Men’s voices are needed to defend reproductive rights against the right-wing war on women
“It is up to us to listen, to speak and to act. Not because women are our mothers, sisters, wives or friends, but because women are people. And everyone deserves to be in control of their own body. —Sen. Cory Booker
Exacerbated by news that this summer the Supreme Court is set to overturn half a century of precedent by declaring Roe unconstitutional, men must step off the sidelines in this national reproductive rights emergency. The stakes are too high to simply declare abortion a “women’s issue”.
For decades, a growing number of men have followed in the footsteps of women in the fight against gender-based violence and the promotion of gender equality, so why are we stuck on abortion?
Men need to understand that denying access to safe abortion is a form of gender-based violence. Controlling women’s reproductive choices is state-sponsored control over a woman’s body. If we denounce all other forms of violence against women, we must also denounce this form of violence.
Nevertheless, for many men who believe in gender equality, myself included, there have been few consistent and sustained efforts for male pro-choice. We have heard the maxim “women’s bodies; women’s choices” and nodded vigorously. Then many of us stopped actively working to protect Roe, thinking that we could always re-engage if circumstances turned dire – if Roe was threatened, right? Well, what are we waiting for?
From Texas’ 2021 abortion ban after six weeks (before many people even know they’re pregnant), to a similar law enacted in neighboring Oklahoma this spring, every woman’s autonomy is threatened.
Most Supreme Court watchers were confident that the Court’s far-right majority would overthrow Roe; the leaked draft of the notice in Mississippi was no surprise. Yet men need to make our voices heard, unambiguously, that we stand with women – our partners and wives, sisters and daughters, cousins and aunts – to challenge the decision. As an organized voting bloc, men have a key role to play in ousting anti-choice lawmakers and electing pro-choice candidates. Men must mobilize and join the struggle.
A decade and a half ago, before the 2006 midterm elections, I was among the volunteers who went door to door across South Dakota to overturn what was then the ban on most restrictive abortion in the country. For weeks, our Prochoice squad crisscrossed the state.
I stood on the doorsteps of locals on the leafy streets of small town Dakota explaining why I had come from Massachusetts. “I have an 18-year-old son and three daughters, all in their twenties,” I began. “Imagine if even a parent in South Dakota had a daughter who had been raped and became pregnant. Does this family have to follow a law prohibiting the young woman from aborting the rapist’s child? The one who made her carry her baby? Quite often, my comments have struck a chord.
We won that battle (55-45%) and South Dakota law was overturned by the will of the people. Nonetheless, vigorous efforts to restrict women’s right to choose continue unabated to this day, not only in South Dakota, but in dozens of other states as well. The trigger laws are about to go into effect the moment Roe is overthrown, outright banning abortion in much of the country. “The idea that threats to women’s reproductive freedom are also a problem for men is too often, if mentioned, taken as an afterthought,” says gender-biased educator, author, and filmmaker Jackson Katz.
“That has to change. Liberal and progressive men need to hear loud and clear that their support for women’s right to comprehensive health services – which includes access to safe and legal abortion – must be a top priority, because without it there is no there is no gender equality. And without gender equality, there is no real democracy.
As the flames of intolerance grow like a western wildfire that burns the homes of our sisters, the men must join the bucket brigade to put out the fire. Now!
What can men do?
– Volunteer in a clinic, including escorting patients inside.
– Urge the leader of your faith community to deliver a sermon supporting women’s right to choose (or be the guest speaker yourself).
– Write a letter to the editor stating your unequivocal support for women’s reproductive rights. – Invite a group of men to talk about the threat women face and why men need to break their silence.
– Urge researchers to accelerate work on the development of methods of male contraception.
– If you have an older son, talk with him about respecting women’s autonomy.
– Let your daughter know that you unequivocally support her right to control her body.
– Alert anti-choice lawmakers that you won’t just vote to overthrow them, you’ll work to elect pro-choice candidates.