The New York Times features a fascinating article called Advocates Shun ‘Pro-Choice’ to Expand Message, in which it explains why the left is abandoning the ‘pro-choice’ message on abortion. As it turns out, the article admits what I’ve noticed anecdotally for years; the pro-choice concept doesn’t resonate with the younger generation:
For all the talk about women’s issues in this year’s midterm election campaigns, something is missing. One of the most enduring labels of modern politics — pro-choice — has fallen from favor, a victim of changed times and generational preferences.
That shift might seem surprising in this political season, when there has been a renewed focus on reproductive issues like access to abortion and birth control. Yet advocates say that the term pro-choice, which has for so long been closely identified with abortion, does not reflect the range of women’s health and economic issues now being debated.
Nor, they add, does it speak to a new generation of young women, who tell pollsters that they reject political labels — not least one that dates back four decades, to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
A shift to appeal to health and economic issues instead of choice is not going to be able to fill the gap that pro-choice messaging has filled for nearly 40 years. Why? The messaging is necessarily more complex in language. Plus, the argument is more easily contested by the pro-life side as we make the case for the health and economic merits of choosing life.
Most importantly, the messaging shift by abortion advocates reveals that they recognize they can’t win the messaging battle on choosing abortion itself. Instead of highlighting the merits of the act itself (being ‘pro-choice’), they now have to highlight the benefits of the act (being for women’s health and economic stability).
When you have a crisis in your messaging, you have a crisis in your movement. This is bad news for abortion advocates and great news for the pro-life movement.