Is It Time to Ditch the Word ‘Choice’?
Katha Pollitt weighs rhetorical strategies in the fight for abortion rights: is the language of “choice” still effective? On the next page, Patricia J. Williams quotes Senator George Hoar, in 1871, that people must “be as much desirous of preserving the liberties of others as their own.” [“Subject to Debate” and “Diary of a Mad Law Professor,” Feb. 4]. If people want to judge others re abortion, they fail to “preserve the liberties of others.” To awaken people to the importance of abortion rights, create a poster that says “Who should make YOUR reproductive choices?” above that grim photo of the nine Supreme Court justices. “Choice” is still effective language.
Forty years after Roe v. Wade, Katha Pollitt asks if I have a problem using the term “pro-choice.” No. I definitely do not. I will soon be 83 and long past the time I might need an abortion, but I am firmly in favor of those women or girls who for whatever circumstance feel they need one. If you feel you need to change the name “choice”—so be it. Whatever. I will still be proud to call myself pro-choice.
Barry Yeoman, in “Rebel Towns” [Feb. 4], describes Richard Grossman as a historian. Richard was much more than that: intellectual and writer, activist and innovator, and a superb mentor. Thomas Linzey was fresh out of law school when he met Richard, and they teamed up to devise a strategy for passing local ordinances in Pennsylvania to prohibit factory farms and toxic-sludge dumping. Richard assembled a collection of environmental activists, heads of progressive organizations, community organizers and lawyers, and we formed the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. POCLAD’s mission continues: “to contest the authority of corporations to govern.” Several of us helped design and teach early sessions of Tom’s brainchild, Democracy School, and more recently POCLAD was among the founders of Move to Amend. Tom continues to work with municipalities through his Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Richard died in 2011, too soon. And the work goes on.
I was thrilled to see “Rebel Towns,” about Thomas Linzey’s inspired strategy to overturn corporate power through “rights-based” municipal ordinances. I am an active member of the CELDF-affiliated community rights group here. We are about to launch a Bill of Rights ordinance that includes clean elections, police accountability, corporate-free public education and the rights of nature. The last plank strips corporations of their illegitimate “constitutional rights” concocted by the Supreme Court.
But I have a problem with the superior attitude that runs in the community rights movement. Ben Price is quoted as saying he “doesn’t care” that CELDF’s uncompromising style can be off-putting. I believe that alienating progressive groups will only slow us down. A little honey will take us a lot further, a lot faster. Coalition-building requires basic good manners. We in the community rights movement should start using them.