May 23, 2019

Pro-Choice Men Can Help in Abortion Fight

throwing a punch

In a recent post about abortion being a church-state issue, I mentioned that I find it puzzling that some pro-choice women seem to want men, including those of us who are pro-choice, to stay out of the abortion debate. Writing in The Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff expressed similar sentiments: "Yet the argument that men should all shut up and leave this to women is a risky one, unless we seek a world where virulently pro-life men still feel no shame about barging in while pro-choice men hang back for fear of saying the wrong thing."

I agree with her, and I am glad to see more people expressing these views. Men are not affected by anti-abortion laws in the same ways as women, but that does not mean that we are not still affected. I think that most pro-choice men recognize how important it is to maintain the right to safe and legal abortion, provide evidence-based sex education, and make sure that effective contraception remains accessible to everyone who wants it. I also suspect that many pro-choice men would like to help repel the seemingly endless attacks on these rights.

Hinsliff explains that many men have been affected by abortion too:

We rarely read or hear about them, but there must be millions of men whose lives were changed for the better by not becoming fathers when they weren’t ready. There will be men who owe their glittering careers and happy families now to the fact that 20 years ago they didn’t have to drop out of university when their student girlfriend got pregnant, or weren’t forced to marry someone they didn’t love. And there will also be men who didn’t have to raise a child in circumstances where they genuinely couldn’t have coped, and whose other children are infinitely better off for it; men who haven’t had to watch their partner struggle through the horror of a pregnancy where everyone knows the child is unlikely to survive, who know how it feels to hold their partner’s hand in the clinic but don’t feel it’s quite their place to talk about it.

Absolutely. I am one of these men. This is far from the only reason I think it is important to defend a woman's right to safe and legal abortion, but it is one of them. And sadly, it is one I have been reluctant to talk about for some of the reasons Hinsliff mentions.

In the end, I think it is important to recognize that activism aimed at preserving reproductive rights comes down to the same thing all activism ultimately comes down to: strength in numbers. We are more effective when we work together. Alienating pro-choice men probably isn't wise. At the same time, I do think it makes sense to expect that the most visible and vocal activists in this struggle are going to be women. Even though many men have been affected by abortion, we have not been affected in the same ways women have. Women's voices need to remain front-and-center. They have the most to lose if reproductive rights are taken away.