Who Gets To Be Pro-Choice, Anyway?

Life is a continuum, and, as my hairline so helpfully demonstrates, always full of grey areas. What does it mean to call yourself pro-choice? People’s feelings about abortion, after all, fall along a pretty broad spectrum.

It’s OK any time, for any reason. It’s only OK in the first trimester, or before quickening, or in the case of fetal abnormalities that threaten the life of the mother. It’s OK for adults, but not for teens, or OK with consent, or with notification. It’s OK for me, but not you, or you, but not me.

Well, ultimately, you as a person, an individual, can believe anything you want about abortion. You probably do! Some people believe very strongly that they could never have an abortion—until they need one. Others think they’d want one until they get pregnant. You don’t actually have to carve your position in stone, or declare it on a website.

But what about as a political candidate? When does claiming to be pro-choice, but advocating things that most pro-choice people find anathema, become deceptive?

Feministing linked me to this hilarious push page (very NSFW, but then again, this blog probably isn’t, either) for Project Vote Smart, a website that helps you find out which candidates believe what + where to vote so that you can, as the name implies, vote smart(ly).

I checked out the candidates in my congressional district, Texas 18. I entered my zip, and pickets for each candidate dropped down. I then clicked on abortion, and indicated that I am pro-choice to find out how the candidates stood on the issue.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is pro-choice, according to Project Vote Smart. I can confirm this, as I’m familiar with her voting record. She ardently defends a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions privately, without government intrusion. A true conservative, Sheila is. A woman and a patriot who wants to keep the government out of my uterus. And I thank her for that.

I was very surprised, however, to see that John Faulk, the ostensible Republican, also pops up as being pro-choice. I quickly checked his survey responses:

  • Checked that he considers himself pro-choice, where options are pro-choice and pro-life.
  • Yes, believes abortion should only be legal during the first trimester. (This position is more restrictive than the current state of the law.)
  • Yes, believes that victims of rape or incest should be able to obtain abortions. (Presumably only during the 1st trimester, however.)
  • Yes, believes abortion should be legal if the life of the mother is in danger. (No indication, however, of how the whole 1st trimster limitation factors in here, since often risks do not arise until later in a pregnancy.)
  • Yes, believe federal subsidies should be prohibited from being used for abortion procedures. (Translation—no medicaid or medicare dollars, or any other government dollars, to pay for abortion.)

Faulk’s own website has this to say about his position on abortion:

As your Representative from the Texas 18th Congressional District, I would support an amendment to the United States Constitution to provide protection to all unborn children from the moment of conception by prohibiting any state or federal law that ignores the personhood of an unborn child. However, since amending the Constitution is an extremely lengthy process, I would introduce and co-sponsor the Federal Right to Life Act. This act would define “personhood” as the moment of conception. Therefore, all unborn children would be protected without the need of amending the U. S. Constitution.

I have to tell you that on the pro-choice spectrum, a political position supporting fetal personhood from the moment of conception means you are decidedly anti-choice. As in not pro-choice.

As a private individual, you are free to believe that life begins at conception. Such a believe might or might not affect how you feel about abortion.

But again, let me be clear. From a legal perspective and a political one, given the status of our laws and the strategies of various organizations that actively and explicitly advocate for ending legal abortion, a fetal personhood law or amendment means you are anti-choice.

I contacted Project Vote Smart, and they very promptly followed up to tell me they have contacted his campaign, but cannot change the label unless he affirmatively authorizes that change. In other words, and I get this, they are obligated to report what he reports on his survey. They are going to let me know what they hear.

Project Vote Smart rocks! They have amended the position to reflect their conversation with his office.

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