When it comes to choice, where are the men?
If you believe what you’re likely to read, they’re over there on the other side, opposing abortion access and writing the laws that restrict a woman’s control of her own body. As one social media consultant quoted by The Atlantic, put it: “Men are so eager to join in the ‘WE are pregnant!’ and ‘WE are having a baby!’ party, but suddenly become deafeningly silent when it’s ‘WE had an abortion.’”
In fact, recent Pew and Gallup polls report that 54-56 percent of American men share the opinion of up to 62% of American women that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances. In addition, a new spate of studies, here and abroad, shows that men as well as women believe that abortion, like parenting, is a two-person experience. And they’re putting muscle behind their mouths individually and in groups such as the seven-year-old Men4Choice which “exists to activate, educate, and mobilize male allies into the fight as active partners.”
It’s a case that comes with some expected caveats. Recently, Glamour and GQ plus MEL, a California based magazine described as having “taken upon itself to investigate masculinity, not enforce it,” interviewed 20 men about their views on abortion. Both publications noted men feeling “a little bit nervous about going to the meetings because if we show up, then it will look like the men are trying to take control.” As Men4Choice co-founder Oren Jacobson explains, “Most men don’t see a natural entry point into this movement. We have to give them a playbook so they understand their role.”
Recognition of Partnership
Once past that, however, the views expressed in these articles cover the full range of emotions. There’s the painfully personal (“If she doesn’t want my baby, does that mean she doesn’t want me?”). There’s the adaptive (“I love this woman, and even though I’m an emotional idiot, I’ll learn how to be a dad”). And in the most dreadful moments, there’s the simple and decent recognition of partnership (“Our baby was going to die in utero, and even if it did survive, it would be born brain-dead. I remember holding my wife’s head and weeping. We had a bad year, but we were there for each other”).
Right now, what men do and think also matters in the most punishing legal sense. As Santa Clara University law professors Michelle Oberman and W. David Ball told The New York Times, if Roe is overturned and embryonic heartbeat laws labeling the fetus a person are upheld, the “father” is legally obligated to support it. Even before that, his failing to use contraception might mean he was “recklessly engaging in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.” Finally, if his partner seeks an abortion and tells him about it or he accompanies her or facilitates the procedure in any way, an anti-choice state might decide to prosecute that as child neglect, abuse or murder.
All of which is why activist Garin Marschall of Patient Forward wants his fellow men to know that “every person you care about with a uterus is at risk of being forced to continue a pregnancy by the state, or criminalized for accessing an abortion. Your silence and your inaction will not save the people you love. And if you think you don’t know someone who has had an abortion it’s because they haven’t told you. Think about why that might be and become someone who is safe to talk to.”
That’s a real choice.
“If you think you don’t know someone who has had an abortion it’s because they haven’t told you.” Garin Marschall of Patient Forward