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Abortion-Rights Community Needs New Language, Washington Post Op-Ed Argues

Abortion-Rights Community Needs New Language, Washington Post Op-Ed Argues

August 19, 2014 — "Pro-choice groups would be a lot stronger, more effective and more in sync with ... women" if they stopped referring to abortion as a "difficult decision," Janet Harris -- president of Upstream Analysis and a former EMILY's List communications director -- writes in a Washington Post opinion piece.

According to Harris, abortion-rights groups like Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America often use language such as "difficult," "hard" or "reluctant" to refer to abortion decisions.

Abortion-rights supporters' use of this language can be problematic because "it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning 'informed consent' laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it," Harris argues. The abortion-rights movement needs to broaden its language "precisely because it was drawn into a moral debate about the fetus's hypothetical future rather than the woman's immediate and tangible future," she writes, adding that abortion access should not be framed as "an option rather than a necessity."

Further, many women who have abortions do not think it was a "difficult decision," Harris writes. For example, a 2012 study found that 87% of women seeking an abortion had a high degree of confidence in their decisions.

"[I]n many places, getting a safe and legal abortion can be more difficult because of parental-consent laws, distance to an abortion provider or a gantlet of hostile protesters outside the clinic doors," Harris writes, concluding, "Of all these difficulties, deciding whether to get an abortion is often the least of them. The situation may be difficult, but the decision is usually straightforward" (Harris, Washington Post, 8/15).