Activism, Around the Office, Commentary, Field canvassing

You’re More Pro-Choice Than You Think

By Jillian Altizer, Former Community Organizer

[ Ed. Note — This post uses the term “pro-life” throughout. While normally we would use the term “anti-choice” to characterize opponents to reproductive rights, we are using the term “pro-life” in this piece, because it’s literally what Jillian hears at the door and it’s what she’s responding to in this piece. In this case, many folks who describe themselves as “personally pro-life” are actually pro-choice. ]

In my ten months of organizing for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, I’ve loved the experience of reaching out to perfect strangers and making space for the issue of choice. Our canvass has knocked on doors as far north as Bellingham and as far south as Vancouver. The times we journey outside of the Seattle area we find more anti-choice views, but so far I have never been anywhere in Washington where the pro-choice values were a minority.

Spotted on-turf: Adorable pro-choice pets.
Spotted on-turf: Adorable pro-choice pets.

When I knock on a door, introduce myself and NARAL, and declare that we are fighting for abortion access, I occasionally meet a few people who genuinely struggle about what their beliefs are. Even in 2014, the word “abortion” carries stigma, despite the fact that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion before age 45. Many people have never heard a woman share her story and without that context, there is often a lack of understanding. I feel so touched when a woman shares her story with me and thanks me for the work I do.

The temptation to delve into a discussion with someone who disagrees with me can be strong, but I smile and wish them a lovely evening because minds don’t change in a matter of minutes and I need to find and engage my supporters. But the myriad of responses I hear give me a lot to consider about what it means to be pro-choice. For me it comes down to freedom and not judging others.

Here are some comments I occasionally hear from people on the fence:

“I’m pro-life but I don’t think abortion should be made illegal.”

Guess what? You’re pro-choice. Someone who chooses to never have an abortion isn’t pro-life unless they want to impose their personal choice on everyone else. The pro-choice movement values all women having freedom to do what’s best for them, whether that choice is motherhood, adoption, or abortion. I’ve met more than one woman carrying a baby in her arms with another kid hanging onto her leg who has enthusiastically signed down and donated to protect the choices of other women.

“I’m pro-choice but____________.”

  • …women shouldn’t use abortion as birth control.
  • …only in cases of rape or incest.
  • …not after the third trimester.
  • etc.

When you say you’re pro-choice, you are saying that you trust women to make decisions about their own lives and bodies without judgment. No exceptions. There are many myths and misconceptions created by the anti-choice movement to make limiting abortion access seem reasonable, but these restrictions are based on an assumption that women cannot be trusted to make the right choice. The choice to have an abortion is a deeply personal decision between a woman, her doctor and her family, not the rest of the world acting as the morality police.

I am inspired every day to see how many people of different sexes, ethnicities, orientations and economic classes support choice. Every stereotype I subconsciously held has been shattered on this journey. One man I assumed would be conservative raised his fist and declared he was a feminist who “put it all on the line” to end the Vietnam War back in the day. After countless strangers have invited me into their homes, offered me food or water, and shared a bit of their lives with me, I can’t help but be confident in the goodness in humanity. My hope is that more people struggling with the issue of abortion access will realize that the kind and loving thing to do is let others be free to make our own private health decisions.

Jillian Altizer was a community organizer at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and loved the unique and passionate conversations that happened in the field. She now works in vegetable production for an organic farm in Auburn. She enjoys writing, painting, gardening, and plotting how to live to at least 105 years old. By that time, she hopes to see the invention of the perfect birth control and a federal ban on abortion restrictions.

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Choice News, Commentary, Supreme Court Watch

Supreme Court Unanimously Decides to Allow Anti-Abortion Group’s Suit to Go Forward

As the pro-choice community waits nervously for a decision in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, we learned last Monday of another SCOTUS decision regarding the anti-choice group the Susan B. Anthony List. Unlike the real Susan B. Anthony, the SBA List opposes the advancement of women’s rights, claiming – falsely – that Susan B. Anthony opposed abortion rights, although many scholars contest this.

