While “safe, legal, and rare” has been a pro-choice slogan for decades, activists have begun to reject the “rare” part, with activists increasingly calling for it to be dropped from abortion discussions.
Feminist writer Jessica Valenti, who founded the well-known Feministing blog in 2004, wrote earlier this month that the “safe, legal, and rare” framing — first popularized by former President Bill Clinton during his 1992 campaign — “stigmatizes and endangers…women’s health needs.” (RELATED: Woman Films Her Own Abortion To Show World How ‘Cool’ It Is)
“We can focus on keeping abortions safe and legal. We should also work harder to make sure they’re affordable, accessible and judgement free. But let’s not bolster anti-choice rhetoric and activism by calling for them to be ‘rare,’” she wrote, complaining about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s continued embrace of the framing.
“It implies that abortion is somehow different than other parts of healthcare,” the director of Sea Change, a group seeking to eliminate the stigma surrounding abortion, told Valenti. “We don’t say that any other medical procedure should be rare.” (RELATED: Had A Lot Of Abortions? Planned Parenthood Is Giving Out Awards)
“Let’s dump the ‘rare’ word,” wrote pro-choice author Fran Moreland Jones on Monday, echoing the sentiment that “‘rare’ suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur. It separates ‘good’ abortions from ‘bad’ abortions.”
“None of this — ‘good abortions,’ ‘bad abortions,’ whether or when there should be abortions — is anybody’s business but the woman involved.”
At the same time, she lamented women’s unwillingness to talk about it in social settings: “While breast implants, sex-change details and erectile implantation (among other personal decisions) are fair game for cocktail party conversations, when is the last time you heard anyone volunteer information about her abortion?”
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat noted in 2012 that “safe” and “legal” don’t often go together with “rare” anyway: “abortion rates are frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. ‘Safe, legal and rare’ is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don’t always seem to deliver the ‘rare’ part.”
“Saying the procedure needs to be rare creates a hierarchy of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ abortions that runs counter to the notion that abortion is a legal right, a personal decision and a matter of bodily integrity,” Valenti concluded.