More Men Are Sharing Their Abortion Stories and Fighting for Reproductive Rights
Abortion is often framed as a woman’s issue, with many women stepping forward to share their own stories and try to change the stigmatizing narrative that dominates society; but more and more, men are sharing their experiences with abortion, too. In a poignant NPR Snap Judgmentperformance, Josh Healey recalls his great-grandmother Barbara’s 12 “self-performed abortions” before the Roe v. Wade decision, and his abortion experience at 19 years old with his then-girlfriend of six months and now-wife, Esther.
Healey describes the abortion from his point of view; from the moment Esther finds out she’s pregnant to walking with her past the protesters outside the clinic. The performance is illustrative of the very realistic, complex feelings and awkward moments that accompany an abortion decision. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a woman pee,” Healey says in the performance when describing watching Ester taking the pregnancy test. “It feels like she’s going on forever. Like she’s been storing the Pacific in her bladder forever.”
Healey admits to the audience that he knew he wasn’t ready to become a parent as a sophomore in college, but also wanted to leave the decision up to Esther. “What I’m really thinking is, please say you’re not ready,” he proclaims. “You’d be a great mother whenever you think the time is right,” he reassured her.
"What I’m really thinking is, please say you’re not ready."
Ten years later, Healey’s performance is challenging the way audiences think about abortion. “I'm a writer and performer, so I tell stories for a living. But this is one story I never told,” Healey told WomensHealthMag.comvia email. “Not my friends, not my brother, and definitely not a national radio audience. We're just not supposed to talk about abortion—women or men.”
Feminists like artist Favianna Rodriguez and The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, who have shared their abortion stories, as well as the attacks on abortion rights, inspired Healey to speak out. “I had to tell this story,” he explained. "But first, he checked in with his wife, who said she would divorce him if he didn’t share their story.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, says Healey. He recently received emails from a self-described "72-year-old Minnesota matriarch," who shared her story of having to drive 250-miles to Canada for an abortion in the 1950s, and a college student who shared the video with his fraternity brothers. “That dude is my hero! Pro-choice frat boys?! That's what I'm talking about!” What Healey describes is one of the best outcomes of sharing an abortion story with strangers; often someone shares one back.
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"As access to abortion care is eroded, men are recognizing that they too must speak up in support of maintaining reproductive freedom."
“Speaking openly about abortion alleviates the stigma associated with it,” Etan Fraser, board member at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told WomensHealthMag.com over email. “The more we can be open and honest about our abortion experiences, the clearer it becomes to the public and lawmakers that access to and availability of the procedure is unequivocally necessary.”
Fraser, a JD and MBA candidate at Columbia University, says he and a former girlfriend had an abortion when they were in high school. “We were young. We did not know what to do,” he said. They made an appointment at Planned Parenthood to discuss their options with a counselor and together they decided to have an abortion. “I believe it is important to share my story for the precise reason that it is unremarkable.”
Fraser believes men’s roles in standing up for access to abortion care is crucial. “It should be our shared duty to ensure that the full range of reproductive options are preserved.”
"I believe it is important to share my story for the precise reason that it is unremarkable."
In the United States, a third of women will have an abortion by age 45, ninety-five percent don’t regret their abortions three years later, and standing by many of those women are men who support them through their decisions. In the first few weeks of 2016, legislators have already introduced 147 anti-choice bills; that’s on top of the 231 restrictions that were enacted since 2011. Fraser says men have a stake in this fight and must speak out in support of abortion rights. “Simultaneously, men must recognize that restrictions on abortion uniquely affect women, and as such we should play a support role to their leadership in the movement.”
Like Fraser, Healey wants to use his story to push back on the abortion restrictions and stigma. “For millions of women and, what usually gets left out, millions of men, abortion is actually a positive thing,” Healey says. “Silence and shame are never the answer. Telling the truth is.”