This editorial is from Tennessee/Lookout
Like many women across the U.S., I’ve been reeling from the news that broke last week about the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft decision that would reverse Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1971 ruling that legalized abortion at the federal level.
As soon as I tweeted, “Looks like the Supreme Court has given me my next column topic,” messages began to flow in and most were some variation of: “If you need stories, let me know.”
Turns out, a lot of women have stories about abortion and reproductive health. That’s not to say every woman who has written to me has had an abortion, but many know someone who has. Many of us have friends who have been confronted with an unplanned pregnancy, often when young. Others have friends who have had dangerous pregnancies or those that couldn’t be brought to full-term because of catastrophic birth defects.
Many of us have held our friends as they cried, struggling to make a decision with ramifications for the rest of their lives.
I know many women who have had zero regrets about their decision, and I know several who, contemplating their abortions years afterwards and as mothers, say they would have decided differently with more maturity.
And a lot of the women I’ve talked to in the last week (or more) talk about the shame surrounding abortion choices—if not their own shame, the shame and stigma felt by their friends or family members.
Yet none of them mentioned the male half of the equation feeling any shame. And last time I checked, women can’t get pregnant alone; humans don’t asexually reproduce.
It’s time for women who have had abortions to begin talking about their decisions and experiences. It’s time to normalize the discussion because I bet there are a whole lot of politicians who think only the “wrong” kind of women have abortions—not godly women who consider themselves Christian, as are some of the ones I know. I know there are plenty of elected officials who apparently think the decision on whether or not to get pregnant is solely the responsibility of women.
I rarely, however, hear politicians talk about the role of men in pregnancy. It is unfair that society heaps upon women the shame that they seemingly bear alone that surrounds unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Politicians, the majority whom are men, are quick to make laws that limit everything from the amount of funds given to Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control and cancer screenings as well as—yes— abortions, to criminalizing the shipping of medical abortion pills across state lines by health care providers, as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has.
But if male politicians are so concerned about pregnancy and abortion, perhaps they could pass a law that would require a sex education curriculum designed to educate boys and young men about the need for them to take responsibility for birth control, instead of passing laws to ban books with naughty words.
If conservative politicians are concerned about maintaining the purity of the U.S. Constitution—which, by the way, makes no mention of reproductive rights—they might consider that if we have no agency over our own bodies then surely any other rights given in the Constitution are moot.
And if the issue of legal and safe abortion is important to men as well as women, the time has come for them to speak out, too. Abortion is the issue now, but once one right is taken away, the courts and conservative politicians may find it easier to take other rights away, such as same sex marriage. And if that happens, those who speak may find they are too late to make a difference.
_ Holly McCall