On Friday, the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion.
As a result, the medical procedure was immediately restricted or deemed illegal in more than 20 states, with more to come in select states with “trigger laws” that will soon go into effect. Republicans, who have led this effort to strip women of their reproductive rights and autonomy, are already making clear about expanding this unjust ruling by passing a national abortion ban should they regain control of Congress and the presidency. Although conservative women have participated in this campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade, this push, which is undoubtedly rooted in preserving patriarchal rule, is by and large the byproduct of men who want control over women’s bodies.
And while it will take all of us who believe in a woman's right to decide if and when she chooses to give birth, the burden should not be predominately placed on women. It is important for men—those in elected office and/or with their own individual power—to speak up and do so as often as possible. Already, there is reason to worry that men might fail women again.
When asked about Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization—the case that resulted in the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the court held that the Constitution of the United States does not confer any right to abortion, overruling both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey—Congressman James Clyburn offered an infuriating response.
“It’s a little anticlimactic, I think we all expected this,” Clyburn, who serves as House Majority Whip, explained. “And I'm hopeful, you know, I have to read the decision to see exactly the extent to which we can move legislatively to respond to it.”
Despite the historic leaking of a draft opinion signaling Roe v. Wade would be overturned by this Supreme Court making headlines a month ago, to describe the choice as “anti-climatic” is as callous as it is boneheaded. This is a 50-year precedent being overturned by a rogue and arguably illegitimate court that seeks to install minority rule by judicial fiats. In this instance, it’s stripping women—i.e. Constituents—of a say over their own bodies. Clyburn spoke with no urgency about this; in fact, he sounded blasé about a matter that will undoubtedly impact Black women harsher than others.
I suppose that’s better than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reading off a poem in response, but he sounds like a fool all the same.
Equally embarrassing was the response from Joe Biden, the man Clyburn helped become president. In remarks offered hours after the decision was made, Biden didn’t offer any political plans—but he did caution those disappointed to remain peaceful.
“I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful,” Biden said. “Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. No intimidation. Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech.”
Instead of saying something useful like declaring that abortions can take place at federal buildings in every state or even calling on Americans to give to abortion funds, Biden said this nonsense. As if it’s not the anti-choice movement that has made this a violent and divisive issue. As if the president should even bother to say with a straight face that violence is never acceptable.
Not all men have been as embarrassing as these two.
There are politicians, entertainers, and athletes who have spoken out, but not nearly enough, and respectfully, to mixed results.
While closing out his Glastonbury set last night in England, Kendrick Lamar, wearing the diamond encrusted crown of thorns from his Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers album cover, said on stage: “They judge you, they judge Christ. Godspeed for women’s rights!”
Not to discount Lamar’s contribution, but I wasn’t entirely sure of what he meant with this. Also, as a number of women have already pointed out, with the inclusion of Kodak Black, a man that entered a plea deal over accusations of rape, on his new album, it’s understandable to question his commitment to women’s rights. I understand no one is perfect, but there is something to be said about the ways in which men contribute to the ongoing problem of women not having total controls over their bodies.
We need more men to speak like this—and say it with their chests. We need more men to point out the simple fact that abortion rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.
I lump former President Obama into that, too, because while his remarks read better than his contemporaries, not all of us have forgotten his broken promise to codify abortion rights when he had the chance.
I wish more men in general would mirror the intensity of women like Megan Thee Stallion, who, on Saturday, used her platform at Glastonbury to say the following: “Y’all knew it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take a second to call out these stupid-ass men. I mean goddamn. What else you want? Texas really embarrassing me now y’all, that’s my home state.”
She continued: “I want to have it on the record that the motherfucking hot girls and hot boys do not support this bullshit that y’all are campaigning for.”
We need more men to speak like this—and say it with their chests. We need more men to point out the simple fact that abortion rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. We need more men to talk about abortion rights outside of the context of rape and incest. Truth is, men benefit from abortion as much as women do.
According to a recent analysis of data between 2015 and 2017 from the National Survey of Family Growth, an estimated one in five men in the United States have been involved in an abortion (i.e. their partner’s pregnancy ended in one).
As Joe Colon-Uvalles, an organizer at the abortion rights group Planned Parenthood, explained in an interview with the New York Times, “Men really need to consider what losing access to safe and legal abortion means for them.”
It shouldn’t be just women leading this. I hate that women are even having to ask given it’s not just a women’s issue.
During her acceptance speech at the BET Awards, Jasmine Sullivan made an emotional plea to men for their support: “As always, I do this for the women. For my sisters especially. It’s a hard time right now for us. I want to speak directly to the men. We need you all. We need y’all to stand up. Stand up for us. Stand up with us. If you have ever benefited from a woman making one of the toughest decisions of her life―to terminate a pregnancy―you need to be standing with us. This is not just a woman’s issue. This is everybody’s issue. We need your support more than ever, okay, fellas.”
After this Jazmine repeated the question “Y’all got us?” She got a response, but it was mild. And even more maddening, through the rest of the night, no male performer or presenter answered her call.