Men’s stake in reproductive justice

I was so touched by this courageously personal piece by Aaron Traister (yes, related to the Rebecca) on men’s involvement in reproductive justice over at Salon (mentioned yesterday). Traister talked about his own mother’s as well as a former girlfriend’s abortion, in addition to how grateful he is to Planned Parenthood for proving his wife with access to contraception from the time she first became sexually active. An excerpt:

I don’t understand how these issues are still simply referred to as “women’s issues.” The destinies of men and women are intertwined by sex, and pregnancy, and childbirth. It is time for more men to sack up and start taking responsibility for their end of the conversation. These “women’s issues” have shaped my life: my birth, my adulthood and the children for which I am forever grateful. So yes, I support women’s health programs and a woman’s right to choose.

I’ve advocated for hearing more men’s voices when it comes to reproductive justice issues, myself. From an Alternet piece from 2007:

The pro-choice movement, and feminists in general, seem to have historically shied away from the difficult but imperative task of involving men in conversations about abortion. It is understandable that the movement has been weary; no hot-button issue brings out more manipulation than this one. But it is time that feminists’ commitment to equality, as well as the quality of both women and men’s lives, trumps their fear that acknowledging men’s hardships will only serve as fodder for pro-life spin doctors. There must be a way to talk about men’s perspectives and experiences without compromising women’s bodies.

One of the greatest roadblocks that keeps men from becoming reproductive justice advocates appears–based on both Traister’s piece and the interviews I did back in the day–to be that men worry that any ambivalence they feel about abortion disqualifies them for activism in defense of it. I have a lot of empathy for this weariness, but urge men to recognize that they’re “mixed feelings” about abortion are no different than their mixed feelings about any other political or spiritual issue. These things are complex and nuanced and no one really knows what is definitively right or wrong. At the end of the day, we’re all–women and men alike–just trying to live and love and do what’s best for ourselves and our families.

What we do know is that everybody deserves to make those complex, nuanced decisions for themselves, about their own bodies. In other words, men, no matter how daunted by the issue itself, should be screaming “Keep your laws off my mom’s, girlfriend’s, sister’s, friend’s, daughter’s bodies!” right alongside the rest of us.

Join the Conversation