Jen Jorczak

35 years after Roe, the right tries a new tactic: exploiting men

Filed By Jen Jorczak | January 22, 2008 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Catherine Price, Los Angeles Times, Roe v. Wade, Salon.com, Sarah Blustain, Stephanie Simon, The Nation

Today is the 35th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. You probably already know that Roe struck down state laws outlawing abortion, but unless it's part of your job description (as it is mine) to keep up with the state of abortion access on a daily basis, you probably don't know that Roe was just the beginning.

Roe happened before I was born. It's older than I am. I have to say that as a little girl, I had no idea that it would still be questioned when I grew up. That I would one day find unending job security in protecting the right to choose. I kinda figured that by now, women would be the undisputed owners of their own bodies, able to choose and fulfill their own destinies.

Ah, the innocence of my youth...

See, as it turns out, the right has spent 35 years introducing thousands of laws (restrictions aimed at providers, propaganda aimed at women) to curtail access. 35 years condemning women from the pulpit, regardless of why they chose an abortion. 35 years trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle and return women to their prior status as property.

And now the latest tactic is to start a "Lost Fatherhood" movement. You guessed it, these are men whose wives, girlfriends, or lovers have had abortions, and the men are usurping the experience. From Stephanie Simon at the LA Times:

"We had abortions," said Mark B. Morrow, a Christian counselor. "I've had abortions."

Morrow spoke to more than 150 antiabortion activists gathered recently in San Francisco for what was billed as the first national conference on men and abortion. Participants -- mostly counselors and clergy -- heard two days of lectures on topics such as "Medicating the Pain of Lost Fatherhood" and "Forgiveness Therapy With Post-Abortion Men."

Are you fucking kidding me?

I'm not saying that abortion is an easy thing to go through. I'm not saying everyone--woman or man--who's dealt personally with an abortion sails through the experience without a second thought. But I am saying that this "movement" is bullshit, and these men are being exploited.

Aside from Catherine Price's point at Salon's Broadsheet that "If you don't have a uterus, you can't have had an abortion," there's the fact that this is merely an extension of the way the anti-abortion groups exploit women who've had abortions. More than 20 years ago, they invented "post-abortion syndrome", and started telling women that abortions cause a whole host of mental health problems, including depression, addiction, child abuse, suicide. And guess what? Some of the women did start having mental health problems.

Gee, if everyone you know constantly tells you you've done something wrong and that you should feel bad about it, what are the chances that you'll feel bad about it? Isn't this exactly the same thing that happens to LGBT folks? It takes a huge leap of faith and self-confidence to say "wait a minute, I'm not doing anything wrong and I don't have to listen to you." Not everyone makes that leap.

But rather than helping people make that leap and work through a difficult time (even under the framework of god's forgiveness), the religious right exploits these women--and now men. Rather than connecting them with non-judgmental resources for support like Exhale, the right makes them wallow in that difficult time. Forever.

Serving as a patient escort at an abortion facility, I was once yelled at by a woman who was carrying an "I regret my abortion" sign. She yelled over to us that she'd had an abortion 20 years earlier and still regretted it, still couldn't forgive herself. That struck me as incredibly sad. In 20 years, she hadn't been able to move on, and was still coming out to relive the experience. Rather than getting her any real counseling, her protestor friends just kept hauling her out, hoping she'd be a convincing spokeswoman for their cause.

But what's extra weird and creepy about the new men's movement is not just the "why aren't you getting these people the help they need" factor, it's the "once again we're ignoring the woman in the situation" factor. And in that respect, this "movement" is as old as any other anti-abortion tactic. For decades, they've been focusing on "the baby" and completely ignoring the woman and her life--whereas, it's the woman in question that makes me pro-choice. I can't tell you when life begins, but I can tell you the woman definitely exists and has rights that you can't trample on.

Now they're focusing on "the dad" and again completely ignoring the woman. The Times article ends with a question to one of the men about his ex-girlfriend, would she agree with his assessment of the abortion? "[He] looks startled. 'I never really thought about it for the woman,' he says slowly."

