It’s been forty years since the passing of Roe v Wade. Forty years. That’s a very long time. In 1973 we were still smoking in restaurants, elevators and hospitals. In 1973 women were called girls and people of color were called worse. Push button phones were the edgiest things in communication technology and fancy people had remote controls for their televisions. We’ve come a long way baby! Or have we? The fight against reproductive freedoms is in full force and we seemed to have learned little. Literally. If you were to listen to the arguments or soundbites of anti-choice proponents you’d find yourself wondering how you missed that particular biology lesson. It’s alarming to discover grown people (who have made reproduction their raison d’etre) know so little about reproduction.
Babies don’t live inside of people, zygotes, embryos and fetuses do (in that order.) Semantics you say? Perhaps, but words are power; just ask any 50 year old “girl” or racially slurred man.
Contraception and birth control are not the same thing (though their end results are the same.) Contraception prevents conception. Any barrier device (i.e., diaphragm, condom, etc.) or spermicide (in the best case scenario) prevents a sperm from fertilizing an egg. Sterilization would fall into the category of contraception as well. Any method or procedure that prevents a fertilized egg from becoming a baby is birth control. All hormonal methods fall into this category (i.e., I.U.D., birth control pills, implants, etc.) as part of their efficacy is that they work to prevent uterine adherence. Spontaneous and medical abortions are also birth control. If anti-choice advocates believe that a fertilized egg is a human life, they should take a long hard look at all birth control.
By ignoring the erroneous use of terminology and the manipulation of biological fact it’s as if we endorse the fallacies. Of course we need only go to the movies or watch television to know that we’re doing a pretty bang-up job of ignoring the whole issue altogether. It’s been forty years since Maude had an abortion (with zero viewer controversy,) yet you’d be hard-pressed to ever see a character rationally choosing this option. In 2013 soap operas (once the bastion of contemporary socially relevant dramatization) refers to abortion only with hush and horror; “She was seen outside of an abortion clinic!” A relatively sophisticated police drama depicted a female athlete (how 21st century) choosing to be charged for a crime she didn’t commit rather than have people know she had (gasp) an abortion. Routinely teenage characters are depicted as having only two choices when faced with an unplanned pregnancy (and both involve giving birth.)
Half of all unplanned pregnancies in the Unites States are terminated. It’s left to our imaginations to determine how many unplanned pregnancies occur. It’s a relatively safe bet that at any book club across our land there are at least a couple of stories to be told. And maybe that’s part of our fractured and false conversation. Women don’t talk about abortion. They’ll talk about everything else under the sun, but not abortion. You can’t get through a bridal shower without hearing about pee sticks, frequency, duration, enhancers, gizmos, gadgets and gewgaws. But nothing would bring the consistency of mucus conversation to a screeching halt like the mention of the “A” word. Why? How did we come to believe that there was any shame in freedom of choice? How did taking responsibility for our health, our lives and for the future become tainted? How did we fall under the spell of the anti-choice rhetoric?
We can create small individual revolutions by adopting appropriate terminology. It’s probably a bit of a buzz kill to discuss any gynecological procedure at a bridal shower. But there’s ample opportunity to correct on-air and real people when they refer to fetuses as babies. Pointing out that birth control works very much like abortion does could make some waves as well. We’ve gotten to a point in this country where the loudest voice gains the most credence, not matter how ill informed or flat out wrong that voice is. Tuning out the screamers is not good enough; we need to add scientific and sociological fact to the noise.