Jennifer Granholm, former Michigan governor, television host and visiting professor at the University of California at Berkley, wrote about what she calls sexual McCarthyism of legislative efforts since the 2010 election in the federal and state congresses. Toward the end of her article, she cited opinion polls that show President Obama ahead of all Republican candidates amongst women voters. She wrote that women “may need to fight the same fight their grandmothers fought in the 60’s.” Lastly, she says that women will be out en-force to vote in the next election, assuming that the votes from women will go to pro-woman, progressive candidates.
While I realize that opinion polls are used far and wide in coverage of election issues, and help candidates decide on which issues they should focus or highlight in campaign materials, I’m concerned about the gender-specific nature of the rhetoric about the upcoming election in the U.S. where funding of Planned Parenthood and legislation around abortion access and birth control are concerned. Sure, not too many of our grandfathers were necessarily promoting access to abortion in the same numbers as our grandmothers. There weren’t so many grandfathers out there advocating for birth control access, either. It was a different time, and yes, I will use that pat phrase to sum up what would take several articles to address as to the actions (or non-actions) of many men around these issues that certainly have an impact on men just as much as they do on women.
I will ride this tangent for a moment, though, as I consider why more men are not out there writing about and advocating for women’s access to abortion and birth control. What is your first thought about a man who stands up on a sidewalk or walks in a march carrying a “pro” birth control pill banner? Well, plenty of guys who do this kind of thing are accused of desiring less responsibility for themselves. The same holds true for abortion. Any man who “advocates for” or supports abortion rights might be viewed as someone who merely wants the woman to “take care of” an unplanned pregnancy. In these two areas, men can’t win. If they’re against either, they are seen as against women. I believe that men should not have a say in what I do with my body. No man should have any say about me using birth control to avoid pregnancy. Not a priest, not the president and not even her husband should have any say in whether a woman continues a pregnancy either. That said, men are then caught in a quandary as they may be called upon to support offspring they never intended. And, that said, I believe that the decision must always rest with the woman, and so that any man engaging in heterosexual sex must be aware of the possible consequences. He must be ready to embrace either the loss of his potential child or the prospect of supporting a child he does not necessarily want. That’s just part of being a responsible partner in heterosexual sex.
Now that I’ve given men a “free pass” where public advocacy is concerned for abortion or birth control issues, that doesn’t give men an excuse to not become part of the political movement to which many women, including Ms. Granholm (and this author) belong. We need men to not only run the risk of being accused of controlling women in the opposite manner when they advocate for birth control and abortion access, but also to get out and vote for candidates who are going to protect and not jeopardize women’s need for greater access and less restriction for both birth control and abortion. The U.S. election is less than a month from now. Vote to protect the rights of women.
Kate Robinson, M.A. adult learning and development, is a Master’s in Social Work candidate at Bridgewater State University. She lives south of Boston with her family.
Kate enjoys writing, reading, collage and felting. She also works in medical education and as a counselor at a women’s health clinic.