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Sarah Blustain at The Nation did more research into the "movement:"

...in addition to suffering from the effects of abortion, postabortive men are also suffering from the effects of feminism. The clues to this culture-war agenda are hidden throughout... The San Francisco conference was speckled with references to being "politically incorrect" with a sort of glee at confronting the culture head-on; it was filled with oblique references to what the women's movement has done to men's emotional lives... Did you know, for instance, that the form of women's healing is a "bowl," while the form of men's healing is a "spear"? (Subtle, this.)

So, let me get this straight: women will heal from abortions by cooking, and men by killing something? An anti-abortion stance that's also overtly gender-stereotyped and anti-feminist? Whodathunkit?

The bottom line is, Roe was one strand in a long rope that women climbed--and are still climbing--to full equality in society, and THAT'S what really bothers the right. It's not the "unborn" or "preborn" or whatever their latest term is, it's the fact that women have one more tool to help them determine the course of their own lives. Women who want to be mothers should get to be mothers, regardless of race or class or orientation, and women who don't want to be mothers shouldn't have to become mothers.

35 years after Roe, I'll keep fighting for that idea.


Recent Entries Filed under The Movement:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Some quick thoughts in the middle of the workday:

1. The father's rights movement is not new. I was in the pro-life movement in the early '80s, and even then fathers were protesting the failure of existing law to respect their own choices over the fate of their children, who may be aborted without their knowledge or consent.

2. Roe v. Wade has been turned into an idol by both the pro-life and the pro-choice movements. It was a flawed ruling, medically outdated even before it was issued. At the time, neither side was entirely pleased with it. Only a conservative or liberal fundamentalist would defend an outdated rationale of "trimesters" and whatnot -- surely their is room for the judicial and legal worlds to adapt to growing medical knowledge and capability?

3. Right to choose *what*? The failure of pro-choice advocates to state the nature of the choice -- and the failure of pro-life advocates to state which lives they promote (the unborn) and which ones they oppose (gays, liberals, the poor, convicts) -- contributes to the culture war rather than to mutual understanding and constructive cooperation.

This anniversary article fails to acknowledge that most pro-choice people believe abortion is wrong, believe that it kills potential human life, and believe that abortion should be avoided.

If this article represents the neutered thinking of Planned Parenthood, then I am disheartened. I support PP's efforts to promote comprehensive sex education and contraception. So I am disappointed at this failure to speak to the consciences and values of the majority of people -- be they pro-life or pro-choice -- who oppose government control over women's bodies but who also believe great effort should be made to avoid abortion.

This article is needlessly partisan and offensive to those of us who reluctantly support women's prerogative over government in determining the course of a pregnancy.

You're piece is well put and well taken. But...I've only known 3 women in my life who have had abortions, These were working class wonen, one was a freshman in college at the time and yes, they were all thankful for the right to choose, and yes, thankfully they had that right.

"More than 20 years ago, they invented "post-abortion syndrome", and started telling women that abortions cause a whole host of mental health problems, including depression, addiction, child abuse, suicide. And guess what? Some of the women did start having mental health problems."

However, it is very unlikely these women ever heard of the "invention" of "post-abortion syndrome." as you describe it here. All three of the women I knew experienced the symptoms you describe and I think (from talking to them) the experience was genuine. I would not be so quick to dismiss it. True, it should not be manipulated politically; true it is no doubt tied to the social pressures and condemnations you describe, but (and I'm truly not trying to speak for these women I knew) I think there might be a little something to it. I know they all expressed to me a great feeling of loss. And I know that the writer Alice Walker still writes about this feeling of loss in regard to her own abortion experience which was many years ago.

Also, I knew a man who very much wanted to be a father and was deeply hurt when his girlfriend got an abortion (though he supported her decision). It is possible for men to feel a sense of loss too. Though it is being obscenely exploited here, as you point out so well.

tiptoe tiptoeing through the used condoms strewn on the piers off the west side highway sunset behind the skyline of jersey walking towards the water with a fetus holding court in my gut my body highjacked my tits swollen and sore the river has more colors at sunset than my sock drawer ever dreamed of i could wake up screaming sometimes but i don't i could step off the end of this pier but i've got shit to do and i've an appointment on tuesday to shed uninvited blood and tissue i'll miss you i say to the river to the water to the son or daughter i thought better of i could fall in love with jersey at sunset but i leave the view to the rats and tiptoe back -Ani Difranco

Great post!

The "bowl" and the "spear"?

