The Daily Beast has an interesting column by Hugh Ryan on men in the abortion debate. Ryan notes that "A 2009 Gallup poll found that only 39% of men identified as pro-choice—a drastic 10 percent decrease from 2008." He also notes how much more willing men on the anti-choice side seem to be about voicing their opposition to abortion than men on the other, pro-choice side. Pro-choice men see it as a women’s issue, and therefore not really their place, while anti-choice men see it a religious issue. On this point I agree with Ryan, though I would go further on the anti-choice side and say that
these men are more vocal in their opposition because of male privilege,
which is fueled by religion. These aren’t synonymous so much as
complimentary. The Christian doctrine that informs and fuels the
anti-choice side has more than its fair share of sexism, from
reinforcing the traditional male-female binary and opposing women
behaving as anything more than accents to their husbands. This segues
seamlessly to opposition of abortion, since women aren’t supposed to
rule their own lives. However, I have to believe that, while
Christianity provides a worthy script for this sexism, that what is
really influencing men’s participation as vocal anti-choicers is the
male power dynamic that also finds such a cozy home in Christianity.
It’s this same power play that puts Viagara on insurance policies and
not birth control, and the same one that has gendered terms like whore
and slut as being necessarily female (hence the need for the ‘male’ in
front of slut to describe the man that had sex with the woman).
Furthermore, by placing the heart of male anti-choice sentiment with
male privilege, it gives more space to the crucial pro-choice religious
community, like Catholics for Choice and Daniel Maguire’s Sacred Choices, which chronicles the pro-abortion elements of the 10 major world religions.
After reading Ryan’s post, however, the big question for me wasn’t so much why men are openly anti-choice as why so few men are openly pro-choice. This isn’t an issue that men will ever directly experience, but it’s still an issue they need to support. Just as gay rights needs straight
allies and civil rights needs white supporters, abortion rights need
men. If you know and love a woman then you should care about access to
abortion. Maybe we need to remember what feminists have been saying all
along, that women’s issues are human issues – family, agency, equality.
Denying the right to full reproductive health care shouldn’t be an
issue just for the unborn. It should be an issue of justice for the
half of the population that it directly effects, and therefore an issue
for everyone who trusts women.