Men: Invisible Allies in the Struggle for Choice

Claire Keyes

About half of women choosing abortion bring a man along. Some bring their brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, friend or boss; most who bring a man bring their partner. More men would have accompanied the women had they not stayed home to care for the other child or children (most women choosing abortion already have at least one child), or they are working, or she preferred to have her friend or mother with her.

The rise of ever more disturbing anti-abortion rhetoric
containing violent imagery gives a false picture of men.  While it is true that some men spew
hatred and engender fear with the intent of increasing stigma and decreasing availability
of abortion services, I have had a different experience of the men inside
abortion clinics.  About half of
women choosing abortion bring a man along.  Some bring their brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, friend or
boss; most who bring a man bring their partner.  More men would have accompanied the women had they not
stayed home to care for the other child or children (most women choosing
abortion already have at least one child), or they are working, or she
preferred to have her friend or mother with her.

Reading the latest wave of woman-debasing epithets could
create a false impression of men and their loving support.  Clinics all over the country are
inviting men into the counseling, the procedure itself, and the recovery room,
depending upon the woman’s consent and the clinic’s ability to accommodate
support persons. They are our allies in patient care and politics, all the
while providing a supportive balance to the screaming, swearing, and ranting
men on the sidewalks outside our clinics. 
 Men are more likely to label
themselves pro-choice when included in information sessions, counseling, or any
part of the visit to the clinic.

Allegheny Reproductive Health in Pittsburgh has been
welcoming men for decades.  For
many years our waiting room journals labeled “For Men Only” have become a
repository of heart-rending support, love, and sorrow, but also messages of
hope and self-reflection.  Anyone
who doubts the importance of men’s presence need only read a few of the entries
to become aware of a whole different man than those spewing threats, bile and
venom.

Such as this message:

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“…Today is not about right or wrong.  It’s about happy and sad.  You may be sad for the situation in
which you find yourself, but be happy, in a quiet way, that you had the courage
and decency to step up when you were needed most…I accept her choice because I
love her.  This choice is right for
her.  I will not judge…Love is
about acceptance…You, yes, you are a precious child of God.  Treat her and yourself with the dignity
you both deserve.”

This one:

“…P.S.  To
my  unborn I’m sorry for all the
wrong choices I made.  I wish I
could turn back the time and bring you into the world but I know I can’t.  I will never make another mistake this
big again (not using protection). 
I’m sorry and I love you always and forever.”

And this one:

“…I am a grown man, but after reading this [journal], my
body feels little and my heart does too. 
I see all the support we have for our ladies.  Everyone’s stories are different…I always promised myself
I would honor and do right with my kid. 
I think this is doing right…God bless you all.”

If we want supportive men’s voices to balance the messages
of violence and hatred, we need to reach out to men even more. Waiting rooms in
clinics are filled with men who sit patiently for many hours.  From the moment they enter our clinics, let’s
be sure to welcome them.  Making
certain that front desk greeters offer a “thank you for coming” is a good
beginning.

Abortion providers can have brochures on hand specifically
designed for men.  They can have
magazines of male interest in the waiting room, not just women’s
magazines.  They can have packets
of information scattered about addressing birth control, explanations of the
procedure, helpful post-procedure hints, political action suggestions, and
voter registration forms.  Referral
cards to the website MenAndAbortion.com direct them to the answers to
frequently asked factual, emotional, and spiritual questions.

Since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, at least 45 million
abortions have been performed. 
That means that at least 22 million men have accompanied women to
clinics and physician’s offices for nearly four decades.  As we are asking women to come forth
and announce that they had an abortion, let us ask me to do the same.  If each of those 22 million told just
one other man, a brother, a friend, a dad, a son, we could double the number of
potential supporters in a day! 
Think of it!  Men who are
passionate about their causes can exhibit great bravery and courage.  Here is an opportunity for men to stand
up verbally to the bullies whose voices are currently the only male voices
being heard.

Women on campuses throughout the US can schedule events to
which each woman can bring at least one guy who is or may be pro-choice.  Abortion does not only affect women;
inviting men to university events when classes reconvene is a good way to start
off the new year.  It’s also a
positive way to expand the number of supporters by pointing out to men that we
want and need their voices of moderation. 
With the 37th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade coming up on
January 22, a marvelous opportunity awaits us.  Whether the men in attendance have had a personal experience
with abortion or not, we want to welcome them into the fold.

Abortion providers are again under attack.  That means that all women are under
attack.  The men who write such
things as “if you are ripped to shreds, it will be just” and “loose women burn
in hell” and “the blood of your crotch will rise up against you, you whores”
hate all women.  Rather than focusing
attention on them, let’s focus on our allies, the men who are reasonable,
responsible, loving and good.   By allowing abortion to be only a
woman’s issue, we are ignoring those who could be our very best supporters if
only we knew better how to invite them.

If each of each who has had an abortion were to tell two
people over this holiday season, more stories of the truth and goodness of
abortion would be out in the world. 
I am constantly amazed when I meet women who tell me of their abortion
ten, twenty, thirty years ago about which they never told anyone!  Secrecy breeds stigma, which is how a
medical procedure that 35-40% of American women experience in their
reproductive lifetimes can still be associated with shame.  This season when friends and family
gather, you can break the silence. 
And invite men to do the same!

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.