Liberal guys like me are often kind of squeamish when it comes to talking about abortion. I mean, we support it. We describe ourselves as pro-choice. We share the ridiculous things that asshole Republicans say on Facebook. (Did you hear the one about the masturbating fetus…?) If we’re straight, and we maybe decide to join our girlfriends or wives or whatever at the rally, we’ll wear the pink or orange t-shirt they pass out, and when they chant “My body, my choice!” we will chant “her body, her choice!” and consider ourselves allies. Look at us A-plus dudes, cisgender and incapable of becoming pregnant, out there to demonstrate for someone else’s rights! We could just stay out of it, but we care!
I know that’s how a lot of men think of abortion rights: like it’s someone else’s fight, and we might occasionally show up and offer support. And while I understand the impulse, that’s not good enough. The fact that guys like me need to realize is that abortion rights are our rights, too.
When I was 23, a young woman I knew needed an abortion. More importantly to me, so did I.
I wasn’t ready to be a father. Not in the least. I wasn’t prepared to be tied to this woman for the rest of my life. I wasn’t interested in any part of fatherhood. I had plans, and things I wanted to see, and do, and become.
I like to think that, if it had come down to it, I would have changed those plans, and taken an interest, and prepared myself. But I didn’t have to find out, because abortion was safe, affordable, and accessible.
I spoke about this on the floor of the Texas Senate last week, during public testimony for a state senate bill that would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. That’s bad news for the roughly 5.7 million women in Texas of reproductive age, for sure. But it’s also bad news for Texas men, too. Yet when it came time to testify at the Texas State Capitol last week, when the state Senate debated the bill that would strip access to safe and affordable abortions from so many Texans, there weren’t a lot of fellas there to speak up. The testimony offered to the Senate committee – whether it came in the form of personal (often heartbreaking) stories of need and circumstances, or in fact-based indictments of the ways that the proposed bill would limit the rights of people who needed abortions to get them – came almost exclusively from women. I think there were three guys who spoke up. There were, unsurprisingly, a lot more men who testified in support of the bill that would limit abortion access.
At some point, it starts to seem absurd: For every unmarried woman who testified about the pregnancy she was not in a position to see through, there was also a single man who was not ready to become a father. For every married woman who spoke about the life-threatening circumstances of a much-wanted pregnancy that she had to terminate, there was a man who was within a few hastily-written laws of losing his wife. The idea that those men might think that the fight to keep abortion safe, affordable, and accessible is somehow not really their fight doesn’t make any sense at all.
The truth is, abortion rights aren’t just about women. That’s true not just because there are transgender men who are capable of becoming pregnant (though there are, and they shouldn’t be forgotten in this) but also because men like me – straight, cisgender men who are capable of getting a woman pregnant – also need abortion to remain accessible.
We treat abortion like it’s something men have no part in because it’s possible for men to avoid the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. For men, sometimes it’s as simple as changing your phone number. But when we talk about the responsibilities that men have in the event that they get a woman pregnant, we rarely talk about how we have to ensure that abortion remains accessible. When we don’t do that, it’s just a different form of walking away from our responsibilities.
A lot of liberal men have rightly internalized the message that a woman is the only one who gets to decide what she does with her pregnancy, but a lot of us have also taken that to mean that we don’t have a personal stake in the outcome. There are a lot of men who aren’t ready to be fathers, just like there are a lot of women who aren’t ready to be mothers. Maybe the reasons are financial, or maybe they’re personal. Maybe raising a child isn’t part of the life plan at any point. But just like a man has a responsibility if he’s going to be a father, he also has a responsibility to make sure that not becoming a father remains an option.
Sometimes, when you’re a man who speaks up for things that are seen as women’s rights, you can come down with best-dude-ever syndrome, where you’re told by a lot of women that you’re really a great person for caring about things that men don’t typically seem to care about. But guys who speak up about abortion rights aren’t doing anything spectacular: All we’re really doing is making sure that our rights are intact, too.
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[Man and woman with a pregnancy test via Shutterstock]