Let Choice Ring!

“One of the great things about our nation … is that we’re each entitled to have strong personal beliefs, and we encourage other people to do the same. But as a nation, we recognize the right of all people to believe as they want and not to impose our beliefs on other people. I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country…I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice…”

Mitt Romney, in a debate with US Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), October 25, 1994

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Vessel, the new documentary about the courageous doctor/activist Rebecca Gomperts and her struggle to preserve and protect reproductive rights worldwide. (It is currently available to watch on YouTube for a nominal fee.) Gomperts is an international hero for her fight to defend women’s freedom and equality in the face of hyper-intense misogynist backlash; I hope she is a future winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

I argued last month that progressives “..need to defend women’s reproductive rights with renewed intensity in this country. We need to demand that every man and woman we elect pledge allegiance to the sacred right to choose. We need to insist that Roe v. Wade be accorded the same respect we accord to Brown v. Board of Education.” With Republicans going to new lengths to sabotage a woman’s right to choose, progressives must become more forceful than ever been in standing up for reproductive rights.

We have this strange queasiness about abortion in this country. It makes no sense at all. Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for forty-two years. It has liberated women to pursue their own destines and has allowed for the proper and planned formation of families. It has also been good for the economy.

Nobody likes to talk about this, but there is a clear connection between choice and capitalism (tell your Republican friends!). When a woman has control over her own reproductive destiny, she can fully participate in the economy. When a woman has control over her own reproductive destiny, she has fewer obstacles to pursuing the education she needs to get ahead in society. When a woman has control over her own reproductive destiny, she has a better chance to gain ground in male-dominated sectors of American industry.

From this standpoint, choice is a prerequisite to vibrant economic growth in an advanced society. (Why else do you think old-school northeastern moderate Republicans were pro-choice?)

If you love women, you will fight tirelessly for their right to choose. If you love women, you will push back against the religious fundamentalists who can’t stand the thought of independent, liberated ladies. If you love women, you will overcome the illogical social taboos and declare firmly and proudly that choice is moral, choice is right, choice is just, choice is fair, choice is wise, choice is cool, choice is sexy, choice is healthy, choice is kind, choice is freeing…and yes, choice is beautiful.

The radical anti-abortion movement in this country is our own Boko Haram, trying to kidnap women’s rights in the name of an extremist and backward ideology. They must be stopped and defeated in the way we defeated the extremist ideologies of earlier eras. They must be stopped by standing up for choice and never backing down.

By the way, when you talk to your Republican friends about the importance of protecting a woman’s right to choose, ask them why they want to, in effect, expand the “welfare state.”

Think about it: if a majority of states severely restricted or criminalized one’s ability to have an abortion for birth-control purposes, and “irresponsible” sexual activity did not decline, we would have a rather significant economic problem on our hands, no?

If women were effectively compelled to go through with unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, a significant portion of these women would presumably have to turn to government support to deal with the consequences of conception. (Even if the fathers of some of these children tried to help out, government support would still be necessary if the parents of these children happened to be very low on the American economic scale.) What conservatives refer to as the “welfare state” would have to be dramatically expanded to accommodate these impoverished families.

Your Republican friends will turn apple-red if you tell them that restricting reproductive rights will inevitably lead to more so-called “welfare queens” in the United States. They won’t know what to do. However, you know what to do—and that is to defend choice at all costs.

UPDATE: More from John Baird, Jill Filipovic and Derek Selznick.

SECOND UPDATE: Jill Filipovic discusses her article on the January 24 edition of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.

THIRD UPDATE: A great letter from the Los Angeles Times.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.