Just as reproductive rights activists predicted, the Supreme Court is on its way to overturning Roe v. Wade. The move will have undeniably devastating consequences for women, especially poor and Black women. But make no mistake, even people who don’t get pregnant will suffer once Roe is struck down.
Overturning Roe wouldn’t only threaten men’s ability to benefit from a partner having an abortion, it would also open the door to weakening their family’s right to contraception.
“This is a time of reckoning for men,” masculinity expert and scholar Jackson Katz told me. “Men should care about this issue if they care about preserving and defending democracy."
There are many reasons, practically speaking, that men are direct beneficiaries of abortion rights in America. The ability to plan how many children a man wants and when he wants to have them is because of the long, hard-fought movement women led for reproductive rights. The right to contraception was won on the basis of the right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut, a Supreme Court case that will be severely weakened if the five conservative justices strike down Roe.
This means overturning Roe wouldn’t only threaten men’s ability to benefit from a partner having an abortion, it would also open the door to weakening their family’s right to contraception. Since many men seem to enjoy having sex with women, I would assume most men do not want to live in a world where they can’t access birth control.
Most often, the decision to have an abortion is a financial one. In fact, the most common reason women give for getting an abortion is that they can’t afford to raise a child. Almost half of the abortions that happen across the country happen to women who are living below the poverty line. Given that almost all of those women were impregnated by a man who is legally liable to provide financial support regardless of the relationship status, overturning Roe will invariably make those men more financially insecure too.
Roe provides a number of spillover social benefits, including lowering child poverty, instances of child neglect and abuse, and reliance on public assistance. After abortion was legalized federally via Roe, the high school graduation rate and college attendance rose significantly for Black women, helping them to become full and active members of society. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that boys who can avoid becoming teenage fathers have a greater chance of going to college if abortion is an option for them and their partner.
There’s a direct correlation between the level of gender equality in a country and the stability of that country. Female empowerment is linked to peace and the violation of women’s human rights is intimately connected to conflict. Countries where violence against women is tolerated (such as, say, forcing a woman to give birth against her will) see higher levels of political instability and military force is more likely to be used.
If it was about babies as Republicans claim, they would be fighting for more child benefits, not less.
“Right-wing movements in this country and around the world understand perfectly well that feminism is one of the greatest threats to oligarchy and autocracy," Katz said. "They know that rolling back women’s reproductive freedom is a key way to block women’s struggle for gender equality. And without gender equality, there is no real democracy.”
If you listen to the mainstream public discourse about abortion, it’s hard to believe men have anything to lose. In spite of the numerous ways men will suffer in a post-Roe America, Republicans don’t seem very worried about the fact that the loss of federal protection of abortion rights is deeply unpopular in the country, even among many in their own base. Instead, it seems that the “law and order” party is comfortable enough with bills that could force survivors of incest and rape to carry a resulting pregnancy to term.
When Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said the quiet part out loud, blaming women who are “over-educated” and unmarried, he eliminated any outstanding questions about the real intention of these laws that limit abortion rights. Still, many Republicans continue to deny that this barbaric move they’ve been plotting and strategizing for decades has anything to do with a woman’s right to choose.
If it was about babies as Republicans claim, they would be fighting for more child benefits, not less. If it was about saving lives, they would be supporting universal health care, not trying to get rid of it and they would never back a policy that would lead to a 21 percent increase in maternal mortality.
This isn’t just about women’s reproductive freedom. It’s not even just about men’s. What’s at stake is much greater and the failure to act has implications that are much more sinister. “If men truly believe in women’s fundamental right to control their own bodies and reproductive lives, not to mention their own sexuality, they need to start taking more risks,” Katz said. And if men want tips about where to start, they can look to the women who have been fighting for their freedom all along.