A few years ago when asked about my position on abortion, I used to give a stock answer: that as cisgendered man I would never have to make the choice myself and therefore I would never presume to make that choice for a partner or any other women.
But men are not impartial participants in this debate and the impact of this issue extends well beyond the boundaries of a single gender. As state after state have passed laws designed to restrict abortion access it has been men in legislatures who have voted for these laws and men in governor's mansions who have signed them. These laws are often based around malicious lies including that abortion is linked to breast cancer and mental illness.
With hundreds of proposals introduced in just the last two years designed to restrict abortion access and Planned Parenthood under constant assault from anti-abortion groups as well as lawmakers, my previous statement of allyship was woefully insufficient.
Abortion is not simply another social issue that can exist within its own little box. The decision to start a family is one of the most consequential economic decisions a women and her family will make during their lifetime. Furthermore, restrictions on abortion are a critical part of the conversation on economic inequality.
When Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) introduced his namesake amendment that continues to restrict federal funds from being used to provide abortion, this was done specifically to prevent women on Medicaid from accessing reproductive healthcare. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall noted, "The Hyde Amendment is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion."
Each and every restriction on abortion has the same impact. Wealthy women will be able to travel to another state or another country to receive reproductive care. It is only the middle class and poor who are impacted by restrictions.
I watched in awe this summer as Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention and told the story of her abortion to the entire nation. Telling her story shouldn't be considered a radical act when it's one she shares with one-in-three American women. But those with an agenda, one often rooted in the misogynistic notion that women should be subservient to men, have stigmatized their stories.
Being "pro-choice" cannot simply exist as a passive act or a declaration we make in solidarity with those of another gender. Women have been shamed into silence, in part by men. This shame is as effective a weapon in preventing women from accessing reproductive healthcare as many of the laws the anti-choice movement has passed.
This is in part why NARAL's Men for Choice movement is so critical. As they have around the country, this week men, (along with some of the women who love us) will gather in Washington, DC, to make this statement.
Choice is not a fight we can remain silent partners in. We must battle not only against legislation that denies women access to abortion, but also against those who would cast shame or stigma on those who do.
Pro-choice men have a responsibility not simply to outsource our voices to women, but to lift them up in this fight. Shame and stigma should be cast on those who would use their power in an attempt to bully others--for those who pass laws designed to make it needlessly difficult for low-income women to access health care and who tell lies as a part of this effort.
That is why I jumped at the opportunity when NARAL asked me to co-chair this year's Washington, DC, Men for Choice event. And now when I'm asked about why I support abortion rights the answer is clear: Because women deserve access to the best reproductive healthcare possible; They deserve the right to make reproductive choices and should not be shamed for their decisions; And abortion is not simply a "social issue" but one that impacts every aspect of women's, and therefore all of our lives.
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