How I Became Pro-Choice
I have never made it a secret that for a lengthy period of time in my life, I identified myself as pro-life. For a time, it was a decision related to the Catholic faith I was raised in. Later, even after leaving Catholicism behind, I maintained my position on something resembling a well-meaning, but simplistic ethical basis. I say this with no hint of pride or irony: when I was fourteen years old, I had an extended argument with a friend explaining that I didn’t kill insects on the basis of their right to live, and that I didn’t support abortion for the exact same reason.
Unlike some very astute fourteen-year-olds who I have had the pleasure of meeting and discussing politics with, I was not terribly educated on the issue. I had never spoken with anyone who had ever told me that they had gotten an abortion, though I know now that likely had more to do with their lack of desire to mention it than anything else. After all, twenty-one percent of pregnancies in the US in 2011 ended in abortion (no longer the famous “one-in-three,” thanks in large part to increased access to contraceptives). Around a quarter of the 1.06 million abortions conducted that year were had by women identifying as Hispanics. About 28 percent identified as Catholic. Both of those demographics make up a lot of people I’m related to and love dearly, but who probably weren’t going to be exactly vocal about it in front of the people at the family holiday parties.
I came to choice gradually, first as a convert for personal autonomy (the “I support the right, but would never get one myself” crowd, which is valid as long as the first half is as sincere as the second), then as an empathetic person. I have come to know people whose lives have been saved by abortion. I’ve met others who’ve been able to give their children wonderful lives because they had access to abortions that prevented other, more poorly timed pregnancies. And I’ve met many who don’t speak to the experience at all simply because it’s no one’s business, and that’s just fine.
It is not their responsibility to share with me their experiences. It is, however, my responsibility to defend with every ounce of privilege I have their access to safe, legal, and affordable abortions and birth control.
More Radical Reads: Ten Counterproductive Behaviors of Social Justice Educators
Why Cis Men Should Use Their Privilege to Support Reproductive Rights
This is often a contested thought even among fairly liberal men. The often-stated question is why choice should be defended when it supposedly does not affect us, cis-men who cannot physically become pregnant? I have never understood this notion, even back when I was pro-life. There is no such thing as a human pregnancy that does not involve two individuals, so when a cis-man says that abortion does not affect him, what he is unintentionally (at least, I hope) saying is that should he impregnate someone, he intends to leave that person alone with their pregnancy. This is pathological thinking at best. Even on a purely selfish, “not-wanting-to-deal-with-a-child” line of reasoning, maintaining access to reproductive freedom is a sensible desire for men.
Setting aside that very sophomoric idea, men occupy a space in public discourse that is sadly very non-unique. Women are typically excluded from discussions, even on these issues, and cis-men are often the only arbitrators in the debate. Consider back in 2014 when the all-male House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice discussed a bill that would effectively strip insurance providers from offering abortion coverage in their standard plans. While that bill died in the Senate, it still passed in the House and is still cited and drawn from in current efforts to continue stripping away reproductive rights and defund Planned Parenthood.
The failure inherent there is on the part of the men who failed to act on behalf of the other half of the population capable of becoming pregnant. As individuals committed to justice and progressive values, it is always our responsibility to elevate the voices of the marginalized. We do this with privileges afforded to us in whatever capacity we have them. Our voices and platforms are given more weight. Our wealth and labor can be as well. And yes, our demographics are among the most useful and powerful tools we have to combat injustice.
As men existing in a patriarchy, ours are the valued perspectives. One of the first and most direct ways we can use this is to amplify the efforts for reproductive rights. No single innovation in technology has been more important to the fight for equality between men and women than reliable birth control. When women are capable of controlling their bodies, both as consensual sexual participants and safe decision-makers in regards to what may result from that sex, they are capable of entering society without one of the largest boundaries nature and culture have conspired to saddle them with. Access to reproductive planning and services are in many ways the basis for this.
What We Lose When We Do Not Actively Support Reproductive Freedom
One of the key factors in both explicitly and implicitly denying women their equal space in the work force is the potential for reproductive disruption. Even in the UK, a nation where maternity leave is far more widely available than it is in the United States, those taking time away to have children are often left in professional lurches that take years to recover from, if they can at all. Combine this with the noted trend that economies grow and grow faster when women are more evenly integrated into the labor force, and we’re left with cutting off our own best measures to improve our societies on a measurable level simply because we’re not great at talking about uteri.
Now, I’m an old-school leftist, but I’m not above making a capitalistic argument for the value of the marginalized. Cis-men, who have demographically comprised the overwhelming majority of the “makers” in the post-Industrial Age, must contend with the notion that if they truly want to optimize the economic capacity of the nations they buy and sell within and expand their own economic potential, then support for reproductive freedom is one of the most sensible and intelligent decisions they can make. It requires a small investment ($235 million, or less than a dollar per American citizen, is considered the standard, which would result in $1.32 billion of savings based on the reduction of unintended pregnancies, by the way), grows the work-force and consumer base, and ultimately rises the economic tide on both ends of the spectrum.
More Radical Reads: Pro-Choice Parents of Kids with Down’s Syndrome
No More Status Quo
Now, for some men who may be more culturally inclined to hold back, there may be an inherent instinct to maintain that status quo. Change is scary, especially when we don’t know what lies on the other side, but the upward progress of society hinges on it.
Consider this: my paternal grandparents raised six children, and my maternal ones raised ten. By the standards of their time period, ethnic and geographical culture, and religious imperatives, these numbers were pretty standard. Contrasting that, my parents had two children, a number that they had settled on some years before having either. Most of their siblings had around that number. And I’m now at the age where many of the cousins my older sister and I grew up with are having children of their own, and most of us are quite happy with somewhere between zero and three.
Some of us take this for granted. Some of us look back to our forebears and chastise the rough manner in which they treated their bodies, the lack of control they exercised or were capable of exercising. Some of us forget how recently the idea of zero children was made an option. This has been especially true of my male relatives, many of whom don’t like to talk to their partners about their birth control pills or refuse to discuss emergency contraception or abortion. We grew up under our fathers and mothers who decided that it was not important for us to concern ourselves with this, but too many aren’t aware of the burden we levy with our ignorance.
This is why we must unabashedly support reproductive rights. It has never just been in my family or my background that this has been allowed to occur. Easily put, it was the world that left the people who raised us with struggles we’ll never have to deal with. And our efforts forge the one we hand to our children and godchildren, our nieces and nephews, who will hopefully be a little better off, with most of this figured out, and their tools attention on newer, less obvious questions.
(Featured Image: Photograph of person with chin-length brown hair and a moustache. Source: Jennifer Graevell)