by Sora Leigh
In a recent conversation with a respected male friend, an anti-abortion advocate, I asked him to imagine what he would do if he was raped and became pregnant. This, not surprisingly, did not go well. “But I can’t get pregnant,” he insisted over and over again.
“Your sister is raped, then,” I began.
“I don’t really want to think about rape!” he exclaimed.
This is male privilege.
Most women, whether survivors themselves, supporting the survivors in their lives, or simply anxious to avoid being raped (see rape anxiety), think about rape often. This is the water in which we swim. Many men have never needed to contemplate the particulars of a post-Roe vs. Wade America because their privilege protects them from such “uncomfortable” topics.
Dear men, here are nine reasons for gentlemen to check their male privilege when it comes to a safe-abortion rights.
- Women’s Body, Women’s Choice: It’s that simple. Unfortunately, American history on the issue is quite bloody. Thousands of women, especailly women of color, were forcibly sterilized without their consent, as recently as the 1970’s. Educate yourself on the history of women’s rights.
- At-Risk Pregnancies: Most support the idea that abortion will be allowed in cases of mothers’ health risk. But how will this play out? Should we anticipate “wrongful termination,” lawsuits, targeting doctors who end pregnancies in ambiguous cases? Women’s physicians should have the unencumbered freedom to assess pregnancies, not lawyers or prosecutors. As a cis-gendered male, who will never carry a fetus, you do not have to worry whether your own health is in the forefront of decision-making at the doctor’s office.
- Pregnancy Takes a Toll: Any woman that has carried a baby knows that pregnancy takes its toll. No, that bun is not really in an oven, it is in uetero. It is the pregnant woman who is in the best position to decide if she is in a good position to carry a pregnancy to term, given her health, emotional state, finances, and drug or alcohol addictions. New research shows that a women under stress during pregnancy release more of the stress hormone cortisol, greatly impacting the child’s development.
- Poverty: Women often bear the brunt of child rearing, with welfare and other services ever on the chopping block. With women still earning just 80¢ to the man’s $1, the additional burden of unwanted pregnancies compounds the burden of already marginalized women.
- Rape and Incest: Even staunch pro-lifers usually agree that abortion should be allowed in the case of rape and incest, but have you considered the burden this places on women to prove that rape or incest has occurred? These crimes frequently go unreported because women fear the reprisals that often occur when they speak out. In addition, law enforcement officials may not investigate or prosecute cases. With hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits currently sitting in precincts across the nation, it is difficult to imagine how rape and incest exceptions will protect women.
- MissRepresentation: Recently, President Trump took flack for denying U.S. aid to international groups that provide abortion services, surrounded by a group of white men in the Oval Office. When women are equally represented in government, we will have a better chance of having dignified abortion laws and maternal health care.
- Internalized Oppression: “But there are pro-life women! Internalized oppression exists in every marginalized group. Pro-life women should be focused on education, creating easy access to birth control and bolstering the institutions that support pregnant women and young mothers, rather than limiting the freedoms of other women.
- Priorities: Ultimately, it’s a matter of respect. If you are privileging a small cluster of cells over a living, breathing woman, that may be indicative of your level of respect for women overall. Seem harsh? Americans are conditioned in a sexist society. It’s something to think about.