“I am Pro-Choice, But. . .”

4 May

Have you ever known someone who says, “I think abortion should be legal but I would never have one”?  I recently had a twitter argument over a post that echoes this sentiment.

Last week a twitter friend posted a link from postsecret that is a drawing of a woman wearing a pro-choice clinic escort shirt standing in front of a sign that reads “This Clinic Stays Open.” In the space next to this image are the words, “I escort women into the clinic to keep them safe…even though the thought of an abortion makes me want to cry.” Then in the text of the tweet with this link my friend writes, “I identify with this… prochoice all the way, but I do find it very sad.”

This sent me into an almost blackout rage and I was trying to keep calm and think of a response to her.  I knew that the other posters at The Abortion Gang would have words I could use that put my feeling into 140 characters or less and so I came here to read the other posts. I found a sentence I really liked and replied back to her, “saying it makes you sad/cry does nothing to de-stigmatize not only abortion care work but also reproductive justice activism.”

She then replied to me in two tweets, “it doesn’t make me cry, but it does make me sad. I wish no one ever had to make the decision, but I support our right to make it” and “and even though I haven’t done it, I would gladly escort someone in so that they were safe and well cared for.”

I am giving so much detail about this because I feel my response to her was completely ignored and she doesn’t address the fact that using words like “sad” and “cry” do reinforce negative associations with abortion and also continue to shame it.  I also feel that by saying this she is not really pro-choice.  There shouldn’t be a qualifier statement after saying “I am pro-choice.” Why have the “but” in there?  It is as harmful as someone who is flat out anti-choice.  I never read anti-choice statements saying, “I’m anti-choice but….’ They own their beliefs.  Using the word ‘but’ negates everything a person just said.  I refuse to believe anyone when they make statements like that and I don’t trust that what they are saying is even true.  Just like no one wants to hear an apology that starts with, “I’m sorry, but….”

Here are similar statements to hers to give examples of how ridiculous it sounds.

1: “I’m all for equality and gay rights, but the though of gays getting married in the church makes me cry.”

2: “I wish no one had to have gall stones removed and I would never do it but I support your right to do it.”

The thought of a safe, legal, common medical procedure does not make me cry.  I strongly believe that saying that you wish no one had to have an abortion is just as bad as saying they shouldn’t have one. Until we normalize the notion of having an abortion as safe and legal, as well as using the word ‘abortion,’ no progress will be made.  I feel that people who make statements like her are harmful to the cause and I don’t want to associate myself with any of it. I am fiercely pro-choice and she knows this and of course I am going to read that and feel the need to respond and stay on topic without devolving into a pointless discussion.  Rather than admitting to being anti-choice why does one say “I’m pro-choice, but…”?  I have thought about this question for a few days after I wrote this and I have come to realize it is because they find abortion morally wrong but consider themselves liberal.  And one cannot be blatantly anti-choice and liberal; at least I feel most people would not admit that in public to their friends/family. I think this is just as dangerous to the pro-choice movement as anything else we face on a daily basis. I feel that whenever I update my facebook status or tweet about abortion in general or how it was eroded away in the health care reform I get very little response from my “friends.”  Maybe this is my own problem in that my circle of friends isn’t as pro-choice as I assumed they were. This doesn’t stop me from posting articles and links because I like everyone knowing where I stand and I don’t have some internal moral struggle with my beliefs.  I am going to keep talking about being pro-choice with no ‘but’ or qualifier statement because the more I can help to normalize it the more beneficial it is for everyone.

16 Responses to ““I am Pro-Choice, But. . .””

  1. Kellie May 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    I think women feel the need to include the “but” because they are feminists but still can respect the life inside the woman. Is there any way to be pro-feminist and pro-life? Why do the two have to be so antithetical? I think the ability to be pregnant gives us power, and doesn’t take it away. I also think the “but” reflects that we need more education and discussion on the issue (which is why I assume this blog exists) What do you think?

  2. Michelle May 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    There’s a difference between respecting the power to be pregnant and being anti-choice. Anyone who limits or judges a woman’s choices for her body is not feminist, in my opinion.

  3. KushielsMoon May 4, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    This debate about “prochoice, but” and being sad or unhappy about abortion always has me torn.

    Part of me says you’re right- abortion is a normal legal procedure, and there is so much negativity against it that we need to be extra strong and extra proud in our support of it.

    But the other part of me says- what about that girl’s feelings? And other women’s feelings?

    For some women, abortion *is* sad. For some women, abortion makes them cry. Who are we to say they cannot feel that way?

    I get worried when I see prochoicers trying to say that someone can’t feel sad after an abortion. Why? We shouldn’t be controlling people like that. All feelings about abortion are legitimate. I’d go so far as to say even antichoice feelings (though I don’t want them to create laws based upon their feelings).

