Article by Diya Chadha

This election cycle’s candidates are comprised of a diverse group, with representation of people from different racial/ethnic groups, sexual identities, religious backgrounds, geographic backgrounds, and more. They fall into different categories when it comes to where they stand on the democratic “spectrum” as well. More than ever before though, we’ve seen a strong contingent of very liberal, democratic socialist candidates for the presidency, in addition to politics in general. Because of the increasingly leftist policies that they’re proposing (especially when compared to the current state of U.S. politics), it has been interesting to see just how the candidates opt to speak about abortion and reproductive healthcare access, both as a women’s rights issue and a healthcare one.

Interestingly, as progressive of a group as the candidates seem to be, they’re really failing when it comes to the way they talk about abortion in the explicit sense. At the last democratic debate, only two of the eight candidates asked about reproductive healthcare access used the word “abortion” in their responses. Instead, the majority danced around the topic by speaking in vagaries – “a woman’s right to choose,” “pro-choice,” reproductive rights.” Sure, they’re still talking about it and giving attention to the topic of reproductive healthcare for women. That wasn’t always the case. But, in a very real sense, it is the words that they use, the rhetoric that they adopt, that has the power and influence to shape public opinion. And, insofar as even politicians fear using the word “abortion” – whether that be for reasons related to not alienating certain groups or because of their own uncertainty about the issue – we won’t be able to move forward as a society to discuss the issue beyond more than just face value. Gloria Naylor, esteemed American novelist, wrote in her piece, “The Meanings of a Word,” that words have power if we give it to them, that our language shapes our reality. It’s time that we start using that language and those words – the explicit ones – to shape our reality for a more progressive and accepting future.

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