In the wake of the recent supreme court decision, choice is a heated topic of conversation and debate among elected officials and the general public. Generally speaking, acknowledging that there are nuanced differences, those who are pro-life support the rights of the unborn, and those who are pro-choice support the rights of the mother. Polarizing politicians push an agenda that these concepts are mutually exclusive when in reality, very few people support a pro-life without exception or pro-choice without exception position.
Typically, Democrats are pro-choice, and Republicans are pro-life. Many Democrats vote on this issue alone in order to defend a woman’s right to choose. The mantra “My Body, My Choice” is chanted at rallies and highlighted on signs. However, when it comes to mask and vaccine mandates, many Democrats seem to have abandoned that motto. For the last two and a half years, the Wolf administration and most Democratic legislators have attempted to dictate policies governing citizen’s rights to choose. Conversely, Republicans have generally attempted to thwart mandates infringing on individual rights, but many support pro-life without exception, including when the woman’s life is in danger.
How can these extreme positions coexist? It simply makes no sense to support a woman’s right to choose abortion at any point in pregnancy up to delivery and also support forced masking and vaccination. Additionally, it is nonsensical to state that individuals should make their own decisions about vaccines and masks and also believe in the position of opposing abortion without exception. There are always exceptions that must be considered, and elected officials cannot cherry-pick which issues are worthy of choice and which are not.
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Another choice dichotomy is school choice, the concept that funding for education follows the student and not the school district. The support or lack thereof, generally breaks down along party lines. Democrats typically oppose school choice for a myriad of reasons, with the most important reason relating to the state teacher’s union (PSEA). The majority of elected Democrats, from school board director to state legislator to the executive office, are funded by the PSEA. The teacher’s unions are unequivocally against the ability to choose a school, as evidenced by their call-to-action against a proposed bill to support a voucher system for education. School choice represents a threat to the union’s existence.
When parents are unhappy with their local public schools, if they have an opportunity to send their children to a different school at no personal cost, the state will experience a mass exodus from public school. This has already begun to happen as a result of Covid issues and subsequent parental concerns over curriculum and teacher training transparency. If enrollment continues to drop in the public school system, fewer teachers will be needed, union dues and revenue will decrease, and the PSEA will lose its hold over the state administration.
The Democrats who vehemently support, “My Body, My Choice” do not support school choice for parents to decide where their children should attend school. This same group that supports many of the equity initiatives in schools seems to not understand that many poor and/or minority families cannot afford private school. Opposition to school choice is discriminatory at its core. Every child should have access to an excellent education, not just those who can afford to pay for it. The Republicans who are anti-choice when it comes to abortion are — with a few exceptions — supportive of school choice and expansion of charter schools.
The contradictions in choice are staggering between the two parties. Democrats want choice for abortion, but not for mandates, schools, or parents. Republicans want choice for mandates, schools, and parents but not abortion.
Regardless of your beliefs, it is impossible to ignore the inconsistencies in these platforms. Ultimately, choice is choice, and the parties cannot have it both ways. It is time to stop weaponizing the concept of choosing and recognize the contradictions in the issues. As the November midterm election approaches, it is imperative for the candidates to acknowledge and address these discrepancies and decide whether they truly stand for choice.
Beth Ann Rosica currently serves as the Executive Director of Back to School PA, a political action committee that supports school board candidates who place the interests of children first. She holds a Ph.D. in Education and has dedicated her career advocating on behalf of underserved children and families.