Vermont Conversation: The abortion election and male allies

People gather in Montpelier June 24 to protest after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade had picked up. Photo by Lia Chien/VTDigger

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Abortion was on the ballot in this week’s midterm elections, and the results were unequivocal: voters, even in conservative states, want abortion rights, not abortion bans.

This election saw the most voting action on abortion in a single US election. Vermont voted more than 3 to 1 to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. California and Michigan also approved constitutional protections for abortion. Voters in Kentucky and Montana have rejected anti-abortion ballots. And in August, Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure that would have changed the state constitution to include no abortion rights.

“Abortion won,” said Oren Jacobson, co-founder and co-executive director of Men4Choice, a national pro-choice advocacy that organizes male allies.

Politicians “who have tried to play around with people’s intimate decision-making in this way should really send a message here … that people don’t want their lives to be encroached upon,” said Felicia Kornbluh, a professor of history and gender, and sexuality Women’s Studies at the University of Vermont and Vice Chair of the Planned Parenthood of Vermont Action Fund.

“They want to be able to decide for themselves when, if and under what circumstances they want to have children. And that means access to abortion. It means access to contraception. It means access to vasectomy procedures when people want it. It means access to a comprehensive range of reproductive health care, no matter who you are – if you are in a same-sex relationship, no matter what your gender identification. We want that freedom. It’s a fundamental freedom, and I think it’s about time everyone in the political system recognized that and saw it as the kind of great value it really is.”

Jacobson argued that winning over men and other allies was important to protecting reproductive rights. One in five men in the US has got pregnant someone who has had an abortion.

“About half of these men already had children and advocated abortion to better support their existing family,” says a report.

Jacobson said men are typically passive supporters of reproductive rights, and that needs to change.

“The mere fact of men speaking up and lending their voice will normalize the idea[of abortion]. This is intended to change the culture and engage the majority of pro-choice men more actively in this struggle. So I think it’s really important for guys to tell their stories and raise their voices.”

Three Vermont men shared their abortion stories in this episode of the Vermont Conversation.

Carl Werth of the Waterbury Center recalled when his college friend got pregnant.

“She didn’t want to carry a baby and neither of us wanted to be in charge of one. … If we had had to have the child, if it had been a forced birth as they say, I think it would have changed both of our lives dramatically.”

Werth said of the role men should play in having an abortion, “They should be 100% supportive of what the woman wants to do. Because it’s her body. Period.”

Jon Williams, a grandfather at Waterbury Center, said he and his wife decided to have an abortion when they were 20 years old. He said the US Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade was “absolutely insane.”

“Many women and families feel that an unplanned pregnancy could be absolutely devastating to the family. It’s just such a fundamental right,” Williams said.

David Bolger, a Moretown schoolteacher, does not apologize for the abortions he and his girlfriend had in college.

“I don’t regret it at all,” Bolger said.

He and his girlfriend Amy split after college but married 20 years later.

“Back then, we were really so willing and able and able to do a good job … raising a family,” he said. “And we have.”

“It was Amy’s right to choose and we talked about it at length. And I absolutely supported her in that decision, and I’m glad. I still don’t regret the whole thing,” said Bolger.

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