Why, as a Cisgender Man, It's My Responsibility To Protect and Fight for Reproductive Rights

It's past time for those of us with the privilege to improve the lives of marginalized genders.

Protesters hold placards expressing their opinion at a pro-choice rally
Photo: Getty

Throughout United States history, reproductive rights were exclusively considered "a woman's thing." Thanks to systemic power structures, religious interference, and institutional failings, it never fell on men to bear much, if any, responsibility to uphold bodily autonomy and access to reproductive health care—let alone have awareness of what that responsibility might look like. With the SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, it is past time to stand beside the people we care about and pick up our fair share of the burden. Reproductive health choices and rights need to be carried by us men as well. Especially those of us who are cisgender men, since our privilege grants us the ability to improve the lives of marginalized genders.

It's our turn to act. To show the people we love that we have their backs. To push for rights that should have been fully theirs from the start.

I wish I could say that women, nonbinary, transgender, and female-presenting folks have enjoyed bodily autonomy for the fifty years prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but that would be foolish if not a lie. They've fought for their right to bodily autonomy for centuries, and even when abortion was a constitutional right, they continued to fight for the freedom to decide what was best for their own bodies and futures. Marginalized genders fought to have access to medical care within their communities, to be heard at their doctor's offices, to have safe reproductive care that meets their specific needs, and to be protected from harmful results of sexual assault.

And now, a court that does not adhere to the will of the people has snatched that small measure of freedom and security from them. This conservative majority in the Supreme Court took away their human right to health care, one that consistently polls with a majority of approval from the people across this country.

So, I say again—it's time for us men to step up.

I guarantee that the people you know who are capable of getting pregnant are watching how you view this ruling and are taking notes. They know by your reaction, your inaction, and your silence whether you truly support them or not.

Showing up comes in many forms.

In my early college years, a woman I was dating got pregnant. We were young and in love. And I recall exactly what I said to her when she told me, "I'm pregnant."

Without hesitation, I responded: "It's your choice. If you want to keep it, I'll drop out of school and get a job. We'll make it work. If you don't want to keep it, I'll pay for the abortion. I won't stop loving you, and I'll be there no matter what."

I deserve no accolades for saying that when I was so young. It was simply the right thing to do. She deserved the space to make the decision for her body and her future. It's common sense that someone should be able to make that choice.

She decided to have an abortion. I was there as much as I knew how to at that young age. Our relationship didn't last long past that, but I do not regret what I said or her decision. Not one bit. She went on to find happiness, as did I. I saw in real-time how hard that decision was for her to make, and I showed up and stood by her side.

However, you can do other things to help with reproductive rights that don't involve abortion. You can protest, vote, make sure others are registered to vote and do, and talk to your representatives.

Another thing you could do is get a vasectomy.

Before you reel back screaming over how drastic that is or protest over your body being violated, hear me out.

I had a vasectomy nine years ago. My wife's IUD was expiring and needed to be removed. We already had several children, and we did not want any more. Instead of my wife enduring another painful IUD implantation, I booked an appointment for a vasectomy. Very soon, we had an appointment, and I had the procedure, which was quick (30 minutes!) and relatively painless. Recovery time was a few days. Best of all? My wife did not have to go through a more invasive and dangerous procedure. It was easy and one of the best decisions I ever made. I can't recommend it enough.

Another thing to note about vasectomies—no doctor will require permission from your partner before you can get it done. Why is that noteworthy? Ask anyone with a uterus who has wanted to be sterilized. There is an overwhelming majority of doctors who will not perform tubal ligation, hysterectomy, or even endometrial ablation (a procedure that surgically destroys the lining of the uterus to reduce menstrual flow) without a man's consent. Yet another way this system has not allowed autonomy, especially when it comes to reproductive healthcare. It's a maddening experience for them to navigate.

Please stand up publicly and privately for the people you care about and for their reproductive rights. Donate where and if you can. If you are unable to donate, share information with others who can. Contact your representatives. Reassure those who have shouldered this burden for too long that you are there for them and are not going anywhere. Show them your tenacity. Demonstrate unyielding support.

The bottom line is that the most influential group of people who can make a difference and help right this wrong is us, the cisgender men who this system was built for. It's time to do something about that.

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