By Rob Okun
The old bumper sticker, “Keep Your Laws Off of My Body” isn’t old and isn’t a bumper sticker. It’s a chilling reality for women today. And Father’s Day is a perfect time for men to wake up to women’s reality—to stand up and speak out on behalf of women’s reproductive health and rights.
Several weeks ago two-dozen white male Alabama legislators passed a draconian anti-choice bill and where were the men opposing them? A rash of similar abortion bans—most with no exception for rape or incest—passed across the South and Midwest and where were the men? Besides Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana are denying a woman’s right to choose; more states are poised to follow. Thankfully, all of these laws are being vigorously challenged in the courts. Are women wrong to believe men’s silence represents tacit approval, is a form of complicity? If we want women to believe we’re their allies then, to borrow a Missouri maxim, we have to show them. Whether you’re a father, stepdad, father figure, brother, uncle, nephew, coach or mentor, it’s way past time to find your voice and stand with women. Let’s use Father’s Day 2019 to publicly and loudly stand up women’s reproductive rights.
Here are a few things men—not just dads—can do:
– For fathers: in lieu of a gift ask your family to make a donation to a local clinic, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or all three. (Also, support the National Network of Abortion Funds at abortionfunds.org.)
– Volunteer at a clinic, including escorting patients inside
– Urge your faith community leader to deliver a sermon supporting a women’s right to choose (or be the guest speaker yourself)
– Write a letter to the editor stating your unequivocal support for women’s reproductive rights
– Invite a group of men over to talk about the threat women face and why men need to break their silence
– Insist researchers to accelerate work on developing male birth control
– If you have a son old enough, talk with him about respecting women’s autonomy
– Let your daughter know you unequivocally support her right to control her body
– Alert anti-choice legislators that you won’t just vote to unseat them, you’ll work to elect pro-choice candidates
We men have been complacent for too long, detached from women’s reality, smug in our armor of privilege. But there are cracks in our armor. As Katha Pollitt wrote recently in The Nation:
[F]or every woman with an ill-timed, unwanted pregnancy, there is probably a man who is unhappy about it, too. Men, too, can have their lives stunted by unwanted childbearing. They, too, suffer when a pregnancy pushes them into marriage, or into marriage with the wrong person¼For men as for women, ill-timed or unwanted children can mean giving up ambitions and dreams. It can mean decades of regret for not doing right by children you didn’t mean to have or have no real connection to or perhaps have never even met.
Of course, there are men in the reproductive rights battle but they’re most visible on the anti-choice side. They lead or are prominent in organizations and protests; they harass clinic workers, patients and families, and they are the primary assassins, murdering not just doctors who perform abortions but clinic workers, too. Once these children are born though, like most anti-choice activists they are mute on the subject of supporting children outside the womb. Why aren’t more men calling out their hypocrisy?
Even if not all men are fathers, we are all sons. It’s not too late to step up in support of not just the women in our lives—but all women—at a vulnerable time in theirs: mothers, wives or lovers, sisters, daughters, nieces, neighbors.
Women are facing a full-blown emergency. The clock is ticking; a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade could soon be before the Supreme Court. With the flames of intolerance looming at our sisters’ windows, men must join the bucket brigade to put out the fire. Now.