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Nanette Lepore Headshot

Unlike Fashion, Abortion Can't Be Labeled

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I've been in the fashion industry for 20 years. And when I was a little girl, I dreamed of making beautiful clothes, and sewing my name into them. Because in fashion, labels are a must. They're how we mark a dress as ours -- how we help our clients identify our work.

Fashion is an art. It's a lifestyle. For many of us, it's what defines us. And it's personal -- to an extent, we can use it to create an image and an impression that further crystallizes who we are.

But what's more personal than fashion is one's health. For decades, we've tried to label how people feel about a very personal and often complex medical decision -- abortion -- with labels like "pro-choice" or "pro-life." But over the past few years, more and more Americans have felt less comfortable having their personal beliefs about abortion be put into a box. What does "pro-choice" or "pro-life" even mean? And why can't I be both?

Because unlike fashion, how people authentically feel about abortion can't be labeled. Labels often don't reflect the layers and complexity of people's personal views around this issue. Whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child -- this is a decision that is deeply personal.

In many ways, this shift in how Americans talk about abortion is driven by young people, and how they see themselves and the world. I see this with young women who don't call themselves "pro-choice" or "pro-life." Just as they don't talk about being "pro-gay marriage" or "anti." This is a generation that thinks people should be able to love whomever and that personal health care decisions are personal. They don't want to be put in boxes -- they don't want to be labeled by people who don't understand the reality of how they feel.

And it makes sense -- January marks the 40-year anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. Young women have grown up assuming that abortion access is a given -- that every woman should be able to make decisions about her pregnancy and her health. They don't know what our nation was like when abortion was illegal -- when women died from unsafe abortions -- when a woman's decision about her pregnancy was up to the politicians who decided the abortion laws in any given state. In my hometown, abortion was performed by strangers pretending they were doctors.

Nearly half a century of safe and legal abortion has been empowering for women, and has allowed us to lead our lives on our own terms. Whatever we decide about our pregnancies -- these are decisions that a woman can make because of the historic Roe decision. It's something that I recognize as so important for women everywhere, but it's also something I'm very aware needs to be protected.

Because unfortunately, politicians continue to try and undermine women's health care access -- in state after state, we've seen relentless attempts to chip away at access to abortion. Just last month in Michigan, state legislators came together behind a bill that would create burdensome restrictions on abortion providers in the state -- a thinly veiled move aimed at limiting a woman's access to abortion that has nothing to do with improving women's health and everything to do with denying them care. We've seen similar attempts across the country -- from my home state of Ohio to Texas and beyond.

This is wrong. And it's dangerous.

I will not let this most personal of health care decisions be undermined by politicians. I want this medical option to be safe and legal for young women today and for generations of young women to come to consider if and when they need it. As a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, I have seen that they work tirelessly to protect access to safe and legal so that women can make their own health care decisions. And Planned Parenthood does so much more too--including providing affordable birth control, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings to millions of patients across the country.

So as we recognize the great strides we've been able to make because of Roe v. Wade, as women we must be vigilant in making sure the leaders we elect support access to safe and legal abortion. It's up to us -- women who were born well before Roe and well after Roe -- to stand up to the continued egregious attacks on women's health.

And we will do this without any health care labels holding us back. And in whatever clothing labels we want.