Our governor recently weighed in on the abortion ban in Alabama:
“This is not our way here in Colorado. Here we believe in empowering women to make their own reproductive health choices. The government should not come between a woman, her doctor, and her faith.” — Jared Polis
I had a strange disquiet reading this statement. Upon its face, the statement seems very reasonable. “This is not our way in Colorado” certainly seems true. Colorado does not ban abortion.
I agree wholeheartedly that “the government should not come between a woman, her doctor and her faith.”
In fact, for Coloradans who prefer limited government, that part of the statement should have some appeal.
Finally, it dawned on me. The statement as written, completely shuts out the voices of some pro-lifers, conservatives, some moderates and even some who are pro-abortion (with limits). This statement is not inclusive.
Its lack of inclusion is due to its use of the term “reproductive health.”
Reproductive health used to be a medical term. We used the term to refer to the diseases, disorders and conditions that affect the functioning of the male and female reproductive systems. The term was decidedly neutral.
Then the phrase “reproductive health” slowly changed in meaning.
You would see it in articles telling us that reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. The move from just medical care was barely noticed.
However, these particular articles were tied to organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
All had subtle messages about decreasing populations and racial disparities in medical health outcomes.
No problem, except that abortion was touted among a range of answers for alleviating overpopulation and racial disparities.
Later media began equating abortion with reproductive health (which is supposed to be about alleviating disease) and self-care (a physical, mental and social health term).
These terms can’t be used interchangeably. They have different meanings. Also, each of these social ills have a range of solutions besides abortion.
Language changes continued. Reproductive health began being used interchangeably with reproductive rights. Reproductive rights are about access to all forms of services or support for birth control …. and birth.
Somehow both phrases became synonymous only with abortion in the national discourse.
New York State’s 2019 Reproductive Health Act has changed the way that phrase looks and feels. Many see the law as expanding abortion legality up until or even past a child’s exit from the birth canal. Consequently, the term “reproductive health” has recently become a very emotionally charged phrase.
There are many choices related to reproductive health. Those include; birth control, abstinence, sterilization, planned pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood, abortion, adoption, surrogacy and inadvertent pregnancy that leads to birth. Most states help constituents in need by providing Medicaid or even money for services related to the choices.
Abortion is the most controversial. Which takes us back to our governor’s statement. Perhaps by accident, many Colorado voices were left out of that message.
I take this time to represent and amplify those voices that were left out.
I speak both to and for those who support birth control, abstinence, sterilization, planned pregnancy, motherhood, fatherhood, adoption, surrogacy and inadvertent pregnancy that leads to birth. This represents many Coloradans of all races. Many are conservatives, moderates and even some liberals or progressives.
We, too, want to be considered and represented when it is time for statements and policy regarding abortion.
We want inclusion.
Inclusion is fairness. Inclusion must be extended to the disabled or the able bodied, people of color or nonmelanated people, heterosexual, homosexual or other orientation, every identified gender, rich or poor, and conservative, moderate or progressive in view. And voice.
The language of those of us who are pro-life (with or without certain exceptions) must be included in addition to pro-choice (abortion upon demand) in all of the governor’s statements, speeches and policy making. Consider not only our views and our voices but our voting power.
After all, the government should not come between a citizen and their faith.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.