Today is the 36th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. As a commemoration of the event, it is the third annual “Blog for Choice Day.” Blog for Choice is an effort launched by NARAL Pro-Choice America to promote the idea that “a woman’s right to choose is a core progressive value that must be protected and advanced.”
This year, hundreds of bloggers–including MediaMouse.org–are participating in the third annual “Blog for Choice” day. The topic is “What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?”
Of course, even broaching this subject may be odd to some. What can I add to the debate as a male who has all of the privileges that come with my gender? However, I do think it is important that men identify as pro-choice and state clearly that we support a women’s right to chose. It’s a critical right and as men, I believe our position is to be allies in the struggle and support women’s rights (I think it’s also important to not use our status to cast “legitimacy” onto the issue–i.e. if men support it, it must be valid). We should step back and acknowledge that fact that the choice is a woman’s alone. Moreover, we should accept responsibility and be pro-active about birth control and not push the issue off on women as is done so often.
For far too long, men–even in progressive circles–have stood silent on the issue. In the worst cases, men have taken paternal roles–such as those taken by political and religious leaders–and purposely undertaken efforts that have stripped women of their autonomy and control over their own bodies.
In that spirit, I’d hope that Obama–as one who pledges to support reproductive choice–uses his newfound power to advance those rights. Pro-choice advocates have been on the defensive and have had to fight tooth and nail to stop further restrictions on abortion. Time has been spent fighting unconstitutional bans, challenging rightwing politicians, and debating whether or not progressives need to “moderate” our views on abortion.
It just so happens that there are some immediate steps that Obama can take to stop some of these attacks on reproductive choice. Moreover, these steps have ongoing campaigns attached to them, making it easier for us all to jump on and support these efforts without simply hoping that the new president takes action:
- Repeal Bush’s Last Anti-Choice Regulation – As one of his last attacks on the right to choose, President Bush issued a regulation through the Department of Health and Human Services that allows healthcare providers who receive federal funding to “redefine abortion to include the most common forms of birth control” and then refuse to provide those services. This allows healthcare providers to decide what is appropriate for women.
- Repeal the Global Gag Rule – The Reagan-era global gag rule mandated that no U.S. family planning assistance funding can be given to organizations that provide abortion services, offer counseling and referral for abortion care, or advocate legal abortion access in their own countries — even if they do so with their own funds. President Clinton overturned the rule, but President George W. Bush reinstated it – now it’s time for Obama to overturn it.
I’d also argue that a key issue is getting everyone access to low-cost birth control. There is a bill in Congress that would require insurance companies to cover prescription birth control in the same way that they coverage prescriptions for drugs such as Viagra. This–along with expanded sex education that focuses on birth control rather than abstinence (and that makes it clear that contraception isn’t simply a women’s responsibility)–are also essential areas on which Obama should act as it relates to reproductive choice.