Given that the SBA List has been accused of making false statements about its own namesake, it should come as no surprise that they’ve been accused of making false statements against a politician they opposed. In Ohio, in 2010, they ran a billboard against then-Representative Steve Driehaus that said: “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.”

Above: The Susan B. Anthony List's disputed Steve Driehaus ad.
Above: The Susan B. Anthony List’s disputed Steve Driehaus ad.

Unfortunately, we can’t move to high-five Mr. Driehaus for voting to cover a basic reproductive right. Obamacare does allow abortions to be funded through a series of special accounts, but these are separate from taxpayer funds, and Driehaus has actually sued the SBA List for making this statement about him. Specifically, Driehaus referenced an Ohio law which makes it illegal to “post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.”

Driehaus’s lawsuit was later dismissed, but a federal court did side with him separately. This is what caused more federal courts to intervene, which the SBA List encouraged, because they were so offended by Driehaus’ accusations. SCOTUS has now given lower courts the green light to proceed with the lawsuit, which will enable them to now begin examining as to whether the Ohio law is constitutional.

It’s important to note that the Supreme Court’s decision on allowing the lawsuit to go forward was unanimous, with even the liberal justices agreeing that the law against false statements did not have a strong enough foundation in the constitution for the lawsuit to be immediately dismissed. Even some progressive advocacy organizations have questioned whether the law is appropriate. The primary concern among many appears to be the fact that the law allows anyone to file a complaint claiming that a political statement is untrue.

But this entire controversy ignores a much larger issue, which is that far too often the media ignores blatant false statements made by right-wing politicians and activists. Perhaps if more media outlets were willing to call out these lies, then laws such like the one in Ohio would not be necessary. Now that the Supreme Court has become involved, a future ruling in favor of the Susan B. Anthony List could only embolden anti-choice groups to place even more misleading and derogatory information out front. As it stands currently, the SBA List is already planning to spend up to $10 million on political campaigns this coming fall.

Commentary, Pop Culture and Feminism

From Lisa Simpson to Rory Gilmore: Our Favorite Feminist TV Characters

By Communications Intern Michelle Auster

Television isn’t always a great place for feminists, from the sexist tropes we’ve seen time and again, to the lack of diversity, to a lack of female directors and writers, to the sidelining of female characters to limiting roles – so it’s especially awesome, and notable, when TV gets away from these bad habits and shines a light on strong, real women, or even women who themselves identify as feminist. Here are a few of our favorite leading ladies, who we’re excited to watch sticking it to the patriarchy year after year.

1. Lisa Simpson. The longest-recurring TV character on this list, Lisa Simpson has been inspiring young girls for years to stand up for what they believe and to call out wrongdoings against them. She also preceded most of the characters on this list, providing a crucial voice of feminist common sense for little girls growing up in the early 90s.

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Thank you for helping us grow up to be feminists, Lisa Simpson! (Image Credit: CelebQuote)

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Activism, Intersectionality, Violence Against Women

V-Day 2014: A Movement to End Violence Against Women

vday

Tired of candy hearts and chocolates and roses? Then be sure to check out One Billion Rising: a campaign to end Violence Against Women and raise awareness.

It’s happening NOW. All over the world. You can see real-time updates here. Chances are, there is something happening in your city too! Take just a moment and learn about this incredible campaign which makes a real difference every Valentine’s Day. You won’t regret it.

Commentary, Humor, Pop Culture and Feminism, War on Women

Is the War on Women Getting You Down? Read This!

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Let’s face it: the war on women is real and depressing — so let’s take a minute to rekindle that awesome, feminist spirit and read this triumphant article at PolicyMic on recent digital feminist campaigns that made a real difference!

Featuring stories and accounts from the likes of (the amazing) Wendy Davis to our very own NARAL Pro-Choice America, this is social media for social action! Reboot your confidence in the power that feminists have, and never forget that the people who would prefer you not to have a voice are almost always the people who lose out in the end.