Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Real Reasons Men Should Speak Up For Choice

My boyfriend recently directed me to a Salon article entitled Why men need to speak up about abortion. He felt it was lacking and that I could do a better job. I don't know if that's true, but I can certainly say what I think is lacking in the article.

The title itself is rather ambiguous; is the author calling for men to speak against abortion, in favour of choice, or simply to talk about it either way? The content of the article, however, is indeed pro-choice with the author claiming to owe his life to his mother's previous abortion, without which she would never have become pregnant with him. The author also acknowledges that his immature response to his girlfriend's abortion proved that he wasn't at all ready to raise a child. Not bad content. Here's what's lacking: the author seems to feel that abortion shouldn't "just" be a "female issue" since men are affected by it as well, as though if men were somehow not affected by it, it would be a perfectly justifiable reason for them not to give a shit. The fact that young men have to pay higher insurance for vehicles sure as hell doesn't affect me for the worse, yet I'm still in favour of abolishing that rule. Why? Well it might just have to do with that little thing called equality. But Goddess forbid a man should have the ability to keep his privilege in check enough to care about an issue that affects men less than women, let alone one that affects only women. But hey, at least he's trying right? And that's why I won't go too hard on him.

Respectfully, he does not identify the names of any of the women he writes of as having had abortions, one at her request, but he doesn't at all go into why a woman might not want to be identified as having had one. Probably because, again, that part doesn't affect him. A man who mentions that the zygote/embryo/fetus with his genetic material was aborted can probably expect sympathy, especially if he had no choice in the matter, as with the author who didn't even know his girlfriend was pregnant (not for her lack of trying to contact him) until after her abortion. At worst, he'll be thought of as a jerk who pressured her. A woman, however can expect alienation by at least a few co-workers, friends, or even family members, and at worst public smearing to the point she could lose her job and not be hired by anyone. Hell, a woman can sometimes expect those things just for admitting she's pro-choice. I've been in situations where my declaring I was pro-choice automatically had people thinking that I thought the new baby in the family should have been aborted. My best friend once had a boyfriend who stated that if she ever became pro-choice, he would have to leave her.

Again, this part doesn't directly affect most men, unless there are some who have witnessed their mother endure the insults of "murderer" and "child-killer" after having had an abortion. But the fact is, the choice movement could use more male voices. Not that women need men to stand up for us, but it would be nice to see more men show their active support for women's issues whether those issues directly affect them or not. By the way, when those issues do affect men, that doesn't make it any less a women's issue. I'm sorry, but as cis men cannot be pregnant and therefore cannot know what it's like to be pregnant, abortion is a women's issue, and that still should not mean that men can just wash their hands of it.

So what's in it for men to be pro-choice? Since this should be an obvious answer to any moral human being, I'm going to be quick about it. I assume you as a man have female relatives and friends, yes? Assuming further that you have anything resembling a soul, you surely care about them. Well, that's your answer to what's in it for you to be pro-choice. And if you don't have any women you care about, then I give less than a shit about your opinion on abortion.

Now what about men who think it's unfair for a woman to have an abortion without telling the prospective father? Well first refer back to my earlier paragraph about women being afraid to talk about abortion for fear of alienation, losing their jobs, etc. Now to give a personal example, I have a friend whose hormones are often out of whack, and she had begun to show signs of pregnancy. Not wanting to be 'dishonest', she told the guy she was dating that she had missed her period. Well, he immediately flipped out and accused her of trying to baby-trap him before finally asking whether she would keep it or not. To this, my friend declared, "Fuck no!" She doesn't exactly like children very much. At this, her boyfriend went bi-polar and claimed that she couldn't do that. That was the end of that relationship and, as it turned out, my friend was not pregnant after all. Long story short: if men want their girlfriends to tell them before they have an abortion, then they had better be prepared to support them. Otherwise, what they don't know can't hurt them.

Ah, but I'm not being fair, am I? I'm not giving any room to pro-lifers. Well, there happen to be plenty of women who identify as pro-life, and yet they continue to have abortions. Thomas of Yes Means Yes! recalls that his mother told him about a female relative of his who did exactly that:
everyone thinks there are three permissible abortions, for “rape, incest and me.” I’ll tell a personal story here. My mother, long before the lung cancer claimed her, used to sit and smoke after the lights all went out and everyone else was in bed, and tell me how the world really worked. That’s a big part of why I’m a feminist. She told me about a relative of mine, an evangelical Christian. She regularly protested outside the clinics. Then she terminated a pregnancy. Then she went back to protesting at clinics. Then she had another abortion. Apparently, her married boyfriend didn’t like using condoms, and she wasn’t in a very good negotiating position. She wasn’t in a place in her life where she could let anyone know she was pregnant.
Emphasis mine.

Just one example. There are many. Why? Because no matter what your principles, you really don't know what you'll do until it happens to you. A woman can guess and the can think and she can declare what she would do if she was pregnant when she didn't want to be, but she won't know for sure unless it happens.

And for men, assuming you're cis and in a position to impregnate a woman, let me break it down. Do you feel that you could raise a child by yourself? Do you feel that you could raise a child with someone? Do you feel that your significant other could raise a child with someone? Do you feel she could raise a child by herself? If no to all of those, then you have no right to decide whether or not she has an abortion. If no to all but the latter, you still have no right. If no to all but the latter two, not only do you have no right on an abortion decision, but if she decides to hook up with someone who can help her raise the child better than you can, you ought to keep your mouth shut. If no to only the first, you can voice your opinion, but it's still her decision, and you should support it. Finally, if no to none of those, it's still, again, her decision. All you get to do is say that you can raise the child if she can't. By the way, if you're a pro-life male whose significant other got pregnant and chose to keep the child, and you don't feel up to raising a child, please keep your goddamn mouth shut about child support.

This is what men should be talking about when it comes to abortion. This is what "pro-choice" men should be backing us up on rather than expecting a cookie for simply not being anti-choice.

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