Women Are Watching What Men Do

Men will never face the risk of pregnancy themselves, thus the contrasts between the sexes are stark.

The gatekeepers of life carry responsibilities that males can ignore. With female reproductive issues clouded by controversy, men would be wise to examine carefully the unique difficulties women face. If we overlook the problems, useful knowledge will elude us. In a time of social change we must hold precious the facts and experience that can protect us from ignorance or blind idealism.

Surprisingly many women support the throwback to more chauvinistic times and work diligently to restrict access to abortion and even birth control. The intrusive limitations or denial of these advances have serious consequences. Conservative activism receives funds from powerful interests that stand to gain from a GOP administration. Men must find the courage to step out of routine and take action to protect reproductive rights for women. Liberty means little or nothing if the most personal life choices are arbitrarily determined by others.

Progressives should notice recent losses. Emboldened by every triumph and redoubling their efforts with every setback, republicans relentlessly launch propaganda, legal and political offensives. These are battlefield tactics modified for politics. If you overwhelm a stronghold with more opponents then can be eliminated you will win little by little.

The public and particularly men seem unaware of the need to fight to keep reproductive choices available. We need the arguments and votes of those who would be willing if they knew the facts. Don’t let matters of less consequence govern behavior. We might forget to vote, or have planned recreation or work or anything other than supporting women politically. Many guys would forgo a great deal to spare their lovers, sisters, and daughters the danger of a botched illegal abortion but not if they don’t think about it on Election Day. Civic blind spots are understandable but inexcusable in light of damaging consequences.

Economic theory, immigration or other philosophy places some gents in a camp with social conservatives. Like my father, many are “one issue voters.” He believes in a woman’s right to abortion but the right to keep and bear arms remains his pet issue. He votes against anyone he imagines will restrict gun rights. I pointed out the oppression of gun owner’s (predicted by NRA demagogues) actually hasn’t come to pass. Improbable future risks are outweighed by the harm being caused to women right now by GOP policies.

By opposition to birth control and abortion, conservatives have caused the reduction of vital health services to women . Their idealism has become, as Joseph Conrad said, “an angel without eyes.” Being blinded by their intentions they do not see the harmful consequences of their actions. In Texas, clinics that provided a vast range of services including breast cancer and STD screenings, among others have been defunded. This example proves the type of losses that women are presently enduring.

  •   Restrictions to reproductive services disproportionately affect financially stressed and working class women. We see abortion and birth control will always be available to the upper class who can afford it. Bob Barr, a GOP representative and hypocritical opponent of abortion paid for the termination of his wife’s pregnancy in 1983 with a personal check.
  • Imagine the horror of someone finding their mother, daughter, sister or wife writhing in pain, poisoned or dead from a hemorrhage, accidentally self induced in a desperate attempt to terminate a pregnancy. Remember, conservatives have no special protection against these tragedies. This fact demonstrates itself in the disproportionate number of unwanted teen pregnancies where conservative sex education polices are in force . Without access to legal abortion the agonizing and even deadly practices of quack doctors will always be available as a grim, unalterable fact.

Reproductive problems have been reduced with the help of organizations like Planned Parenthood. Giving women access to comprehensive health care embodies a moral response to human circumstances. Changing the facts or saying the problems shouldn’t exist diverts us from the reality. Moralists who sacrifice vital services in order to secure a victory for ideals lose any pretense of moral high ground. Don’t forget the awful problems to which abortion and birth control were the best solution. Any reasonable ethic should reach for attainable benefits rather than an unlikely ideal.

“After a decade of largely unrestricted access to abortion, the rate in Switzerland remains stable and is among the lowest in the world.”

We can grasp how important these issues are to all of us, our education, livelihood, children, and the mutual interests the sexes have in each other. The more reproductive choices women have available, the more chances to use reason to guide the course of action in different circumstances. Men can contribute to this cause with more then their votes; they can publicly withhold support from institutions that oppose these health services. The Komen Foundation reversed their decision to withdraw support from Planned Parenthood as a result of public disapproval that succeeded.

If a man overhears someone, particularly another male, saying something misguided about women’s issues, then a response like “I don’t think that’s true” can have an impact. Such a statement will probably lead to the question “why do you say that?” No thoughtful person can claim their freedom to either reject or accept reasons if they haven’t first encountered them. Respect that liberty and speak! If you want to know more just Google “reasons to keep abortion legal” or “reasons favoring birth control and sex education.” Speaking out creates a chance for dialogue on these important and often misunderstood topics. The intensity of the subject matter calls for situational judgment to navigate the sensitivities.

We should, without hesitation, clearly state the strongest reasons that support our judgment. It may seem contrary to etiquette but this gesture involves respect; it treats the other as an equal; as one who can understand. Don’t fear to challenge those women who cling to the belief that they and the rest of their sex would be better off with fewer choices. As men we should be defending women’s needs exactly how we would want them to defend ours, reasonably, boldly, and with love.

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UPDATE: 10/27/2012

Planned Parenthood won a state court ruling blocking Texas from cutting off public funds to its clinics that don’t provide abortion services the day after a federal appeals court refused to hear a related dispute.

Judge Amy Clark Meachum in Austin issued a temporary restraining order hours after the organization sued the state yesterday to void a Texas law that cuts off public funding for affiliates of abortion providers.

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