Abortion rights advocates say they need more male voices
NEW YORK — If Donovan Atterberry thought about abortion when he was young, it might have been with vague unease, or a memory of the anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic he passed on his way to the park when he was a child.
It became real for him in 2013, when his girlfriend-turned-wife became pregnant with their first child together. She had previously had a healthy pregnancy, her daughter-in-law, but this time genetic testing revealed a fatal chromosomal disorder in the developing fetus which would likely lead to stillbirth and could also be life-threatening during pregnancy. a delivery.
“As a man, I didn’t know how to console her, how to counsel her,” recalls Atterberry, now 32. “I said, ‘If I had to choose, I would choose you.’ … It wasn’t about whether I believe in abortion or whether I don’t believe in abortion. At that time, I was thinking about his life.
She chose to terminate the pregnancy and “it completely changed my perspective … on bodily autonomy and things of that nature,” Atterberry said.
So much so that he now works as a campaign organizer for New Voices for Reproductive Justice, which focuses on the health of black women and girls, with access to abortion being one of the areas of concern.
“What I’m trying to convey is that it’s a human right for someone to have a choice,” he said.
That Atterberry is a pro-abortion rights man is not unusual; according to polls, a majority of American men support some level of access to abortion. And history is replete with men who have taken an active role in supporting abortion, through organizations, as lawmakers, and in the case of Dr. George Tiller, as an abortion provider. Tiller was murdered in a church by an anti-abortion extremist in Kansas in 2009.
Still, there’s room for many more who are willing to speak out and be active in the political battles over abortion availability, Atterberry says.
Where men have historically played an outsized role is in promoting and enacting abortion restrictions – as advocates, state legislators, and most recently as state Supreme Court justices. -United. Justice Samuel Alito has drafted a High Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade of 1973 establishing a national right to abortion. The plan, which was leaked to a media outlet last month, appears to have the majority support of the six men sitting on the nine-judge tribunal.
Women have always taken the lead in the fight to preserve the right to abortion, for obvious reasons: they are the ones who give birth and who, in many cases, are responsible for caring for children once they are are brought into the world.
No one is asking for that leadership to change, said David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University who specializes in law and gender.
“Men should not try to lead the movement or take away leadership positions,” he said. “But being part of it, supporting, listening and being active are all things men can and should do.”
That’s what Oren Jacobson is trying to do at Men4Choice, the organization he co-founded in 2015, whose goal is to get men who say they support abortion rights to speak out and do more, like protesting, making it a voting priority, and especially talking to other men.
“Everything we do is focused on getting what really are millions of men – who in theory are pro-choice but are completely passive when it comes to their voice, their energy and their time. in the fight for abortion rights and abortion access – stepping out of the sidelines and into the fight as allies,” he said.
It was not the easiest task.
Abortion “is almost never a conversation inside male circles unless introduced by someone who is affected by the issue in most cases,” he said. “Not only that, but… you’re talking about a highly stigmatized issue in society. You talk about sex and sexuality, you talk about anatomy, and none of those things are things guys feel particularly comfortable talking about.
But it’s something that affects them and the culture they live in, notes Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Sex has become so integrated into our lives whether we’re in a relationship or not,” she said. “This is directly related to women’s control of fertility — and women don’t control fertility in a world where abortion isn’t legal. … Certainly, heterosexual sexual freedom depends on the ability to end an unwanted pregnancy.”
Also, a society in which the state has a say in reproductive decisions could lead to a society in which the state controls other decisions that may affect men more directly, Cohen said.
“Abortion law, abortion precedent is not just about abortion, it’s also about controlling the intimate details of your life,” he said. do, this is all embedded in abortion law, abortion case law and abortion policy,” he said.
Since the Supreme Court’s draft was leaked, Jacobson said he’s seen more men speak out about abortion access and show more interest in his group’s work than he does. has done in recent years.
What remains to be seen, he said, “is whether or not this will catalyze the kind of ally that we need now and frankly has been for a long time.”