Following this month’s wave of abortion bans passed by legislatures in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri, many women have publicly recounted their own abortions on social media. The idea behind this outpouring is that people might be moved to support or fight for abortion rights if they see how common the procedure is, how many people they know and respect have had one , and how integral abortion care is to these women’s full participation in public life.
This type of storytelling has arisen spontaneously on social media, but it is also a tried and tested tactic of reproductive justice movements; at rallies, for example, activists often take to the microphone to tell the stories of their own abortions. More recently, celebrities (including Busy Philipps) and journalists (including some at Slate) have shared how the ability to terminate an unwanted or unworkable pregnancy has made possible their health, relationships, future families, and career success.
Now women are starting to ask men to share their abortion stories too. “Behind millions of successful men is an abortion they don’t regret having had with their partner,” Liz Plank of Vox tweeted Wednesday. “I urge men to go beyond solidarity and talk about how they have personally benefited from abortion rights.” Excellent chefit is Padma Lakshmi encouraged the men to talk about the abortions of their loved ones using the hashtag #HimToo. (Conservatives used the same hashtag to stoke fear of false rape allegations around Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings, but it was a fine effort on Lakshmi’s part.) Another activist asked the men, “What did you do when the woman you got pregnant made a choice?” Some have argued that it should not be the sole responsibility of women to dig into their personal reproductive histories as evidence of their own humanity when their rights are threatened.
In response, some men tweeted about abortions in their own past.
Progressive consultant Evan Sutton told the widely retweeted story of a sex partner who had an abortion when she was 19 and he was 22. “We worked together in a bar and slept together for maybe 5 or 6 weeks”, he wrote. “Things got very weird and very toxic in a way that neither of us had the tools to deal with effectively. I can only imagine how bad it would have been with the stress of a baby. We are both parents now, with children who benefit from parents with the emotional capacity (and financial stability) to care for them. Jaremi Carey, a former competitor of RuPaul’s Drag Race, wrote that his then-girlfriend got pregnant when he was 15 and she was 16. “She ended up having an abortion. We were blessed to be able to have an open, honest, and intelligent conversation about how we couldn’t bring life into this world that we couldn’t give to our fullest dedication and the life they deserve and should have”, he tweeted.
“I got my girlfriend pregnant at a time when neither of us was ready to have a baby. If it weren’t for the strength of this woman, I would have become a statistic. tweeted fashion consultant Mike Camargo, aka Upscale Vandal, in a thread. “I have never shared this information with anyone, but it is imperative that as men we speak up and support the women who put us here.”
There’s a thin line to walk for men who want to do the right thing, when it comes to tweeting, at this terrible time in America’s reproductive history. They don’t want to co-opt a woman’s story or focus on a discourse of women’s bodily autonomy. But they are also looking for ways to signal their support and perhaps acknowledge that they, too, have reaped the benefits of legal abortion – that the life they live now would have been impossible or vastly different if a current or former partner had been forced by the state to give birth against her will. For every tweet telling men they are “cowards or hypocrites“if they don’t share their partner’s abortion stories, there’s another one who tells them”it’s not their place.”
“I saw someone on FB suggesting that men tell their abortion stories out of solidarity”, writer and professor David Dennis Jr. tweeted. “I found that interesting because I had always thought of them as stories for women to tell because they got to their bodies and it would be best to just RT/amplify. What’s the move here?”
In my opinion, it can be good to get men to acknowledge their personal investment in abortion rights, even if they don’t share it out loud. If they do, they can reach family members or friends who think they don’t know anyone who has been involved in an abortion, which could help normalize the idea that reproductive autonomy is essential to a just society. and fair. There are a few elements that the best examples of the men-tweeting-about-abortion genre share: The person who had the abortion has consented to making the story public. (It’s not always obvious in a social media post, but it’s essential.) The man acknowledges that, regardless of his involvement, the decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy should always rest with the woman. pregnant person. And it includes a call to action, a reminder that the fight for reproductive justice and women’s rights is ongoing and urgent.
But there’s no perfect way for this conversation to happen. It’s infuriating to think that men need to share their own personal experiences with women’s medical care so that these women have a chance to retain their right to that care, just because anti-abortion men might finally listen if the message comes. of a man. It’s also infuriating to think that men have the ability to abstain from this debate, because their bodies aren’t implicated – or reviled, or criminalized, or deliberately misunderstood – in quite the same way. . It is Also infuriating to remember that tweets are not votes in state legislatures, that gerrymandering and voter suppression have concentrated the political power of existing opposition to abortion rights, and that the fate of the Women’s self-determination in several US states is currently in the hands of a majority-conservative judicial body with at least two credibly accused sex offenders on the list. With that in mind, it seems like these stories are less about capturing hearts and minds and more about making progressive women feel better about the men around them — or, at best, giving progressive men a shot. thumbs up to move from ideals to activism.
“I honestly don’t know how politically significant or effective any kind of tweet is – I think it’s mostly about signaling solidarity with a movement rather than changing mindsets,” my Slate colleague Gabriel Roth , who tweeted about an abortion his ex-partner had when he was 22, told me on Friday. “I think it’s a problem that much of the political work around reproductive rights is carried out by women, but I don’t think the tweet is more than an insignificant contribution to that work.”
Predictably, the right has responded to calls for men to share their abortion stories with their own anti-abortion outlets. “Not a day goes by that I don’t feel abject shame and guilt for participating in something I was given no choice for. A big shout out to guys who share similar experiences after I spoke the other day,” actor and producer Adam Trahan tweeted with a beer-clinking emoji. One man recounted someone else’s experience: “I knew a married man who had fun with his wife by having unprotected sex with another woman. She got pregnant, had an abortion, his wife still has no idea. What hashtag am I supposed to use at the end of this inspirational story? In response to a man who tweeted that if not for the abortion his girlfriend had at age 24 after a condom broke, “at least three lives would have been ruined”, another man joked that he also had been conceived because of a broken condom. “My parents made the difficult decision NOT to have an abortion at 19/20, but divorced before I was 1,” he tweeted. “I became the first college graduate in the family, I now have a successful career, an amazing wife and 2 kids.”
This aggravating exchange highlights a weakness in the theory of the personal investment of abortion rights messages. If you appeal to someone’s selfish interests or personal history to advocate for social and political fairness, they are just as likely to use their selfish interests or personal history to oppose it. . There is something slightly degrading in regarding women’s basic human rights as valid because men have “personally benefited” from them, in Plank’s words, this HuffPost editor, and many other feminists. It’s reminiscent of how some people have advocated for equal marriage rights by touting the potential financial benefits to corporations and state economies. The second these things go away – if some men don’t benefit from abortion, or if corporations don’t make money from gay marriage – the argument fades. In an ideal world, the human rights argument would stand on its own.
But we’re not there. It’s a testament to how desperate people committed to abortion rights feel right now as they try every possible angle.