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.