Planned Parenthood has announced its plan to discard the term “pro-choice.” I don’t think that it’s especially controversial that the anti-abortion side of the argument has had the better of the framing battle when it comes to establishing terms for the respective sides. “Pro-Life” sounds like something that everyone ought to be — despite it’s being a poor name for the anti-abortion position — while “pro-choice” sounds even more abstract and puzzling, as well as subject to caviling. (“Pro which choice? Pro whose choice? What about the baby’s choice?”) Good arguments exist, for example this one from Amanda Marcotte, for retaining the term “pro-choice” — or at least for regretting its departure, if that happens:
I can see why Planned Parenthood might want to shed the term in order to get these conflicted people to realize they are on Planned Parenthood’s side. But I’m afraid that the desire to go label-free is doomed to fail. I’m not going to start writing pieces where I describe pro-choice organizations as pro-whatever-the-situation-is organizations or help-people-understand-the-circumstances organizations. Labels are simply part of language, and shorthand rhetoric is part of the political debate. As long as abortion is a contested issue, there’s no opting out of that.
The only real choice you have is to label yourself or let others do it for you, and of those two options, smart folks will pick the former every time. Pro-choice has its drawbacks, but at least it’s accurate.
And she’s right: trying to promote a movement bare of labels will last for long. (That’s why people pay good money to have their positions branded well.) Not-herself-a-feminist (but abortion-rights-favoring) Katie Roiphe — writing, like Marcotte, in Slate — gives her own suggestion here:
[H]ow should the movement better express the crucial and complicated idea of a woman’s right to control her own body? I think “pro-freedom” would be better, closer to what we mean, though still not as transcendent a term as “pro-life.” (It would be excellent if Planned Parenthood somehow had the power to obliterate the term “pro-life” as well.)
(My emphasis — and I hope that you’ll take the time to read all three links.)
I don’t much like the term “pro-freedom” to replace “pro-choice,” but Roiphe’s closing parenthetical comment in that paragraph struck me like a thunderbolt. Yes! That’s exactly what we need to do — and we can! We supporters of the right to choose an abortion do have the power to obliterate the term “pro-life,” the way that competing brands and message campaigns often do — with a slogan that co-opts the message of the competitor while highlighting its flaws.
I am “PRO-REAL-LIFE.”
I couldn’t find this term in a Google search, so maybe it actually is something new. Here’s what I like about it as a term (and as a slogan): (1) it renders the term “pro-life” feeble by taking over its use of the word “life”; (2) it points to the “fakeness” of many anti-abortion scenarios in how they understand the real-life considerations that lead women to choose abortion, and (3) it trumps “pro-life” in terms of positive buzzwords because “real” and “real-life” are probably as positive as the word “life” itself, at least when it comes to public policy.
“Pro-real-life” is “anti-fake-life” — and anti-fake”-scenarios offered to justify denying abortion that are uncommon in real life.”
“Pro-real-life” seeks to ensure that every woman, not-yet- or already-pregnant, can have a “real life” of their own.
“Pro-real-life” recognizes the real-life choices that women have to make, such as those between supporting their existing children and having another child that could slide the whole family into poverty.
“Pro-real-life” recognizes that in real life, some people who are pregnant are not equipped to have a child at that moment due to age, mental competency, or violent environment (including conception due to rape.)
“Pro-real-life” recognizes that in real life some young women and girls would rather risk death than consult with their parents (or even a judge) about whether to have an abortion, especially in instances of incest or prospective ostracism.
“Pro-real-life” recognizes that in real life some women, young and old, can’t consult with their husbands because of the possible reaction they may face — including violent death.
“Pro-real-life” recognizes that some women can’t afford a needless “waiting period” before being allowed to have an abortion because in real life it may require too much time and too much money for a trip that, thanks to restrictions on
Pro-real-life recognizes that not to allow a mother to protect her own right to life over that of an embryo, fetus, or even late-term child is, in real life, cruel, barbaric, and a deprivation of both dignity and health.
Pro-real-life recognizes that some fetuses, such as those whose brains are developing outside of their skulls, may in real lifeface short and painful lives that their parents may choose to spare them as a simple matter of mercy.
Pro-real-life recognizes that in real life many women whose economic lives may be destroyed by giving birth are going to try to have illegal abortions if they can’t have a legal one, and really lose their lives.
Pro-real-life recognizes that in real life a young woman or girl who has gone through a full-term pregnancy may find it emotionally impossible to give up a child (perhaps especially a first child) for adoption, and may regret it more than she would an abortion.
Pro-real-life recognizes that in real life we are not running out of babies to care for and to continue our civilization.
Pro-real-life recognizes that in real life even those who proclaim their costless expressions of morality by opposing abortion for others often manage to come up with exceptions then it’s themselves or their loves ones — or mistresses who need one.
Pro-real-life recognizes that woman and girls know much more about their real lives at the moment that they are deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy, and that most of them are adults who should be able to make their own real-life decisions and the rest deserve respect for how they want to order the real lives they have ahead of them.
I think that “pro-real-life” makes our arguments very well; in fact, it makes our opponents’ arguments seem wan. I think that it frames the argument exactly how we want it framed.
I accept that “pro-choice” may not have done its job for defenders of reproductive self-determination In real life, you have to accept that sometimes the public doesn’t buy your message or your framing. In real life, if you care about the outcomes, you may have to change it. In real life, you can adapt to new circumstances and come out ahead.
I am pro-real-life! Are you?