United for Choice


Many movements have come to understand the counterrevolution the radical right has launched against oppressed and working people. The movement for reproductive choice is no different, with the exception that on the national scene the radical conservative approach towards this struggle is much quieter and hidden, than in states and counties where it is blatant.

The Bush administration has chosen to chip slowly away at reproductive choice by quietly appointing anti-choice federal circuit judges, taking away funding from Title X (the federal family planning funding stream), comprehensive sex education and instituting increasing limitations on women’s (and men’s) reproductive health services. With the growing war economy and the Bush administration’s new offensive to establish a US empire, the fight against reproductive choice is more than an attack on a woman’s ability to determine the timing and composition of her family. It is an attack on women worldwide. After all, Bush’s first task in office was to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, or Global Gag Rule, keeping clinics, organizations and reproductive health agencies from providing basic services. And the Bush administration continues to cutback funding to the United Nations family planning funding pool (UNFPA). As with any issue related to the UN, the Bush administration does not want any part of it unless the administration has total control of the outcome.

Further, the growing attacks on reproductive choice combined with limitations that have been in the making over the past 30 years are actually benefiting the Bush administration a great deal, not just in their standing with their radical right-wing base, but by making it more difficult for low-income and historically oppressed women to enter and move up in the workforce. Even better for Bush when women are struggling to make ends meet because of an unplanned pregnancy or infection: they are less able to participate in the political process of overturning the conservative regime.

The Bush administration is betting on this. In theory, if they manage to steal the 2004 elections and impose further limitations on reproductive choice, they would be establishing an infrastructure for a new generation of low-wage workers who by their labor will aid in building and maintaining a global capitalist empire.
However, the reproductive choice movement by uniting with the broad struggle for peace and justice at home and abroad, and by joining the swelling united front that is gaining momentum to defeat Bush, can aid in curtailing the limitations to reproductive health access within the United States and the world.

It will also be key for the choice movement to focus on local elections where officials still aim to limit reproductive services. Indeed, it is the states and counties where attacks on reproductive choice are the most plentiful. Here they are also hidden from the broader national discussion. The movement for reproductive choice has difficult days ahead, and it will have to address its own internal contradictions in order to build a more inclusive, more representative women’s struggle. It must do this before it can legitimately join the all-people’s movement to defeat Bush.

In general, the mainstream choice movement has become somewhat detached from the political left, nearly forgetting its roots. The movement will have to rebuild its relationships with other progressive struggles in order to be effective in the upcoming election and in the post-Bush era.

There is already a group of newly aligned pro-choice organizations representing different specific constituencies within the reproductive choice movement initiating this discussion now. These organizations are hoping to pool resources and alter the goals and message of the choice movement from being solely focused on abortion rights to including a broader array of issues related to reproductive health care access and a woman’s right to self-determination in making reproductive decisions.

What is even more positive about this new alignment is its potential to broaden the reproductive choice movement in the post-Bush era. For the choice movement to focus primarily on abortion rights again, particularly from a privileged white woman’s perspective, will only land it in the same predicament for the next 30 years. In order to progress in the struggle for reproductive freedom, the choice movement is really going to have to broaden its agenda, mobilize its voter base in 2004 and reconnect with its true and original base: the political left.

All these things considered, we are on our way to stabilizing women’s right to choose before and after the defeat of Bush in 2004.

--Erica Smiley is field director for Choice USA.