Tehehehehehehe. That's hilarious!

Reminds me of Romeo and Juliet, how Romeo kills himself with the poison (vial, kinda like a bowl) and Juliet kills herself with a dagger, kinda like a spear.

Little did I know, everything about people can be reduced to their genitalia.

Great post, Jen!

If the religious right started focusing on women, there would have to be a wholesale change in church dogma. Sadly, the majority of American protestant denominations give more lip service to equality than actual work towards achieving it.

Babies. Fetuses. Men. Society. Everything BUT the woman having the baby.

Babies. Fetuses. Men. Society. Everything BUT the woman having the baby.

Exactly. So much gets so often lost behind the rhetoric of religion and the ideology of politics.

I agree with Bil and R that the religious right have failed women.

1. The father's rights movement is not new. I was in the pro-life movement in the early '80s, and even then fathers were protesting the failure of existing law to respect their own choices over the fate of their children, who may be aborted without their knowledge or consent.

1. A fetus isn't a child. Until the 26 week it doesn't have brain activity that is consistent with life.

2. Men already try to dominate womens bodies. Ultimately child birth affects the mother, much more than it does the father.

Roe v. Wade has been turned into an idol by both the pro-life and the pro-choice movements. It was a flawed ruling, medically outdated even before it was issued.

How specifically is it flawed medically?

At the time, neither side was entirely pleased with it. Only a conservative or liberal fundamentalist would defend an outdated rationale of "trimesters" and whatnot -- surely their is room for the judicial and legal worlds to adapt to growing medical knowledge and capability?

23-26 weeks is still the age of fetal viability. I'm no fundamentalist, just someone that like logic and science, not demagoguery and religious dogma. I follow "growing medical knowledge" and am a health care provider with a pretty decent understanding of the health sciences. The "science" on viability has stayed pretty much the same since Roe.

Right to choose *what*? The failure of pro-choice advocates to state the nature of the choice -- and the failure of pro-life advocates to state which lives they promote (the unborn) and which ones they oppose (gays, liberals, the poor, convicts) -- contributes to the culture war rather than to mutual understanding and constructive cooperation

The right to have dominion over your own body? If you don't know that, ya ain't listening. You can't talk science to those that have faith. It took the Catholic Church CENTURIES to admit they were wrong about heliocentrism, I doubt they'll be checking in with science any time soon on when life begins. Like Paul Cameron views on reparative therapy and homosexuality or the Paul McHugh's view on transsexualism, the church is hell bent on finding "experts" to support their faith, not the truth.

This anniversary article fails to acknowledge that most pro-choice people believe abortion is wrong, believe that it kills potential human life, and believe that abortion should be avoided.

This is utterly false. Take a gander here at the polling. It's polling of ALL people, not just pro-choice people. There's no way your contention could be justified by the polling.

If this article represents the neutered thinking of Planned Parenthood, then I am disheartened. I support PP's efforts to promote comprehensive sex education and contraception. So I am disappointed at this failure to speak to the consciences and values of the majority of people -- be they pro-life or pro-choice -- who oppose government control over women's bodies but who also believe great effort should be made to avoid abortion.

Why should you have any "belief" on the subject at all? Don't like abortions, don't have one. But don't come swinging your good ole pro-life rhetoric up here and expect it to be taken seriously.

This article is needlessly partisan and offensive to those of us who reluctantly support women's prerogative over government in determining the course of a pregnancy.

We have a statue of "LIBERTY" for reason. Liberty is defined as "autonomy: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence." A prerogative on the other hand, is defined as "A right or privilege which belongs to a person or legal entity by virtue of his rank, office, position or special characteristic which entitles him to precedence or the exercise of some power or advantage not granted to others." See also: the preamble to the Constitution. The court has ruled, and that ruling has stuck for these many years because of the strength of the ruling. Even in these times the majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade.

It's quite apparent that your ole "abortion is evil" rhetoric is still floating around your head. I guess some stains don't wash away easily.

If you had read your own polling, Marti, you would have seen that:

1. It supports my assertion that most folks are moderates who only support abortion under some circumstances, not "all" circumstances and not "no" circumstance.

2. It said nothing about people's personal objections or their views on rightness or wrongness, only that most folks (including me) support at least partial or full legality.

