July 29, 2014 — Abortion-rights groups are gradually moving away from the term "pro-choice" in favor of a broader message that better encompasses the many health and economic issues that affect women, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, abortion-rights supporters adopted the phrase "pro-choice" around the time of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling as a way to counter abortion-rights opponents' term "pro-life."
Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other groups that support abortion rights began to shift away from the phrase around 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) took effect, which included many provisions affecting women's health care, and Republicans made gains in state legislatures.
Women's groups and Democrats conducted a series of polls and found that many female voters, especially younger women, do not identify with the term pro-choice. Some polls suggested that women preferred the term "pro-life," even though they also said they support Roe. Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the political advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood, explained the contradiction by saying that the self-identified pro-life voters were "talking about their personal decision-making, for themselves, and not about what they want to push on others."
The poll findings also demonstrated the "weakness of the pro-choice label," with Planned Parenthood conducting research on public attitudes through 2011 and sharing the findings with other abortion-rights groups, the Times reports.
According to the Times, "[n]o pithy phrase has replaced" the term pro-choice. Instead, abortion-rights groups are discussing a range of policies grouped under phrases such as "women's health" and "economic security."
PPFA President Cecile Richards said that the shift away from the term pro-choice "is something that we have been talking about for several years," adding that the "'pro-choice' language doesn't really resonate particularly with a lot of young women voters." She said that PPFA is "really trying to focus on, what are the real things you are going to lose" because of women's health restrictions, ranging from personal rights to economic losses or "access to health care for you or for your kids."
Similarly, Marcy Stech, a spokesperson for EMILY's List, said, "When you really look at the broad scope of all the Republicans' attacks, it's clear 'women's health' is what's at stake" (Calmes, New York Times, 7/28).