I recently met a young man from an Ivy League university that started a pro-life group on his campus. I am always excited to see men take a proactive stand for the sanctity of life, so I thanked him for his leadership. And then I asked if there was a particular obstacle he faced where I could be helpful. Without hesitation, he told me the pro-choice folks on campus often tell him that since he cannot get pregnant and face the burden of an unplanned pregnancy, what he says or thinks about abortion does not matter.
As a man who is president of Care Net — one of the nation’s largest networks of pregnancy centers that offers women compassion, hope and help, as well as realistic alternatives to abortion — I have heard this challenge to men so often that I have coined it the “no womb/no say” perspective. In short, since a man does not have a womb to carry an unborn child, he should have no say in what happens to an unborn child in the womb.
Now, without analysis, this may seem to make sense. And, as a result, too many men have let this argument be the kryptonite that keeps them from getting involved in the pro-life movement as equal partners with women. However, when you really consider the underlying principle of this line of thinking, it quickly becomes clear that it may be a good “sound bite,” but it is clearly not “sound logic.”
That said, before I deal with the logic aspect, I would be remiss if I did not address the fact that those who use this argument are being disingenuous. A few years ago, the pro-choice movement started a very aggressive initiative to get men to support abortion rights. This effort challenged men to be “Bro-Choice” and even take a pledge.
Note what Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE), a major proponent of the this campaign, says on its website: “Pro-choice men can be a powerful force in helping move our policy agenda forward, which is exactly why URGE leads the way in recruiting and elevating their voices within this movement. By building a network of outspoken, actively engaged men, we are building the power necessary to move policy and win on our issues.”
After reading URGE’s perspective, I was reminded of the old quip, “When I want your opinion, I will give it to you!” It also reminded of a bumper sticker I saw a few years ago on the car of a pro-choice woman. It said, “I don’t want my reproductive rights decided by a bunch of grey-haired white guys!” Of course, this woman missed the irony that abortion was made legal by a group of those guys: the Supreme Court in 1973. If old white guys can’t get it right now, isn’t it possible that they got it wrong then? In any case, for the “Bro Choice” advocates, it’s perfectly fine and even required for men to engage in the abortion debate — as long as they come down on the “right” side.
Now, the “no womb/no say” perspective is also very problematic when you consider it through the lens of logic. Essentially, the principle underlying the view is this: Unless one is impacted by an issue or action in the most direct way, one should have no agency in making decisions about that issue or action.
So let’s consider a few situations.
Should a woman who is a stay-at-home mom and, therefore, makes no income outside the home, have a say on tax policy? After all, she doesn’t directly pay taxes for an income. Or, should someone who does not own a gun or has never been injured by a gun have a say in what our nation’s gun law should be? Again, a non-gun owner is not going to be directly impacted if the access to guns is limited.
And, when you consider this perspective in light of our nation’s history, it’s especially troubling. For example, consider the Civil War. The South was primarily an agrarian society that, in large measure, was structured and directly dependent on slave labor. Indeed, a key aspect of the South’s “states’ rights” argument was that since the North’s society and economic system would not be as directly impacted by the abolition of slavery, the North should have no say. Indeed, “no slaves/no say” was the South’s proverbial battle cry.
Also consider the issue of voting rights in the United States. From our nation’s founding, voting rights were limited to property owning or tax paying white males, who were about 6 percent of the population. So the notion was “no property/no say.” And even when voting rights were extended to other men, women were excluded. Why? Because the view held by many men was that women were not and should not be as directly involved in the economic and civil aspect of American society as men. Consequently, these men held a “womb/no say” perspective when it came to voting rights. Well, the Women’s Suffrage movement challenged this perspective, and in 1920, with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, women were given the right to vote … by men.
You see, in all of the above examples, we have rightly rejected the principle that undergirds the “no womb/no say” perspective. Why? Because when considering what is best for our society, we don’t just consider the views of those most directly impacted to the exclusion of all others. To do so would be an injustice, especially to those who are vulnerable.
Rather, we give an equal say and even encourage the voices of those who are affected, even if only indirectly. Indeed, a stay-at-home mom is affected by tax policy, so she has an equal right and is encouraged to vote. Our nations gun laws affect the safety of the communities where the non-gun owners live and raise their children, so they must have an equal say in the laws that are enacted. The moral stain and injustice of slavery affected those in the North, so they had agency and an obligation to fight a bloody war to eliminate it. The laws that were passed in this nation affected women’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so it was an injustice to deny them the right to vote.
Accordingly, when an unborn child is killed in the womb, especially if it is his child, it deeply affects a man. So, doesn’t it make sense for him to have a say, too?