If you’ve been following the headlines lately, you might be under the impression that most male decision-makers in Washington are seemingly committed to restricting women’s access to health care.
The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known colloquially as Obamacare, is headed by three men — Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada. The plan includes dismantling the contraceptive mandate of the ACA, eliminating women’s ability to access contraception free of out-of-pocket expenses through their insurance plans; making significant cuts to Medicaid, a program whose recipients are predominantly female; defunding Planned Parenthood, which disproportionately affects women in rural communities, many of whom might otherwise altogether lose access to any health care provider; removing maternity care from the essential health benefits and preventive services insurance plans presently must include; and restricting private insurance access for abortion.
But if you think that all men feel so strongly and negatively about women’s health, NARAL Pro-Choice America wants you to know that’s far from the truth.
Sept. 26 marks the 5th anniversary of the 1.2 million member-strong reproductive justice group’s #MenForChoice initiative, which underscores the way that men are standing up for not only women’s health but women’s equality.
“I think Trump’s ascendency makes it more pertinent for men to speak up on this,” explains James Owens, NARAL’s States Communications Director, to Yahoo Lifestyle. “I think what he’s giving voice to through a louder microphone of political life is something that’s been going on through the whole history of this country — across state governments and federal leadership, you see predominantly men pushing not only to restrict women’s access to health care but to — at the first sign of any danger — throw women under the bus.”
“We see this time and time again,” Owens continues. “Whether it’s a bill being discussed or genuine progress being made on a political issue, when it’s time to make compromises, men are more than willing to compromise on women’s basic rights.”
Which is why Owens says that it’s clearly time for a change.
“It’s up to men to stand up and say we’re not going to stand for that anymore,” he says. “Especially when it comes to abortion access, legislators at the federal and state levels are men — men who will never have to decide for themselves whether abortion care is right for them but who choose year in and year out to deny women access to abortion care. Too often we are seeing a startling lack of empathy and an appalling contempt for differences in the lives of others from men. We have a lot of work to do, but it starts with me standing up and saying women’s rights and equality affect us all and affect our lives and families and communities, and we have to stand up to those who feel otherwise.”
And Owens isn’t the only man who feels that way.
One notable man coming out as pro-choice is former Sex and the City star David Eigenberg, who made this video with NARAL proudly declaring himself a man for choice and encouraging others to call their elected officials and say the same. Today, the star and NARAL have released a video in which Eigenberg shares his own family’s story about accessing abortion care and the role he played as a man and partner in supporting his wife through her choice.
Likewise, Stephen Kerrigan — a NARAL board member — tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he’s thrilled to see boldface-name men like Eigenberg proudly making their stance in support of abortion access known.
“I am very grateful to David for sharing his own family’s story and for helping explain the role men must play in our collective fight to advance reproductive freedom,” Kerrigan says. “Reproductive freedom is not just a ‘women’s’ issue, it’s a men’s issue, it’s an economic issue — it’s an issue of equality. As men, we have to understand — and fight for — the principle that our families, the women we love, our communities, and society as a whole are always better off when women are treated as equals.”
And tonight at NARAL’s Men for Choice 5th Anniversary Event in Washington, D.C., Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is also speaking about why it’s time for more men to speak out on abortion rights.
Says Owens: “When you see people like Cory Booker taking a firm stance in favor of women choosing if and when and how to have a family, respecting their decisions, and providing health care and opportunities, it shows a strong stand in opposition to those who do not want to let people make these choices for themselves. I think we will see more leaders like Booker not only speaking out but also continuing to see a growing trend of policy proposals — like Bernie Sanders’s single-payer proposal — that are explicit in including women and women’s health care in them. The Democratic Party has a unique opportunity now to reflect and coalesce around our support for abortion access, contraception, and women’s rights broadly.”
But it’s not just male lawmakers who are growing in numbers in coming out for choice, but also their constituents — American male voters — who are proudly identifying as pro-choice too.
Milo Inglehart, 25, is a law student currently living in Somerville, Mass. He tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he proudly and publicly identifies as a pro-choice man because of what he sees as an unacceptable “misogyny that makes men want to control women and [their basic] bodily autonomy. Being pro-bodily autonomy and anti-misogyny makes being pro-choice pretty clear for me.”
He adds: “My experiences as a transgender man also shape this conviction — being read as a woman by most people for 20 years gave me some context for the ways misogyny can police bodies, and trying to get affirming health care as a trans person gave me further context for how access to care can be politicized and controlled. … For me, being a pro-choice man means listening to the leadership of women and taking the lead from them on this issue. It also means talking to other men about their beliefs and trying to work with them to try to take some of the burden off of women.”
Robert Goodfellow is a 35-year old New Yorker currently living abroad — but he also strongly believes it is critical for American men to take a strong stance for choice.
“I’m pro-health. Period,” Goodfellow says, explaining why he calls himself pro-choice. “Health issues are not matters of ‘choice,’ but rather matters between people and the doctors who treat us: in an ER, at a clinic, at our family doctor, or even at Planned Parenthood.”
He continues: “I care about this because I’m disgusted to see members of Congress — generally male, white, older, and richer than most — litigating women’s health like a highway infrastructure bill or tax reform. Women’s health isn’t something to be negotiated … and ultimately women’s health is about health. And we’re America: We should have the best health care in the world. Men have every bit as vested an interest in this goal as women do. So as a man, I can’t be for this goal and not also for full, comprehensive health care for women. … And abortion is, in fact, a health matter. Congress needs to get out of the doctor’s office and let doctors practice medicine.”
Owens also emphasizes that being a man for choice doesn’t mean mansplaining reproductive justice to women, either.
“There is a lot of owning up men have to do in terms of forwarding women’s rights,” Owens says. “We need to lift them up and be supportive allies, and for far too long, men have pushed policies that have hurt women and denied them access to health care. Men for Choice isn’t about creating a safe space for men — far from it. It’s about recognizing that women’s access to health care and women’s equality is not only an issue central to women but also one that impacts all of our families and all of our communities, and men have a role to play in that. We need to support the women in our lives and communities.”
Owens also notes that to those men who have historically and continually come out against women’s health care — including abortion care — and thus women’s rights more broadly, he would like them to know that “for too long, [abortion] has been a conversation that has been segregated and gendered. But if you take a step back you will see that access to abortion, contraception, and women’s equality at the core of the economic and political debates playing out across the country.”
He continues: “A woman’s decision to raise a family and have kids is one of the most important financial decisions she will ever make. It will impact her ability in some cases about whether she can continue in her education or career. When you understand the gravity of this situation, you can understand how the ripple effect goes from there. This is an incredibly important financial decision — and one that’s as relevant to people engaged in political discussions as anything. This is about the health and financial well-being of our families.”
Owens concludes, “Access to basic reproductive health care is central to our economic growth. And we can’t have an honest conversation about economic security without first securing women’s access to basic reproductive health care — and that includes access to abortion, contraception, and the full repertoire of all health services.”
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