Pro-Choice is About More Than Reproduction

Everyone should make their own health decisions, whether or not the vajay is involved.

“Pro-choice” generally conjures up thoughts of abortion access, insurance-subsidized birth control, and arguing with people who hold up scientifically-inaccurate signs with pictures of bloody fetuses on them. All of those things are important (though the last one might be avoided for your own mental comfort), they aren’t the whole picture.

A friend linked me to an article about Miss DC, 24-year-old Allyn Rose, and her plans to get a preventive double mastectomy, having already lost her mother, grandmother, and great aunt to breast cancer. Given that she’s only three years younger than her mom was when she was first diagnosed, plus she carries a genetic mutation that predisposes her to the disease, this seems to me like a responsible decision to make about her health. But really, it doesn’t matter what I think, because it’s not my body.

That last part is the thing that Rose’s fans don’t seem to understand. Apparently she has been receiving hate mail from people telling her not to “mutilate” her body. Because apparently looking hot in a bikini should be more important than preventing herself from getting a potentially fatal disease.

This is just another way people are not respecting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. The choice that Rose made to take preventive action should remain between her and her doctors. The pro-choice principles we apply to abortion and other reproductive issues need to extend to the entirety of a woman’s body.

The fact that it’s her breasts most likely makes the reaction that much stronger. When sexual appeal is involved, people will have something to say. But nobody – including pageant contestants – has an obligation to make their appearance fit certain criteria. But the male gaze does not trump a young woman’s autonomy or her health.

Really, the bottom line is that any decision a person makes about their own health and body needs to be respected. Even if you disagree with it or wouldn’t make the same decision yourself. It’s not just about breasts and surgery, but any personal medical decision – or even non-medical cosmetic decisions. If you think someone has the right to decide what happens in her uterus, then that belief must extend outside to the rest of her body.

Even if it changes how she looks in her bikini.

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[E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

14 thoughts on “Pro-Choice is About More Than Reproduction”

  1. “The pro-choice principles we apply to abortion and other reproductive issues need to extend to the entirety of a woman’s body.”

    Yes! It saddens me so much that people can be campaigning for reproductive rights and at the same time criticise women for other choices they make regarding their own body. The instance that comes to mind is giving birth: people campaign for sexual consent, contraception, abortion rights, antenatal care and then set out to deny women the birth choices they want to make.

  2. This is great. I’ve always thought that letting people make their own decisions without interference or judgement was an issue of respect. Whether it’s decisions about your own health, religion, lifestyle, or appearance- they are yours and not someone else’s. I can’t even imagine how I would react is someone told me not to do something because it would make me “less hot”. pft.

  3. I liked Katie Roiphe’s take on Planned Parenthood’s decision to change their ‘pro-choice’ language: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/roiphe/2013/01/planned_parenthood_abandons_the_term_pro_choice_what_about_pro_freedom_instead.html

    And on the breast cancer risk thing, another option (depending on the gene you’re at risk from) is to take preventative medication (like Tamoxifen) : the UK’s NICE recently recommended this be made available to women at risk : http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/15/breast-cancer-drugs-nhs-women

  4. A friend’s fiancée recently made this decision too – she had planned to wait until after she had children, but a recent scan found a lump so she decided to have the surgery now. More power to her.

    I’ve always preferred ‘reproductive justice’ to ‘pro-choice’ as a term; I think it’s broader and more powerful. ‘Choice’ also tends to put focus on an individual’s choice whereas healthcare advocacy and justice is about populations as a whole.

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