This week, the Washington Post published a profile of NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, which focused on what apparently is to many in the anti-choice movement a mystifying occurrence: Hogue, a leading abortion-rights advocate, is pregnant with twins. As Hogue recounted in the piece, the jaws of anti-choice advocates dropped open when she recently entered one meeting at 36 weeks pregnant. One advocate, referring to her belly, even asked: “Is that real?”
Yes. It’s really real.
The media and others often depict the pro-choice movement as having a political “agenda” equivalent though oppositional to that of the anti-choice movement, which seeks to eliminate access to abortion care, in all circumstances, as well as to contraception and other forms of reproductive health care, irrespective of the consequences for public health or women’s lives.
But what is the pro-choice “agenda?” Is it really just about ideology? And what is so surprising about being pro-choice and pregnant?
Being pro-choice is fundamentally about parenting, because it means believing, as the international women’s rights movement has long stated, that every child should be a wanted child, and that, by extension, that every parent is a willing parent.
It means focusing on women and girls, first and foremost, as human beings with human rights. It means believing in reproductive justice for all persons, a concept that, while complex and multidimensional, is nonetheless succinctly described by Loretta Ross, a scholar, writer, and co-founder of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, as ensuring that every individual has the ability to:
- Decide if and when to have a child and the conditions under which to give birth;
- Decide not to have a baby and full access to options for preventing or ending a pregnancy;
- Parent the children she or he already has with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without fear of violence from individuals or the government.
Being pro-choice means advocating for the ability of people to parent when they are ready to do so, and the right of every child to receive love, attention, food, housing, health care, education, and other critical social supports, funding for many of which, by the way, legislators affiliated with the anti-choice movement are busy eliminating.
Being pro-choice is also a commitment to using science and evidence in the interest of social progress. Data show unequivocally that in countries or in communities (even in the United States) where people lack access to reproductive and maternal health care (including abortion care), there are higher rates of maternal death and illness, higher rates of infant and child mortality, higher rates of poverty, and lower rates of educational attainment. Access to abortion is therefore an economic, social, and health issue in every sense. If you read and understand medical and public health evidence without bias, you can not help but advocate for what that evidence tells you: access to abortion saves lives. Based on all the undeniable evidence, supporting all people in making decisions about whether and when to be pregnant and whether, when, and with whom to become a parent is the pro-life position in the fullest sense of the term.
It is perhaps because they know this intuitively and from lived experience that the majority of women who seek abortion care are already parenting children, and when they become pregnant make rational and sound choices about their ability to parent another child, not just for as long as it takes to get through the one package of diapers from the crisis pregnancy center, but for years on end. Sixty-one percent of women who have abortions already have at least one child.
I’ve had an abortion. I later had two children, now 16 and 18, when I was able to give them what they needed to grow into healthy and well-adjusted young adults. I am of course still parenting them.
Yet these facts notwithstanding, it seems “pro-choice and pregnant” don’t go together in the minds of those who oppose the right of women to make critical decisions about their lives and those of their families. One anti-choice advocate was overheard by my colleague Zoe Greenberg, who was attending a “pro-life” meeting in California, saying that “abortion terminates motherhood.” To the contrary, abortion confirms motherhood, and is part of the continuum of motherhood, fatherhood, and parenthood.
Still those mouths fall open. So we’ve decided to offer concrete evidence of the extent to which parenthood and abortion rights are tied together at a new Tumblr, called, Pregnant, Parenting, and Pro-Choice. We are pro-choice and pregnant, pro-choice and parents, pro-choice and grandparents, aunts, uncles, adoptive, step-, and foster parents. We are pro human rights for all people, and by default, pro-child, and pro-family. We are the majority, and it’s time for us all to step up and show it.
Share your pro-choice and pregnant and parenting photos and stories for the world to see.