For the past few years, opponents of women’s reproductive health and rights have been winning a war of semantics, so to speak.
That’s difficult to hear for some, but it’s true. Put aside all of the silly things some male legislators have said about women’s reproductive rights.
You know, the distinctions they have made between “legitimate rape” and presumably “illegitimate rape.” The claims they’ve made that women shouldn’t mind trans-vaginal ultrasounds if they’ve already had sex. And the “abortion rights caused the Sandy Hook massacre” comments.
Let’s put those aside. Just for a while. Opponents of women’s reproductive health and rights have been skillful at framing the war they have waged against women as one of the value of human life versus the value of a selfish woman’s choice.
Their memes and slogans are succinct and biting. “It’s not choice; it’s a child,” “abortion stops a beating heart,” and, of course, “Smile, your mom chose life.”
And my favorite, “The womb is the most dangerous place for an African American.” That one is so offensive, it’s laughable. Ask the families of Tony Robinson, Sandra Bland or Eric Garner where is the most dangerous place in the world for African Americans.
Ask professional black people who are accosted while driving, while working, while sleeping where is the most dangerous place on earth for African Americans. They may have a different answer than “the womb.” But, I digress.
Even characterizing their position as “pro-life” is pretty brilliant. For, who can be against life? Who wants to stop a beating heart? How can a choice be more worthy of protection than a human life?
This is the uphill struggle friends of women’s reproductive health must face day in and day out. A child’s human life versus a woman’s “choice.”
Add that God has clearly, unambiguously endorsed the pro-life position, and it’s an untenable position women’s reproductive health and rights.
Friends and advocates for women’s health and reproductive rights, and I consider myself one of them, have to acknowledge that the pro-life movement has beaten us to the punch, at least semantically. They have been able to characterize their position as the morally right and ethically right one — the one God supports.
We have to take a loss on the semantic fight. When we had knowledge that they have outdone us semantically, we can begin framing the issue in a way that thoughtfully supports women’s health and reproductive rights.
That framing begins with Roe v. Wade and the constitutional protections guaranteed to women as it relates to privacy.
That framing begins with acknowledging that while women have a right to choose their own destiny and what happens with their own body, health care concerns — and women’s reproductive health is certainly that — is not a choice, but rather a right.
And that semantic framing ends with God. We must embrace that God values women and their health as God created both man and woman at the same time (Sigh. Please carefully read Genesis 1 and 2 before telling me I’m destined for “eternal damnation”…again).
We must embrace also that God alone is the arbiter of when human life begins. And God expressed that it begins when God the Creator breathes life into a being; not when humans say life begins.
Reframing the semantic debate over women’s reproductive health is not merely an apology for women or their right to choose.
It’s an acknowledgment that being on the side of women’s reproductive health is noble, worthy, and even righteous.