Blog for Choice Day 2009!

Elizabeth's picture

Today is January 22, the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade which made abortion bans unconstitutional, and which has been marked for the last three years by "Blog for Choice" day. The Blog for Choice folks prompted bloggers to write about their top pro-choice hope for the Obama administration. (Can I tell you how much I love typing those words: "Obama administration," "President Obama" ... gives me chills!)

My immediate hopes are of course for a rescinding of the Mexico City policy (aka the global gag rule) that prohibits any clinic anywhere in the world that receives US federal aid money from counseling women about abortion or providing abortion services. I am also hoping that the news of Obama's freezing the "conscience exemption" enacted by Bush in a "midnight regulation" is true. RH Reality Check reported yesterday, based on articles in the LA Times and the Press Democrat that both were likely to happen.

But what is my long term wish? (Click here to read more)

My long term "pro choice" wish is for a political conversation about abortion that moves away from the pro-choice/anti-abortion fixed positions and toward a rational discussion about comprehensive sex education, making contraception affordable and easily available, creating health care, child care and leave policies that support families, raising wages (all of which would help reduce the incidence of abortion) and making sure that abortion is safe and available in the increasingly rare cases that it would then be necessary. I hope for a discussion based on evidence rather than ideology, and for an administration with the political will and the power to enact such policies and programs.

(It is hard to imagine this conversation sometimes. LouFCD sent me this video clip of anti-abortion protesters being asked whether they thought abortion should be illegal or not. Of course they said yes. But most were stumped by the follow-up question: What do you think the punishment should be for women who have abortions. I know it might be ideologically-driven editing, but only one person admitted to even having thought about it. Every other person said they didn't know or hadn't thought about it. Now I know that had they been asked what should happen to doctors who perform abortions they'd have had answers. And this troubles me.)

So: comprehensive sex education, health care and access to contraception; better work and family policies and rising wages; safe, affordable and accessible abortion when needed, these are among my pro-choice hopes. Now, I know this last hope is not framed as a "choice" issue because "choice" is code for abortion, but the other thing I hope for from the Obama administration, related to the repeal of the global gag rule, is a repeal of the anti-prostitution pledge that prevents US AID money from flowing to clinics and nonprofits and governments that don't explicitly condemn and agree to work toward (or maintain) the criminalization of prostitution. In foreign policy terms the anti-prostitution pledge jeopardizes lives just as the global gag rule did, by preventing aid money from flowing to places that could make good use of it. Prostitutes and other sex workers are often among the front line organizers of HIV-prevention efforts yet any organization that works with them rather than condemning them can't receive money. (Click here for a moving video about the pledge.) Women's health cannot be protected adequately until the pledge goes the way of the gag rule. And if the pro-choice community wants to continue to support women's health and women's sexual and reproductive freedom (along with the health and freedom of all the communities in which women live, which is really to say "everybody"), I think it is time for politicians and mainstream activists to include sex work in their conversations. The key is that the conversations be based on evidence and not ideology.