What Does Choice Mean to Me?

RHRealityCheck asked me to answer this question for the 1/22 anniversary of Roe v Wade. What does choice mean to you?

What does choice mean to me? Forget about Roe v Wade and legalities for a moment. Just a few minutes ago I received this message via e-mail from a professional colleague:

I saw my granddaughter born last March and it is because I value life that I value choice.  I think we should speak out for ourselves – perhaps even as grandmothers who know a thing or two.

So speaking as another grandmother who knows a thing or two (ahem), I’ll be happy to tell you what choice means to me.

Even though I worked within Planned Parenthood for over 30 years, in roles ranging from local volunteer to national CEO, I’ve never diminished the passion for what I believe is women’s human right to make their own childbearing decisions, and I still get goosebumps when someone says to me–as happens almost every day even though I’ve been on my own as a writer for four years now–“You saved my life.” I know what they mean. It isn’t me they are talking about but about things like the birth control pill that allowed me as a 20-year-old mother of three in 1962 to realize I could plan my own life. About being able to get the honest information about sexuality they needed and basic women’s health care they could afford. About having the freedom to consider all their imperfect options when faced with unintended pregnancy and be respected to make their own moral choices without judgment or shame. To be able to welcome their babies into the world with unbridled joy when it is right for them, and to say “not now” when they know it’s not.

Reproductive choice is our right and also our responsibility, an awesome responsibility. But in an even more profound sense, choice is the human condition. It defines us as humans, and we are in turn defined by the choices we make.  Choice is the basis of morality after all, and it is sacrifice as much as it is freedom.

So this grandmother of 12 dedicates Roe’s 37th anniversary to changing the conversation about abortion from a debate about the limits of privacy to an unwavering affirmation that reproductive choice is a fundamental human and civil right and as a result, a health care service that should be covered for all women in any health reform plan regardless of who is paying the premium.

Because if we want our beautiful, wonderful, precious granddaughters to have an equal place in this world, then our society must value their choices as much as we grandmothers value their lives.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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