Men: Invisible Allies in the Struggle for Choice
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While it is true that some men spew hatred and engender fear with the intent of increasing stigma and decreasing availability of abortion services, I have had a different experience of the men inside abortion clinics. About half of women choosing abortion bring a man along. Some bring their brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, friend or boss; most who bring a man bring their partner. More men would have accompanied the women had they not stayed home to care for the other child or children (most women choosing abortion already have at least one child), or they are working, or she preferred to have her friend or mother with her.
Reading the latest wave of woman-debasing epithets could create a false impression of men and their loving support. Clinics all over the country are inviting men into the counseling, the procedure itself, and the recovery room, depending upon the woman’s consent and the clinic’s ability to accommodate support persons. They are our allies in patient care and politics, all the while providing a supportive balance to the screaming, swearing, and ranting men on the sidewalks outside our clinics. Men are more likely to label themselves pro-choice when included in information sessions, counseling, or any part of the visit to the clinic.
Allegheny Reproductive Health in Pittsburgh has been welcoming men for decades. For many years our waiting room journals labeled “For Men Only” have become a repository of heart-rending support, love, and sorrow, but also messages of hope and self-reflection. Anyone who doubts the importance of men’s presence need only read a few of the entries to become aware of a whole different man than those spewing threats, bile and venom.
Such as this message:
Today is not about right or wrong. It’s about happy and sad. You may be sad for the situation in which you find yourself, but be happy, in a quiet way, that you had the courage and decency to step up when you were needed most…I accept her choice because I love her. This choice is right for her. I will not judge…Love is about acceptance…You, yes, you are a precious child of God. Treat her and yourself with the dignity you both deserve.”
“…P.S. To my unborn I’m sorry for all the wrong choices I made. I wish I could turn back the time and bring you into the world but I know I can’t. I will never make another mistake this big again (not using protection). I’m sorry and I love you always and forever.”
And this one:
“…I am a grown man, but after reading this [journal], my body feels little and my heart does too. I see all the support we have for our ladies. Everyone’s stories are different...I always promised myself I would honor and do right with my kid. I think this is doing right...God bless you all.”
If we want supportive men’s voices to balance the messages of violence and hatred, we need to reach out to men even more. Waiting rooms in clinics are filled with men who sit patiently for many hours. From the moment they enter our clinics, let’s be sure to welcome them. Making certain that front desk greeters offer a “thank you for coming” is a good beginning.
Abortion providers can have brochures on hand specifically designed for men. They can have magazines of male interest in the waiting room, not just women’s magazines. They can have packets of information scattered about addressing birth control, explanations of the procedure, helpful post-procedure hints, political action suggestions, and voter registration forms. Referral cards to the website MenAndAbortion.com direct them to the answers to frequently asked factual, emotional, and spiritual questions.