Recently, I was asked the question: Should men be involved in the abortion debate, after all it’s not men’s bodies that this debate is about? I certainly appreciated the sentiment, and in general, I agree that men shouldn’t be entering into debates about things that only affect women. However, I have two reasons why, yes, men should be involved in the abortion debate.
1. Men are still policy makers
Currently, the United States Congress is 80% male. State and local governments might have more women participating, but women are not the majority or even half of any governing body that makes decisions regarding reproductive health. So it’s men who are making decisions about contraception, reproductive health, and abortion, not women. From this point of view, it isn’t a question of whether or not men should join in the debate; it’s more of a matter bringing women into the debate and into the policy making process. Sadly, as far as the government is concerned, a woman’s body is something that can be controlled and regulated. (But it’s for our own good, right?) The depressing fact of the matter is if we want greater bodily autonomy, we have to bring in male allies and ask those allies to talk to other men in order to bring in even more male allies.
2. Men can support women and each other when a choice has to be made
Another reason men should be talking about abortion and, more importantly, educating themselves about abortion is that anyone who is faced with an unplanned pregnancy needs a support system. Men can be a part of that support system. If they are the potential father of an unplanned pregnancy, then the potential mother might want his input and be involved in the decision making process. Men can support each other and women if a decision is made to end a pregnancy. No one decides to end a pregnancy on a whim, nor do they take the decision lightly, so understanding a person’s situation and providing her with support, regardless of your gender, is important.
Going beyond the abortion question, what can men contribute?
Talking about abortion isn’t the only way men can help women as they fight for equality and bodily autonomy. Men can engage in conversations about rape culture and victim blaming and understand how some of the things we all do everyday contribute to this part of our culture.
I would also encourage men to join the conversation on equality in general, not just as it pertains to bodily autonomy. If our goal is gender equality, then it makes sense to ask the question: How does sexism affect men? Men who want to bring men’s rights (for lack of a better term) into the equality conversation should be sure to do two things:
- Men should present their experiences and instances of inequality parallel to that of inequalities faced by women, not replacing or diminishing those inequalities faced by women.
- The conversation should contribute towards greater gender equality for all.
For example, I heard a man complain that there are no men’s centers for raped and battered men, but there are many women’s centers. I think that’s a great point to bring up. Men are raped and battered, and men who are raped and battered need different physical and mental health services than women do (not to mention different social and economic impacts). So I’m not opposed to men’s centers or opening some rape centers that service both men and women. However, this man used the lack of men’s centers as an example of how men are so unfairly treated in society. He had a great opportunity to talk about increasing support for rape victims in general and threw it all away because all he wanted to do was bitch about women. We don’t need discourse like that.
So men, please don’t check out. Instead, jump in and help us problem solve.