For the most part we out gay men don’t get women “accidentally” pregnant, except in Hollywood movies where filmmakers are obsessed with having us engage in drunken one-off sexual encounters that result in a baby. Sidenote to Hollywood: you are REALLY obsessed with heterosexuality.
Gay men sit on the sidelines of the abortion battlefield – we don’t have skin in the game, literally or figuratively. So why is a gay man, an “observer”, writing an opinion piece supporting a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy?
Often the debate over abortion begins, and ends, with discussions about “morality”. I was raised Catholic and so I know a bit about those “moral arguments”. As a teenager I even attended a pro-life rally – bussed there by my Catholic high school. In my defense, as a teenager I tried to style my hair like George Michael from the Careless Whisper video. Also in my defense, I was a teenager.
I have so-called “liberal” friends who are anti-abortion. I have friends who support it but are reticent to admit they do. Their reluctance, I would describe it akin to embarrassment, treats abortion like a dirty secret. Certainly that’s how we treat it here in New Zealand. Abortion is only available here if the woman faces a danger to her life, physical or mental health, by continuing the pregnancy, or if there is a risk of the fetus being “handicapped”. If a termination falls outside of these conditions then it is technically a crime. Therefore, in my country, abortion must be “justified”, if we can put hand on heart and say “It was NECESSARY”.
Even in places in the world where abortion is available upon request it is often embroiled in controversy. And despite being legal the overwhelming prevailing voice in the conversation is that abortion is “wrong”. Don’t believe me? Then look at popular music. There are a lot of songs about abortion. But those that that were singles and hits celebrate not having an abortion (Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach, Whitney Houston’s Miracle, Paul Anka’s You’re Having My Baby), ruing the deed (Charlene’s I’ve Never Been To Me), the woman killing herself because of it (The Verve Pipe’s The Freshmen), or generally painting the whole thing as bleak (Brick by Ben Folds Five).
The problem with abortion is that it gets wrapped up with “belief”. You have every right to allow your beliefs to guide you in the choices you make about yourself. Where belief goes awry is when people use it to try to control the behaviour of others. We gay men intimately understand what that’s like. Some of us spent much of our lives being denied rights to engage in certain sexual acts, or access to a basic right like marriage, because some people wanted to control what we do based on their “beliefs”. Therefore, we should naturally have a lot of empathy for women who want to be free from the control of others, to make a choice about what to do with their own bodies.
We gay men also know what it’s like to be something that is the subject of much negative discourse. Abortion is our sister-in-arms, after all, one of the demons the right wing use to prop itself up and organize around.
Any battleground involving belief, such as homosexuality or abortion, will result in those who are being fought over feeling guilt and shame. I have friends who’ve had abortions. The decision to go through with the actual procedure wasn’t easy but what lay heaviest on them was what others would think, that choosing to terminate the pregnancy made them “bad”. I recognized those feelings, they were the same ones I had to deal with when I came out, that I still have to process every day when I’m confronted with the hate of homophobes. Just as I don’t want to live in a world where I’m despised for being gay, equally I don’t want women to live in a world where even their right to choose is seen as something wrong.
So naturally I wholeheartedly support access to abortion on request.
But isn’t a gay man speaking about abortion part of the problem? Don’t men already have too much say in what women do with their bodies? Well, yes. Remember that famous all-male panel that was convened by the US Congress to discuss the birth control mandate in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act? Then there was the all-male House Judiciary subcommittee that advanced a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. I would happily stay out of the debate if men determined to hold sway over women’s bodies did the same. But they don’t. So I can’t. I shouldn’t.
Catholicism, any religious upbringing, can make you naturally judgemental and as a way to counteract that I have become very adept at imagining walking in the shoes of others. If I was in the shoes of my female friends, dealing with a pregnancy I hadn’t planned, would I choose to end it? Probably? Possibly? I truly cannot say. But would it be comforting for me to know there are people out there, men out there, who wholeheartedly support my right to choose, who are prepared to declare “This is YOUR decision and no one else’s”? Yes. Would I want those same men to fight for my right to choose, to ensure I had access to safe medical procedures, that I didn’t have to jump through hoops to access treatment, that abortion was available on request? Definitely.
In ONE MILLION DOMS Dominic Sheehan comments about political stuff. Yes, the title is a parody of One Million Moms. Yes, he really did try to style his hair like George Michael. No, it did not look anything like George Michael’s hair. It looked awful.