Several weeks ago, two dozen white, male lawmakers in Alabama passed an extreme abortion ban. In the weeks before and after, similar laws passed through legislatures in Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana. Where were the men opposing them?
Women wouldn’t be wrong to believe men’s silence around these issues represents their tacit approval, and their own complicity in a culture that wants to control their bodies, lives and futures.
If we want women to believe we’re their allies, then—to borrow a Missouri maxim—we have to show them. Father’s Day is a perfect time for men to wake up, stand up and speak out on behalf of women’s reproductive health and rights.
There are many ways for fathers, stepdads, father figures, brothers, uncles, nephews, coaches and mentors to publicly and loudly standing up for women’s reproductive freedom.
In lieu of a gift for Father’s Day, dads could encourage their families to make donations to a local abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood, NARAL or the National Network of Abortion Funds—or all four. They can publicly support pro-choice lawmakers by speaking up on social media, or make a special Father’s Day donation to pro-choice candidates from their districts.
Dads could forego breakfast in bed this weekend to volunteer at a clinic, including escorting patients inside. They can urge their faith community leaders to deliver a sermon supporting a women’s right to choose—or be the guest speaker themselves. They can invite a group of men over to talk about the threat women face and, why men need to break their silence.
While their families celebrate them on Sunday, dads can take a moment to talk to their sons about respecting women’s autonomy and rights, and affirm to their daughters that they unequivocally support their rights—and will fight to protect them. They can even sit down at the kitchen table and write a letter to the editor of their local newspaper saying the same.
We have been complacent for too long—detached from women’s reality, smug in our armor of privilege. But there are cracks in our armor. “For every woman with an ill-timed, unwanted pregnancy, there is probably a man who is unhappy about it, too,” Katha Pollitt wrote recently in The Nation. “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 person. For 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 engaged in the reproductive rights struggle—but they’re most visible on the side opposing women’s freedom. Men often lead or are prominently featured in organizations and protests; men often harass clinic workers, patients and families; men are tragically even assailants attacking providers and clinic workers. Why aren’t we working each day to break this pattern?
Male abortion opponents are often also mute on the subject of supporting children outside the womb. Why aren’t more men calling out their hypocrisy?
Not all men are fathers, but 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, in this urgent political moment.
The clock is ticking, and a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade could soon come before the Supreme Court. The flames of misogyny are putting women across the country at risk.
Men must join the bucket brigade to put out the fire—right now.