Yes, Abortion Is a Women’s Issue, and Yes, More Male Allies Are Welcome
Further, sexist assumptions about women’s role in reproduction are at the core of other oppressions women face. Rape culture is intertwined with ideas that men are irresistibly driven to sex, that women are submissive sexual objects to be conquered, that women are either sluts or prudes. Lack of family supports in the workplace, from paid sick days to paid family leave, are tied with exclusionary and outdated middle-class white assumptions that there will be a woman in the home to take care of the family, and discrimination in pay, promotion, and leadership is underpinned by assumptions that men are primary breadwinners. Pretending that social discrimination against women is not linked with sexual discrimination against women, which can therefore be ignored, may feel “less controversial” but it’s not going to get us anywhere.
When men are quoted in the media five times more often than women on the topics of abortion and birth control, we are simply not ready to move abortion into a post-gender framework that declares abortion is “not a women’s issue.” In particular, it seems that society has a great deal of resistance to putting younger women and women of color, not mutually exclusive categories, at the center of reproductive rights conversations.
While we need more men, more LGBTQ people, and more of everyone taking leadership in the reproductive rights movement, those most directly affected by abortion restrictions—younger women and women of color—need more focus, not less. Turn on the television, and it’s not uncommon to see a white man opposing abortion rights and, if a pro-choice woman is included at all, she is often white and past reproductive age.
Within the abortion rights movement, there is some resistance to having the most directly affected lead the message in a way that doesn’t seem to be paralleled in other human rights movements, including LGBTQ movements and civil rights movements. Some take offense when it is suggested that more younger women and women of color should help lead. This is something that I hope men will keep in mind when taking on leadership roles in the movement. It is possible to be a loud ally and also be an ally who works to ensure more young women and women of color are included, and your sisters need the help.
Do we need more men to fight for reproductive and sexual rights on their own terms? Do we welcome more men to fight for abortion as human rights issues, public health issues, and women’s issues? Is it cool if those men want to call themselves “bro-choice”? The answer is an enthusiastic yes.
Seriously, if we believe a 14 year old is too immature to know how to take a pill, do we really think she’s adult enough to handle an unwanted pregnancy?
The truth is that the age restriction is completely arbitrary, tied only to our puritanical comfort levels. And listen, I get it; I think it’s fair to say that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of a 14 year old having sex. But here’s the thing - access to Plan B isn’t about keeping a 14 year old from having sex - by the time she gets to the pharmacy, that ship has sailed - it’s about keeping a 14 year old who has already had sex from getting pregnant. And despite what urban legend (or past embarrassing FDA memos) may tell you, making emergency contraception more available is not more likely to make young teens have sex - it will just make them less likely to end up pregnant.
We can’t let our discomfort with teen sex trump young people’s right to sexual and reproductive health and we can’t continue to let politics trump science. If we care about young women’s health and bodily autonomy and integrity, we’ll drop all age restrictions from emergency contraception. Anything less isn’t just illogical - it’s immoral.— “Hey, FDA: Drop the Plan B Age Restriction,” my latest at The Nation (via jessicavalenti)