    I think this is especially true for women who are aborting wanted pregnancies due to some sort of health risk. These families will be sad, crying, grieving, and feeling a loss. To say that one cannot support choice and also recognize the pain some women feel is to cut off a huge part of the prochoice movement, I would think .

    Lastly, in terms of the political debate, I think we should welcome “prochoice but” people. Would you rather they become antichoice because a prochoicer told them they couldn’t be prochoice and still think abortion is a sad thing? Even if I don’t agree with these people completely, I’d rather have them reluctantly supporting choice than voting to take away women’s rights.

  4. NYCprochoiceMD May 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I think it should be: I’m prochoice AND the choice I think I would make would be to continue the pregnancy AND I think everyone should be able to make that decision on her own.

    You can respect the living embryo inside the woman, and the woman’s capability of incubating an embryo and giving birth, and be prochoice. I provide abortions and although I know the embryo is alive in some sense of the word, I value significantly more the life of the woman without whom that embryo would not exist.

    I love babies. I love women. I love helping women continue their pregnancies to term and I love helping them end pregnancies that aren’t right for them. People in our field understand that being in favor of abortion rights is being in favor of respecting women as people who have both the power to incubate fetuses and the power to be people who take care of themselves and their families.

  5. Laura May 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    @KushielsMoon- I am not suggesting we discredit the feelings of a woman after she has had an abortion or the feelings of a pregnant woman. My issue was someone who wasn’t and hasn’t been pregnant saying that the thought of abortion made her sad and I felt that was a morality judgement on her part.

    I am also not so sure that these “prochoice but” people do vote pro-choice 100% of the time. Example, here in Illinois we had two gubernatorial democrats running in the primary and one said that he supports a woman’s right to choose but also supports the parental notification law. That is a law based in morality, that teenagers don’t have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. The other candidate said that he supports a woman’s right to choose, and didn’t support the notification law. It makes me nervous that the fist candiate could take some pro-choice but voters because they identify with him more and then use his election to slowly erode more abortion rights away.

    @Kellie- I don’t feel the purpose of this blog is to debate pro-choice vs. anti-choice. My post was intended to point out the ‘but’ is used as a disclaimer to pass judgement without outright saying ‘I think abortion is wrong’ or ‘I don’t think women should have them’. This does nothing to de-stigmatize abortion.

  6. Triptrain May 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    “I’m pro-choice, but abortion makes me sad” is really very closely related to the whole notion that abortion SHOULD be sad, and that it’s somehow morally offensive to NOT be sad if you abort or perform abortions. You see a lot of the same sentiment with the word “difficult” – many generally well-meaning pro-choicers call the decision to abort a “difficult” one, implying that (A) it actually IS difficult for EVERYONE and (B) that it SHOULD be difficult, and if it’s easy, something’s wrong.

    Saying “it’s sad/it’s difficult” is sort of a covert way of saying that women are punished enough for aborting, which in turn suggests that aborting is a crime worthy of punishment. It’s really unfortunate that some pro-choicers feel the need to cede this to the anti-sex/abortion nuts.

  7. ProChoiceGal May 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm #


    Being pregnant certainly can be empowering. Having sex can be empowering, too. However, that doesn’t make it okay to rape women. If you take the definition of rape and change the word “sex” to “pregnancy”, you get what antis support. An anti-choice feminist makes just as much sense as a feminist who supports rape, or a feminist who thinks that women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

  8. s. e. May 4, 2010 at 8:03 pm #


    I agree absolutely that there is a problem with stigmatizing abortion by calling it sad. However, what makes me “sad” about abortion is not the loss of the fetus but the fact that in a world were STDs are so prevalent and men who do not respect women enough to wear condoms are so prevalent, women who have abortions are also women who could also have contracted an STD. Now this could be used to further stigmatize women getting abortions, I see that flaw in my argument. However, I still think that the goal of reducing abortions is important and we should try to do it in at least stigmatizing way as possible. I say this not because as a Christian I have a concern for “life”— that isn’t even on the table for me. I say it because abortion does not prevent STDs. It is a good back up perhaps, but not a safe sex bet.

    Maybe I have missed the point or put words into your mouth, but I just wanted to throw that out there to get some feedback. Please let me know if this argument too is infuriating so I can see it and begin to work on this for myself.


  9. Criss May 4, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    The problem is that we are focusing on/talking about the abortion, which is the solution to the problem, and not the unwanted pregnancy or pregnancy gone wrong, which is the problem and the sad part. (This also applies to the STD issue: the problem is the unprotected sex that exposed the partners to STIs and pregnancy, not the resulting pregnancy or abortion.)

