woman has to be sequestered to a box to keep me from having to think about her and her needs.  It simply means I need to learn more and work harder alongside all of you.

6 Responses to “False Dichotomies and the Pro-Voice Movement”

  1. Bonnie Watkins September 6, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Hey gang I’m sent here by dear Erin Matson’s tweet that you got it all right and I agree 90%. The missing 10% is that I wish you could be equally tolerant of ambiguity when it comes to older feminists and second wave feminists. Erin has been a great voice for telling us old farts (I’m 60) not to dis and make assumptions about young feminists – can I ask for the same?

    “older feminists don’t think we exist because we don’t think like them” (especially thinking any differences in our thinking automatically equate to progress) and “Second wavers didn’t generally work across all these realms. They operated in isolated buckets, much like their remnant nonprofits do today.” This is not an accurate description of my work in at least three feminist organizations, from 1977 to the present. I think your and my thinking is way more similar than the thinking of Big Patriarchal Everything. And I and my colleagues of all ages have worked across every stinkin realm we can, dancing as fast as we can at all times – and you should come visit my “remnant nonprofit” the Minnesota Women’s Consortium where we try to connect and promote all the buckets of 160+ member groups, every day.

    Ahhhh thanks for listening, I feel better. But remember, if we buy into inter-generational dissing the bad guys win. Back to your first concept: great!

  2. Nicole September 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    You most certainly can Bonnie! That is exactly what I have been hoping for. I apologize this didn’t come across clearly. I was hoping to cause a bit of a ruckus while still emphasizing my great respect for all the work that has made the space for even me to begin to be critical.

  3. Aspen Baker September 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Hey Nicole,

    Thanks so much for writing about the Pro-Voice movement here and sharing your perspective.

    I got a little confused when I read this: “The difficulty from me came in when Baker discusses how a strict vision of “abortion on demand” and similar mainline pro-choice “movement” rhetoric and theory is incompatible with a more morally reflective individual experience of abortion.”

    I wasn’t sure when or where I had said this. Can you point it out to me? I’d like to be able to do a better job of writing how these thing’s should *not* be mutually exclusive but that they often come across as they are – which is the problem I was attempting to describe.

    Thanks!

    Aspen

  4. Nicole September 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Aspen!

    Thank you so much for making your way over to our blog and reading my post. I really appreciate it.

    Everything here stems only from your blog post “The Moral of My Abortion Story,” as it was included in a group of 25 stories that I was reflecting on.

    The language that led me to write that phrase was your discussion of the “my way or the highway base” and how “It’s a shame, then, that so many pro-choice people want to shut down any conversation about abortion’s morality, or ethics.” The use of base and many, to me, implied a majority of sorts. In addition, you yourself assumed the negative reaction from pro-choice folks, which to be fair you got, rejecting Frances Kissling’s call. That call inherently is trying to incorporate this fuller spectrum of reproductive justice with ethics alongside abortion on demand. Your assumption of a general rejection to this, to me, seems an admit of defeat that at least for now these two are incompatible.

    Make any more sense?

    I’m really glad to hear you think they are compatible! Honestly, it makes much more sense based on all the incredible work you’re doing.

    Cheers!

  5. NYCprochoiceMD September 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    “Erin has been a great voice for telling us old farts (I’m 60) not to dis and make assumptions about young feminists – can I ask for the same?”

    Yes Bonnie, you can and should ask for the same! Thanks for reminding us that it goes both ways.

  6. ProVoice Art March 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Are you one of the thousands of women who are going through expectant medical management just WAITING FOR YOUR BODY TO MISCARRY?!?!?

    If you or someone you know may be interested in artistically expressing the abundance of emotions experienced during this difficult time in your life- PLEASE contact me at ProVoiceProject@gmail.com

    I am putting together a National Project for Women (like myself) who have been medically diagnosed to miscarry and are now waiting for nature to take its often unfair course.

    This project is not for all women and only those who are TRULY comfortable confronting their feelings should inquire!

    Thank you!

    ProVoiceProject@gmail.com

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