In case you haven’t been paying attention, Georgia and Ohio both just passed some pretty Draconian abortion laws—the kind which could essentially criminalize the passive fact of having a uterus with an “imperfect” cycle, at least according to the standards set forth by a bunch of dudes.
Wait—hold on—I’M a dude.
A cisgender dude, if we’re being technical—a syntactical usage that will very much satisfy some people for its factual accuracy, and very much piss-off some other folks for its, erm, acquiescence?
But here’s the thing: that distinction does matter. Because I don’t have ovaries or a uterus. There are plenty of other men in this country who—like me!—do not have uteruses. Nor do they know anything about uteruses. Or vaginas, quite frankly, or labia, or Fallopian tubes, or well, pretty much anything else relating to the typically-female-genitalia region. When it comes to those parts, sex education in America is an abysmal joke. (If this hasn’t dawned on you yet, then I’m sorry to break the news, but it’s true. If you had any sense of humility — if you listened to women and people with uteruses — you would also be appalled at just how little you know about them.)
And yet, people without uteruses, or any comprehensive knowledge about uteruses, keep on making laws about uteruses.
So if you, like me, don’t have a uterus, there are really only 3 ways you should be talking about the laws that affect them.
1. Shut up.
Us dudes sure love to flaunt our knowledge. There’s even a pejorative word for the way we tend to do it in a way that shows our status (and my dudes: it’s not a good look).
But we don’t have to pretend to be experts on everything. If you’re not a rocket scientist, then you shouldn’t be dictating how NASA builds its spaceships. And if you’re not someone with ovaries, then you don’t get to dictate how those should work, either. (Maybe unless you’re actually a gyno, but also the fact that there are so many male gynos—that we live in a society designed by men, for men, that has empowered men as bearers of vaginal medical knowledge—well, that’s a topic for another time.)
It’s easy to say, “But abortion laws are about protecting babies!” It’s also an embarrassingly simplistic reduction of the actual realities of carrying a growing fetus inside your body—something that most dudes just don’t know anything about. And if we don’t know something, then we should just stay out of it, and defer to those who do (which in this case, is not the lawmakers who insist on passing a dangerous 6-week abortion ban).
2. Put up.
I used to be firmly on Team Shut Up. I realized I didn’t know shit about abortion, but like, babies are cute and cool and all, except also the majority of women support abortion rights, and they’re typically the ones carrying the babies, so they must know a thing or two, right? I don’t know. I’ll shut up.
But then I noticed John Darnielle from the band the Mountain Goats. I don’t remember exactly when this clocked for me. But I remember it was him. Not my sister, not my girlfriend at the time, nor any of the women I’ve been friends with through my life who have fought for their reproductive rights—it was John Darnielle, a songwriter I respect and admire, and, notably, a man, being adamantly vocal about reproductive rights (even despite his Catholic devotion) who made me question my “Shut Up” positioning.
At first, I thought it was weird. Why was he so passionate about the topic? He presumably doesn’t have a uterus. If he’s a Good Progressive Dude like me, why isn’t he over here on Team Shut Up?
I’d been so brainwashed by our damn society that it took another man to make me realize that I hadn’t been actively engaging with the people in my life who were most directly affected by—and at risk from—the most oppressive reproductive laws.
That’s shameful and embarrassing to admit. But it’s the truth. And based on the conversations I’ve had with other men, it’s also a sadly common truth.
And so I put up. I stepped up from my ignorant role as a passive, unaffected ally, and started listening. I stopped ignoring all the links my friends would post about abortion rights, and I tried to actively engage with them instead. I asked questions, and had conversations, and, again, listened. I watched movies and attended events and gave money to the cause, and I learned to encourage other guys to do the same.
It was a process, but I did the work, and you can do the same. If you’re not going to be a bystander in the abortion conversation, then the least you can do is take a backseat and pay attention while someone else drives.
Or, there’s that third option:
3. Man up.
There’s lots of debate about “toxic masculinity” as a concept, and this is not the place for that discussion. Suffice to say, there are valuable masculine traits that men like me can and should embrace in healthy and productive ways—and one of those ways is to stand up for abortion rights.
Put your body on the line. Show up and stand up beside and for the people in your life who could damn well go to prison on manslaughter charges just for having a miscarriage, an event that’s already traumatic enough. Men already tend to favor the voices of other men, so make yours loud enough that other men can hear it: abortion rights are reproductive rights are human rights. If you want to be a good man who provides for and protects his family, then this is how you do it. Don’t just shut up and leave the burden on the people with ovaries—they’re dealing with enough as it is.
Of course, there’s probably a Ben Shapiro-type out there right now saying “But it’s manlier to protect the unborn!” And if that’s you, well, that’s only because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Did you know that the U.S. has a shockingly high maternal death rate, especially for a developed country? Did you know that, before Roe v. Wade, nearly 1/5 of maternal deaths were caused by illegal abortion procedures? Or that the abortion rate in the U.S. is actually lower than it was before Roe v. Wade, thanks in large part to Planned Parenthood and contraceptive access? After all, the best way to prevent abortions is to not get pregnant in the first place, which is why expanded sex ed/contraceptive access has already succeeded in reducing teen pregnancy rates by 25%. In fact, most people who have abortions have already had a child! Poverty, education, and financial stress are the major problems that should be addressed in these situations, not the abortion.
But let’s go even deeper. Perhaps you’re one of those rational conservatives who believes in a small government that shouldn’t try to legislate morality — in which case, did you know that abortion restrictions don’t stop people from trying to induce abortions out of desperation anyway, and that DIY abortions lead to even more pain and suffering and death? Do you want the government to force someone to undergo a non-existent medical procedure to re-implant an ectopic pregnancy, so they have to suffer in pain for 8 more months just in case a fetus is viable? I had a friend who was trying to conceive, but had to abort an ectopic pregnancy when she was bleeding so much that she couldn’t walk. It was tragic, but it saved her life, and she eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Do you want the government involved in that decision? Ask your own partner (if they have ovaries) if they or anyone they know has ever gone six weeks between periods, and you’ll realize why proposed six-week abortion bans are cruel and unusual punishment. Oh, and if you believe that organ donation is a choice—that no one has a right to yank a kidney out of someone else just because they need it—then, unfortunately, that logic must apply to an ovary as well.
Hell, remember Todd Atkin? Shuttin’ that shit down? Yeah that was embarrassing. “President” Trump doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know about late-term abortions, so the least you can do is try to educate yourself on those lies, or read the true stories of people who’ve gone through them. It won’t take long for you to realize that no one’s gleefully ripping healthy babies from the womb and slaughtering them with a smile on their face—that these are situations that rare and shocking but sometimes tragically necessary.
My fellow dudes, this is what I mean by manning up. This is what I mean by protecting and providing for and caring for the people in your life with ovaries.
If you’re not going to listen to women, then maybe you’ll listen to me. So here’s the final truth:
Outlawing abortions will never stop abortions. It will only punish people with ovaries, and put their lives at even greater risk. You don’t want that. I certainly don’t want that. So do the work. Educate yourself. Don’t lean on the emotional manipulations of lies about baby killers—be rational, listen to people, consider the evidence, and think things through. You’ll see the only honorable path before you. After all, there’s nothing more manly than standing up against tyranny for bodily autonomy and freedom of choice.
(Also, my dudes: as sperm-bearing creatures, we are the ones who are the most responsible for causing pregnancies. So let’s take some damn responsibility, yeah?)