Why Men Matter In The Abortion Debate

5 May

In the abortion debate, beyond the obvious argument over whether abortion should be legal (it should), another debate has emerged – What is the role of men in the debate over abortion? Feminists have long questioned the purpose of men in debates concerning female bodies. How can a man possibly understand the implications of restrictions on birth control access when they will never be a teenage girl facing one of the biggest decisions of her life, never be a middle-aged woman facing the possibility of death while giving birth, never give birth, period?

That’s on the macro level, the legislative, Democrat-and-Republican level. Jacob M. Appel recently wrote a post for the Huffington Post in which he said that abortion advocates have to include men in order to succeed. My initial inclination was the wrap my arms protectively around my uterus and yell (or type) ‘No, no, no!’ And let’s make no mistake – if I were to have an unwanted pregnancy and decide to have an abortion that decision is mine, and mine alone. I reserve that right as a competent adult, and no amount of politicking or theorizing will make me give it up.

But let’s face it – half the world’s population is men. And if you wind up in the position to have an abortion then (wink, wink, nudge nudge) odds are you are on at least speaking terms with at least one man. Most of us interact with, are related to, are friends, lovers, spouses, etc. with men, and whether we like it or not (ok, I know, not), they are part of the legislative system that has the power to push abortion back into alleys by outlawing it. So maybe instead of discrediting men as a gender, we should focus on the real problem – changing the ideology of anti-choicers. Anti-Choicers have already embraced the role of men in this never-ending debate, so why should we short ourselves the potential allies? Maybe instead we should mine the creativity, research, and other intelligent offerings of pro-choice men. In a fight for something this important, can we really afford to say no to any help offered?

What do you think?

12 Responses to “Why Men Matter In The Abortion Debate”

  1. jaded16 May 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    I’d say yes. As long as I can get the man-person to give me in writing they he will never become a pro-lifer overnight given the history.

    Seriously though, I’d be very unsure about it.

  2. Juliana May 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    absolutely, and i even see it from another angle; to be pro-choice is to support a woman’s right to be in control of her life. if every woman can get to decide when she wants a child, then the percentage of healthy, loved, and well-nurtured children will increase sharply. can you imagine the kind of world we’d live in if women felt supported, if more children felt loved and received proper care?

    when you give women choice and freedom you lift society as a whole – and that’s a matter affecting men and women alike.

  3. Vvixen May 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    I’ve been surprised recently by the number of pro-choice men I’ve met. Some are passionate advocates for women’s reproductive rights! It’s important that our movement doesn’t resort to male-bashing when discussing these issues. Not all men are antis, and it would be a shame to alienate men who support or could be persuaded to support our cause.

  4. bryan May 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    The question of whether or not men should be involved in abortion debates is, in some ways, moot. Understanding that a woman’s autonomy is paramount here, it’s also important to acknowledge that, in the day-to-day reality of accidental pregnancies and abortions, men are already involved. In working in abortion clinics for over 10 years, and the number of women I’ve talked to who take a more dogmatic view of their abortion decision is dwarfed by the number who want and solicit their male partners/parents/friends thoughts and support. That might be nothing more than anecdotal evidence, but it’s a ton o anecdotes.

    Something policy makers and political advocates sometimes get wrong is that there are already a lot of men involved in the abortion “debate” and movement (even if the men themselves wouldn’t recognize it as such).

  5. Gaina May 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    I agree with Vvixen, lots of men now are very genuinely pro-choice and it would be a shame to exclude them from the dialogue.

    My Dad and I had a heated discussion about abortion one night. He’s pro life because I am disabled and I am pro choice for that very same reason – I have 10% greater risk that anyone else of having a feotus affected by my disability, that’s a risk which I have not intention of taking because I live this every day and know what any resulting child would go through. Anyhoo….

    I told him ‘it really disturbs me that you think it’s right for a total stranger (in the case of the UK, two GPs’) to have more control over your own daughter’s body than she does’. He had no answer for that.

    I think having the right men involved would be a good thing because they would be able to speak to the anti or ambivilant men on this issue because for some reason a woman can say something (on just about any issue you care to mention) and get nowhere but if a man says the same thing, suddenly everyone is listening. Any man who has a sister, daughter niece or wife should be pro-choice.

  6. michelle May 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    wow. i agree that men should be involved. i’m at a loss at how to go about incorporating those who aren’t already on board, which (thank god) are not many men i personally know

  7. NYCprochoiceMD May 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Some of the most caring, compassionate abortion providers I know are men. This is the case here in the US (for instance, Dr. Carhart), and true even more abroad, where the majority of doctors are male. When I was in Peru, I worked with two men who completely understood what was at stake for their patients who chose abortion. So you’re right, there are plenty of male allies out there.

  8. Not Guilty May 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    I know of a number of men who are pro-choice. They acknowledge they can never get pregnant, so it isn’t their business. I wrote a post about this on my blog noting that if half the population thinks we (as in feminists) hate them, we are going to have a hard time getting anywhere. Men play an important role in supporting women and their rights, counter-balancing the anti’s, male and female. So absolutely, they have a stake. That being said, if they impregnate a woman and she decides she wants an abortion, his only role is to support he unconditionally. He does not get to bully her into keeping the child. The risk the woman takes in having sex is getting pregnant and the risk the man takes is that she gets to decide what happens if she does.

  9. KushielsMoon May 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    Some of my favorite male people are prochoice, but they don’t get involved. They understand that abortion is a woman’s right, but they also feel that they shouldn’t be the ones in the front of the lines, lobbying or such. If that’s what works for them, great! I appreciate their support, and the support of men who want to stand on the front lines too.

    I think it might be helpful to speak more about what “women’s rights” does for me. Groups like Planned Parenthood have services for both homosexual and heterosexual males (and those elsewhere on the spectrum). The reproductive healthcare movement isn’t just about women.

  10. S.L May 6, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    I’ve never understood why men are so easily discredited in this area so often. It bothers me tremendously, there are many anti choice women and many pro choice men.

    And wasn’t it mostly men on the Supreme Court who passed Roe v Wade?

  11. Shayna May 6, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I think that the role of men is not necessarily discredited, but looked at with wariness by pro choice women – after all, we’re seeking autonomy over our bodies, so the idea of letting a man have a voice in the abortion debate, to may pro choice women, seems counter intuitive — but they already do – according to Appel 77% of anti choice leaders are men… this is about letting the pro choice men (and you’re right, there are a lot!) speak up as well.


  1. Tweets that mention Why Men Matter In The Abortion Debate | Abortion Gang -- Topsy.com - May 5, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emmily Bristol, bri gauger and NAF, The Abortion Gang. The Abortion Gang said: new post : Why Men Matter In The Abortion Debate http://j.mp/bcsGKM #prochoice […]

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