    Chemotherapy is awful. It is a poison you inject into your veins. It makes you ill, robs you of energy, withers your body away. But nobody is “sad” about people needing chemo, they are sad about people who are fighting cancer.

    We need to change the language. Abortion is not the problem, lack of birth control is. Unwanted pregnancies are. Complications in pregnancy that lead women to terminate wanted pregnancies are the problem. Abortion is the cure that helps these women save their lives (when the pregnancy threatened their lives) and/or mourn the loss of the wanted child (in the case of severe developmental or chromosomal abnormalities that would be fatal anyway) and move on with their lives, to try again to conceive.

    Let’s put the blame on the problem/the cause, not on the solution/effect.

  10. Jessica Sideways May 4, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I am pro-choice, no ifs ands nor buts.

    And would I get an abortion? If I felt I needed one. At this stage of my life, yes – since I am working on my degree and I am not in a place to have a child, assuming I could even get pregnant (hint: I can’t, being a transsexual woman) but if I had my JD, I would have the child. Once I get my shit situated and am ready to have a child.

    There is nothing wrong with getting an abortion, much like there’s nothing wrong with getting a sex change. And I’ll bet you that if men could get pregnant, then abortion would be a sacrament. ^_^

  11. Not Guilty May 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    I think my personal qualification is, I am pro-choice but I would like to end unwanted abortions. In theory, I would like to end the NEED for abortion (eg. respect of women so they aren’t raped; cheap, accessible birth control, etc), but at the end of the day, there is no way to eliminate abortion completely, thus I am pro-choice, period. I may *personally* disagree with a particular choice, but I am not entitled to such an opinion so I keep my mouth shut and support every woman’s choice 100%. I won’t remove the right of somebody to have a “but”, but I will deny them the right to share that opinion.

  12. Serena May 5, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    Great post. I feel the same way about people who say, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality.” Own up to your beliefs. Period.

  13. Shayna May 5, 2010 at 9:06 am #

    I’m Pro Choice – As in I believe every woman regardless of her reasons for it should have access to every form of birth control from abstinence to abortion and in between those two ends of the spectrum.

    If a woman needs an abortion it does make me sad – sad because I doubt any woman decides to have one without going through at least a minimal amount of soul searching, sad because having any surgical procedure carries at least a small amount of risk, pain, recovery time, and (let’s be shallow here) missed time at work (which equals loss of pay). It makes me sad if that abortion is due to rape because that is a horrible thing to experience. It makes me sad if its because that fetus has a genetic problem that prevents it from being born (there are those pregnancies that are terminated early because they will self-terminate later).

    It makes me sad to know someone is experiencing their personal worst case scenario – an unwanted pregnancy, and proud that they are choosing to deal with it responsibly.

    Pro Choice means that I’m for every woman having a choice — which means that you get to make your choice and I get to make mine – period, so whether I’m sad or not is irrelevant, and I encourage every woman to do what she knows is best for herself.

  14. Tess August 18, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    As someone who very much believes in a woman’s right to choose and to control her own fertility completely and with no apology, I have to say that I have shed many, many tears over my own abortion, and to invalidate a woman’s feelings, whether positive or negative, about something so personal and private for political reasons on either side is offensive and certainly not empowering.

  15. Megg October 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I am pro-choice. I chose to have an abortion, and under the same circumstances I would do it again. I believe that it is the right of every woman to choose, whether that is to continue a pregnancy or end it. I have always known what my choice would be, even though I never wanted to be in a situation where I would have to choose.

    However, nearly a year later, I am still suffering from the abortion that I had. It does in fact make me sad, and it makes me sad to think that there may be other women in the same situation as me.

    Having empathy and understanding the difficulty of such a choice is something that I want embraced. Abortion is not easy. It’s not like getting gall stones removed, and it’s not a joyful decision like marriage, so the examples you gave are simply not relevant in my opinion. The reality is that no matter how painful or traumatic an abortion might be, there will always be situations where carrying the pregnancy to term would be a worse decision.

    That doesn’t make the choice any easier to make.

    Please respect the women who are making the choice you’re fighting for and don’t tell us we can’t feel however we feel about it.

    Thank you.

  16. Michelle October 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    “Please respect the women who are making the choice you’re fighting for and don’t tell us we can’t feel however we feel about it.”

    I don’t think the author is telling you you can/cannot feel any certain way. What she is saying is that using the word “but…” negates the immediate statement (“I am prochoice…). It’s like when you apologize to someone: “I’m sorry, but…” means you aren’t truly sorry. You are automatically negating your apology by trying to explain why you aren’t really sorry.

    You are allowed to feel however you want about your choice. If you are pro-choice, then you should understand the responsibility that comes with statements you make on abortion.

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