By now, you’re no doubt aware of the war conservative politicians are waging on reproductive freedom in the U.S. So-called “heartbeat bills” are being passed with increasing frequency, access to abortion is eroding, punishments for doctors who provide the medical procedure are draconian and Roe v. Wade is in the crosshairs.
The onslaught is overwhelming, and it can be difficult to know what to do to help stop it — especially as abortion rights are often framed as a “women’s issue” that men need not trouble themselves with. But reproductive rights are human rights, not a fringe issue for men to ignore. As such, here are the five most useful things you can do right now to support the pro-choice movement…
The most immediate, straightforward way for men to support abortion rights is to give money to pro-choice organizations. Admittedly, it can be perplexing to know which of the many national and local grassroots organizations to support, and decision paralysis can overwhelm. If you’re struggling to decide, donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Click the link, fill in the form, give as much as you can and wonder no more about maximizing the impact of your dollar — your money will be immediately directed to help people in need.
You may, however, prefer to donate to a specific abortion fund in a certain locality, especially those where restrictive abortion laws have passed. Organizations such as the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama, which, as you’ve probably heard, is a great place to put your money. The Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, Women Have Options group in Ohio and the ARC-Southeast are other good options. Teen Vogue has rounded up a useful list of organizations centering around women of color and LGBTQ+ people, who are the most impacted by restrictive abortion laws. Finally, it certainly doesn’t hurt to donate to large, nationwide organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
Volunteer and Organize
If you’re not able to donate — or if you’d like to do something in addition to donating — there are several ways you can get directly involved in the fight. One is to volunteer as a clinic escort. This involves accompanying people seeking abortion from their cars to the clinic doors and distracting and shielding them from the anti-abortion protesters who often congregate outside clinics, attempting to dissuade patients from having abortions by bombarding them with threats, misinformation and emotional manipulation. The National Abortion Federation and Abortion Care Network can help you find local clinics, which you can contact directly to inquire about their needs.
You can also volunteer by hosting and providing transport for a person who needs an abortion. Patients often need to travel across state lines to access the procedure, which involves steep transport and accommodation costs many low-income patients can’t meet, as well as time off work. If you can host in the New York area, get in touch with the Haven Coalition. California-based men can volunteer as Practical Support Volunteers. And here are further options for men in New Mexico, Illinois, Colorado, Maryland, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
If you’d like to start organizing in favor of abortion rights, the ACLU has an excellent tool for locating upcoming pro-choice protests, rallies, marches, meetings, education sessions and phone banks in your area, as does NARAL.
Speak Out in Support of Safe, Free and Legal Abortion on Demand
Over the past several decades, the anti-choice camp has been successful in framing the debate about abortion in its favor and using emotive language to galvanize those in its ranks and fence-sitters. Phrases like “unborn child” and “pro-life” have entered the mainstream lexicon without much scrutiny, and anti-abortion activists have made the starting point of the debate “abortion is the murder of children.”
That, though, has to change, because language matters. As Amanda Reyes, president of the Yellowhammer Fund, told Mother Jones, “The reason that we’re in this situation right now is because we refuse to talk about it, and [we’ve ceded] morality on the issue to conservatives by talking about abortion like a regrettable but ‘necessary evil’ or adopting opponents’ language like ‘pro-life.’” While it might seem like calling anti-abortion activists “pro-life” is a trivial civility, Reyes says it dangerously perpetuates the stigma around abortion. Instead, we should talk about the “fetus” (not the “unborn child”); abortion as a medical procedure (not a “regrettable tragedy”); and “fetal pole cardiac activity” (not “the heartbeat”).
Similarly, too much focus on the egregiousness of anti-abortion laws that don’t allow for rape or incest exceptions can cause the pro-choice camp to become sidelined and lose sight of the end goal. The purpose of the struggle isn’t for anti-abortion laws to have rape and incest exceptions; it’s for safe, free, legal abortion on demand — for anyone who needs it. Abortion is a human right, and criminalizing the procedure is gender-based discrimination. Per Amnesty International, “Forcing someone to carry on an unwanted pregnancy, or forcing them to seek out an unsafe abortion, is a violation of their human rights, including the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy.”
As Rihanna would say, let’s start there.
Influence the Political Process
Electoral politics, especially at a local level, can be demoralizing, confusing and boring, but it’s a site of enormous power. Helping to elect pro-choice candidates with coherent ideologies and robust policy platforms that improve the position of everyone, including women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color and the working class, will reduce the number of anti-abortions bills being introduced and passed. In short, we really, really need to replace conservative men who punch their wives in the face for delaying sex with genuinely progressive candidates.
But voting for pro-choice candidates isn’t enough on its own; it’s also important to help protect the crumbling infrastructure of democracy in the U.S. As Kat Stoeffel writes for Elle, the pro-choice fight is intimately tied to the struggles against racist gerrymandering, extreme voter identification laws, voter roll purges and other election rules designed to prevent pro-choice voters from being counted.
Give A Shit
In an excellent article for Jezebel, which is well worth reading in its entirety, writer and activist Charlotte Shane makes the case that the fate of the pro-choice movement is in the hands of cis men. “If every cis man decided tomorrow that abortion was an inalienable human right, we’d be freed almost immediately from the hell of the Hyde Amendment and TRAP (Targeted Restriction on Abortion Providers) laws,” she says. “If every cis woman decided tomorrow that she believed the same, we would still have a long, bitter battle ahead.”
She exhorts cis men to do more than simply identify as pro-choice. “I’m furious to know that the vast majority of cis men in my life just can’t be bothered to do anything about abortion accessibility, not even when they’ve benefitted from the procedure in the past and may benefit again in the future,” she continues. “The men I know are, theoretically, pro-choice, but there’s no urgency behind the position; their stance never manifests into any form of political action.”
So men, it’s not enough to sit there and nod in agreement. Do something about it. And do it now.