Why the End of Roe Is Terrible For Men, Too
The fight for the right to safe abortion in the United States has begun again, after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion, meaning it will likely become a crime in more than half the country. This issue is not going away any time soon, and it doesn’t only affect women.
Men should support abortion rights because there’s ample proof of what women suffer when forced to have an unintended pregnancy, thanks to projects like the Turnaway Study, which followed more than one thousand women over ten years and found unambiguously that being denied an abortion contributed to poor physical and mental health and diminished life prospects. Men should support abortion rights because every human should have the right to control their own body and destiny in their one life on earth.
Concern for the women in their life should be enough for anyone. But even men who do support the right to choose in an abstract way may not fully realize how devastating this ruling will be to them. So while it’s clearly not the most important thing, it’s worthwhile to understand how thoroughly today’s decision will affect men’s lives, too. Here are four reasons why.
“It’s important for men to realize that many women in their lives have had abortions or are going to have abortions,” David Cohen, author of Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America, told me.
One out of four women will have an abortion in their lifetimes. The typical woman who has an abortion already has a child, is in her late twenties, and is in her first trimester. Many are poor, nearly half are living below the poverty line, and many are religious (one out of four is Catholic).
Even though men are intimately involved in the reason women need abortions, many women feel they have to keep it a shameful secret, which is an unfair burden to bear.
“Men should be engaged in this issue because it affects people we know and care for and love,” said John Becker, the press secretary for Catholics for Choice. “There is no one who can plausibly claim they don’t know anyone who is affected.”
Today, in some states, you can already get sued for helping a woman receive an abortion. Soon, you may be guilty of a crime.
“There will be new enforcement to go after anyone who is seeking or obtaining or performing an abortion,” said Leslie Reagan, a history professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and author of When Abortion Was a Crime.
Texas’ controversial abortion ban, Senate Bill 8, is the model. The Texas law says private citizens can sue anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion.” Oklahoma passed a copycat law and Missouri has been pushing for a law that allows citizens to sue anyone who helps women travel out-of-state for an abortion.
Other states are seeking to prosecute people who perform abortions as murderers. Alabama passed a bill that said performing abortion will be treated as felony murder; Louisiana tried to pass an even more radical version.
Before Roe, men often would help their partners search for a doctor willing to provide an abortion. Soon, men may find themselves hunted by law enforcement and bounty hunters.
In a US without Roe but with child support laws, more men will have to leave school early, set their aspirations aside, and provide for a child.
“Men need to be honest with themselves about what would happen after an unwanted pregnancy,” said Danielle Bessett, a sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati.
The most common reason why women need an abortion is that they cannot afford to have a child. Years later, women who could not get an abortion are more likely to live in poverty and need government assistance. That means women put their lives on hold, setting aside or giving up on dreams of going to school or having a career. And while this is a more acute problem for the partner giving birth, the issues affecting fathers can be much the same.
“Abortion has been a great boon to men and women. It is one of the things that helps people make decisions about their own future,” said Reagan.
“Everyone’s privacy rights around personal decision making is at risk with this opinion,” says David Cohen. In his concurring opinion overturning Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas writes that the justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” Translation: the rights to contraception, same-sex sex, and marriage equality.
In March, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said that the right to birth control was unconstitutional. And soon after the draft opinion was leaked, lawmakers in Idaho suggested emergency birth control should be banned, too.
“The decision will change relationships,” said Reagan. “Abortion is a backup. In the back of our minds, we know you can have a safe procedure. Along with contraception, abortion helps take away the fear that sex will result in pregnancy.”
If you don’t want to live in a United States without abortion or birth control or the right to love or make love how you want, men are going to have to help fight for it. And it could happen.