Both you and the article gave short shrift to the wishes and rights of fathers, who should not enjoy veto power over women but whose wishes and responsibilities deserve a minimum of respect and consideration that you have withheld.

And both you and the article gave short shrift to women who are either medically or psychologically traumatized by abortion. Such people exist, and efforts to blame-the-victim smack of the same rhetoric that we hear from quack doctors who blame the patient when their quack therapies fail.

Not all abortions are painless -- as the article notes in passing -- and the traumas to mothers and fathers are not merely attributable to social stigma -- though social stigma can indeed cause greater harm.

I support individual rights and oppose government control over women's bodies. I oppose stigmatization not just because it's uncivil, but also because it's counterproductive: Stigma drives pregnant women in low-income or conservative social situations deeper into a closet of unnecessary and unwanted abortion.

I insist that people who have reservations or personal traumas regarding abortion be respected -- not smeared with a broad brush and labeled traitors against women or against individual rights. And I insist that women who don't want to have an abortion be given easy access to alternatives without fanfare. Unfortunately, despite a lot of bluster, neither pro-life nor pro-choice activists are doing much to establish viable alternatives. It seems to me that such alternatives would be easy to establish if folks would stop the namecalling long enough to find isolated areas of common ground.

I don't like that fathers and traumatized women are exploited by the religious right.

But when pro-choice folks tell fathers and traumatized women to shut up and bear their pain silently, these women and men are denied a bit of THEIR liberty.

I don't like Hillary Clinton's homophobia and political corruption, but I applaud her position on abortion:

We come to [the abortion] issue as men and women, young and old, some far beyond years when we have to worry about getting pregnant, others too young to remember what it was like in the days before Roe v. Wade. But I think it’s essential that as Americans we look for that common ground that we can all stand upon. [Our] core beliefs and values. can guide us in reaching our goal of keeping abortion safe, legal and rare into the next century.

Your belief in dividing, blaming and labeling people doesn't help anyone.

In my last comment, my blockquote from Clinton was unformatted and it became confused with my own conclusion. So I will repeat that part of my comment:

Hillary Clinton said in 1999:

We come to [the abortion] issue as men and women, young and old, some far beyond years when we have to worry about getting pregnant, others too young to remember what it was like in the days before Roe v. Wade. But I think it’s essential that as Americans we look for that common ground that we can all stand upon. [Our] core beliefs and values. can guide us in reaching our goal of keeping abortion safe, legal and rare into the next century.

My conclusion:

The article's (and Marti's) belief in dividing, blaming and labeling people doesn't help anyone.

Jen Jorczak Jen Jorczak | January 22, 2008 8:51 PM

Wow, Marti! Thanks, that pretty much summed up most of what I wanted to say. I'd also add:

1) I never meant to deny that women and couples do have a whole mess of complicated, messy feelings when they go through an abortion. I only meant that they'd be better served by a support organization like Exhale, rather than being exploited for a political cause.

2) I will again point out that when I am blogging at TBP, I am speaking only for myself and not my employers, Planned Parenthood / Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana. That said, both organizations unapologetically work to provide, protect, and promote access to birth control, comprehensive sex education, and safe, legal abortion.

3) if the religious right and conservative politicians REALLY wanted to reduce abortion rates, they'd help prevent unintended pregnancy by supporting access to birth control and comprehensive sex ed. But it turns out, that's NOT really what they want to do, as evidenced by the 25 Indiana state senators who voted AGAINST birth control today (I'll post on this later). It really is about controlling women and their sexuality.

Jen,

I completely agree with you on your point #3, and I'm glad that you clarified your position with point #1, which I agree with, as well.

I am disappointed that -- according to your point #2 -- Planned Parenthood does not work very hard to ensure access and assistance with post-conception alternatives. Or was that another omission on your part?

Jen Jorczak Jen Jorczak | January 22, 2008 9:14 PM

Mike, your last two comments came in while I was typing. I have to say, you've put a lot of words in my mouth today, and ignored a lot of what I did say. Next time, perhaps I should eschew brevity and spell everything out explicitly for you.

