a bird and a bottle

More Stories from Men/Dads

update: via Jill, here’s a woman’s story of abortion. It’s sad and moving and also joyful and energizing.

The Supreme Court’s shift in abortion jurisprudence with its decision a few weeks ago in Gonzales v. Carhart has gotten a lot of press both in traditional MSM and on blogs (including this one). That’s to be expected given the politically explosive nature of the abortion debate and the love of the media for all things inflammatory.

What’s interesting, though, is how many of the stories and posts to follow the decision have been about men’s experiences as fathers, fathers-to-be, and would-be dads.

Take, for example, today’s LA Times opinion piece by Dan Neil — a touching and, at this point, familiar story.

Neil writes about his and his wife’s desire to have children; she underwent IVF to conceive, and ended up with too many fetuses (four when they could only have or handle two). So they reduced her pregnancy — a euphemistic term for selective abortion when a woman carries too many fetuses as a result of IVF or other fertility treatments. Neil writes well – he’s totally unapologetic (rightly unapologetic) and is concerned about the world his two female daughters-to-be will face once they’re born in light of the Supreme Court’s rightward shift and the fact that 9 of the 10 GOP presidential candidates profess to want to see Roe overturned.

I read the story, and felt for Neil and his wife; both their sadness and their relief at reducing the pregnancy. But I couldn’t help but wonder if men are the new face of abortion rights. Is it men whom we must ask to defend abortion rights now against a court and a rightwing political movement led mostly by men?

And if so, isn’t it a sad state of affairs that there is such contempt for women in this society that we need men to be the public faces of the fight for our reproductive autonomy?


3 Comments so far
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God, that concept just kills me. As a woman I know how hard I work to be seen as equal to the men around me, and I am not alone. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear men seriously talk about their experiences with abortion, half the time I can’t read them, I just know I’ll end up in tears. But I hate the idea of men being the ones to convince other men that I and other women should be able to decide for ourselves how and when we have children. It feels very disrespectful to women. And isn’t our society all about respecting women?

Comment by Casey Greene

i like the idea that men should be a larger part of the repro justice movement and should be out there convincing other men so that we have less assholes that wanna make decisions for women. and i would guess that men/fathers would also be an effective public face in the media. course the problem is that the folks who would make good spokespeople are married, middle-upper class, hetero dads – the sort of unassailable, good fathers Neil represents. and if we have to work an agenda around them, we’re gonna leave a whole hell of a lot of people that need abortions out of the picture.

the larger problem i think, is that we as a movement have to do some serious work – the kind that bean and others are doing with NAPW – to reconnect with women who are actually having abortions (and children) because right now our rhetoric does more to alienate then it does to communicate. and turning to dads doesn’t change that.

Comment by maxwell

Well, one possible reason men might be more prominent – assuming it’s not just an accidental thing and men really are playing a greater role in pro-choice politics – is argument saturation. When you use the same talking points over and over again, you can convince people if the talking points are good, but eventually you’ll hit a saturation point, at which everyone who can be convinced is already on your side. When both sides use the same talking points, it can lead to a stalemate that can only be broken if one side changes tactics.

In abortion politics, American pro-choicers have used the language of choice for a few decades now. This isn’t the only way to talk about it, but in the US the “we should trust women to make their own choices” line predominates, and was immensely successful in the 1970s and 80s. Sometime afterward, it reached a saturation point, when 60% of the US population was pro-choice, or at least became sufficiently close to it that the reinvigorated pro-life movement could erode public support for abortion.

That pro-choice frame is also very woman-centric. In legal arguments it usually isn’t, but instead relies on the notion of privacy, but in political argument it’s all about the idea that women are allowed to make their own choices. And naturally, it also incorporates a lot of women who talk about their experiences with having unwanted pregnancies and choosing to end or not to end them. Note that this is entirely different from the feminist argument that abortion is part of women’s liberation, which is femicentric as well but in a different way.

Now, lately American pro-choicers have been starting to look for alternative lines of argument. Some people use the feminist argument, which I think is weak if only because feminism is less popular than abortion rights, and you don’t want to tow your movement to a less popular one. Others use a public health argument, which family planning organizations and such international bodies as the WHO have been using for a long while. Yet others attack on pro-lifers’ home turf, namely fetal rights, by arguing fetuses are not persons and deserve no rights. And some people use the same civil liberties argument but detach it from choices made specifically by women, for example by talking about government regulations or attacking religious fundamentalism.

Except for the feminist argument, those are significantly less femicentric than the choice-based argument. The fetal rights argument might even be somewhat mascucentric, because it has a “What’s growing in your body isn’t a person yet; deal” undertone. So it makes sense that if that’s taking place, more men are going to take part in pro-choice politics.

Just remember that at the end of the day, the one reliably pro-choice Presidential candidate is the one who’s female (also, speaking of which, the one who’s going to win is the one Republican who said “It’s okay if a strict constructionist views Roe as precedent”). So maybe the seeping of men into pro-choice politics isn’t that prominent, yet.

Comment by Alon Levy

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