Is "choice" really all we're fighting for?

Or is it time for an even stronger word?

Published June 28, 2006 8:58PM (EDT)

I've said it before, I'll say it again -- and now Rachel Joy Larris at says there's a renewed call, too: The "pro-choice" movement needs a better name. Larris reports that Al Quinlan, a pollster who has been working with opponents of the abortion ban in South Dakota, says that "'choice' carries a meaning that works against us."

I agree. "Choice" sounds to me like what you make between baked and mashed, when in reality these matters are life and death. "Choice" sounds -- to the opposition, or the undecided -- like a bunch of affluent women choosing among an array of options, including abortion on a whim (sic). When it comes to the rights we're fighting for, after all, so many women have next to no choice at all.

This is partly why Quinlan and others say that (Larris' paraphrase) "using the term 'right' -- as in inalienable rights -- is a frame that works much better, and can have appeal to libertarian side of both parties." It's also handy for linking abortion rights to civil rights, they say.

Fair enough, but we already call what we're fighting for -- at least part of it -- "abortion rights." And that still doesn't cut it: a) We're fighting for even more than abortion rights, and b) "abortion rights" is hardly an oomphy one-syllable word you can stick after "pro." More to the point, it's not an oomphy one-syllable word that can trump "life." Damn them for taking -- and failing to live up to -- that one. Speaking of "them," even "pro-family" sounds creepy at this point. So. Ideas? I'm open.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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