And another thing I just thought of that bugs me about this new "movement": if you read the LA Times article, a lot of these men by their own admission were okay with the abortion decision as it happened to them originally. It's only years later that they decided that what happened was wrong, and that NO ONE should ever be allowed to have an abortion. Does that make sense? That's like me saying I wrecked my car, so NO ONE should be allowed to drive.

And B points out that if these guys had exercised their right to wear a condom, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

If you had read your own polling, Marti, you would have seen that:

1. It supports my assertion that most folks are moderates who only support abortion under some circumstances, not "all" circumstances and not "no" circumstance.

If you read your own comment, you'd notice that wasn't what you said at all. You said:

This anniversary article fails to acknowledge that most pro-choice people believe abortion is wrong, believe that it kills potential human life, and believe that abortion should be avoided.

Both you and the article gave short shrift to the wishes and rights of fathers, who should not enjoy veto power over women but whose wishes and responsibilities deserve a minimum of respect and consideration that you have withheld.

Try taking a trip down to the courts to see how women are given "short shrift" to the care and support of their own children. Get back to me when poor women's children are supported by their fathers.

As a male, when I had sex with a woman, it was a given that my "choice" ended at the tip of my penis.

I insist that people who have reservations or personal traumas regarding abortion be respected -- not smeared with a broad brush and labeled traitors against women or against individual rights. And I insist that women who don't want to have an abortion be given easy access to alternatives without fanfare. Unfortunately, despite a lot of bluster, neither pro-life nor pro-choice activists are doing much to establish viable alternatives. It seems to me that such alternatives would be easy to establish if folks would stop the namecalling long enough to find isolated areas of common ground.

There are viable alternatives. One only need call the local church to find a Crisis Pregnancy type center to have access to these "alternatives." I've not labeled anyone a traitor. But I do think that abortion is a decision that should be left to the person who is pregnant, not the state.

But when pro-choice folks tell fathers and traumatized women to shut up and bear their pain silently, these women and men are denied a bit of THEIR liberty.

Pro-choice folks don't do that, but I will. Have you ever went through an abortion? Do you know what the process is like, and how many restrictions there are? Unless you do and you have, you're talking out your ass.

The men took the liberty to put their penis in a vagina. If they want control over the process, there's always masturbation, oral sex, or abstinence.

Jen Jorczak Jen Jorczak | January 22, 2008 9:26 PM

To Mike, RE Planned Parenthood and pregnancy options: Visit the PPIN website for details.

Jen, those options options look super.

Thanks for making it clearer that pro-choice folks do care about a broader array of abortion-related issues and support women whether they choose to abort or not.

I believe society stands to benefit from cooperatively and collectively providing for a choice of solutions and rights for mothers, while minimizing disrespect to fathers -- especially those fathers who are willing and able to meet their responsibilities.

MauraHennessey | January 23, 2008 9:43 PM

I am sorry Mike, but as a woman I loathe the idea of men legislating issues concerning my body. It was just done in Nicaraugua with the result being that no woman can have an abortion even to save her own life.

I like barely less men's opinons on the subject. Carry a baby out of wedlock to term with no support, or suffer the life threatening effects of a back alley abortion or a pregnancy gone medically bad and then we can talk as equals. Til then, this issue ought to be the provence of women.

Maura,

I appreciate your civility, and I agree that men should not be legislating over women's bodies.

At the same time, I ask you to consider how fathers are supposed to be supportive of mothers when they are treated as they have been on this page: Like deadbeat penises, all of them.

I sense an enormous degree of hostility to ALL fathers on this page.

It is counterproductive to blindly accuse fathers as a class of being deadbeat, counterproductive to deny them the opportunity to be supportive, and counterproductive not to include them in the process.

I sense an enormous degree of hostility to ALL fathers on this page.

It is counterproductive to blindly accuse fathers as a class of being deadbeat, counterproductive to deny them the opportunity to be supportive, and counterproductive not to include them in the process.

I am a transwoman that is a father of two children and raised another. No one is blindly accusing fathers of anything. It's very simple really, the control you have over childbirth ends as the sperm exits your body. I really don't think it's that difficult to understand.

Having been on both sides of the child support divide, AND being a single parent, I have a pretty good idea what it's like to raise a child. The bottom line is that if men were more responsible for what happens before pregnancy there wouldn't be an issue. Ultimately in this society the responsibility for the child defaults to the mother, it's her body, her life, her choice.