Men Who Think They Should Control Their Girlfriends' and Wives' Bodies
Last week Gary Bauer, the GOP 1992 “also-ran” presidential candidate and current president of American Values wrote a column for the Christian Science Monitor that asked “what about dad?” Bauer focused his column on one of the Christian Right’s favorite missions: inciting men to reclaim their “lost masculinity.” Bauer declared that society must acknowledge a third group of “abortion victims.” This is another thinly-veiled call-to-action to the lone wolves that regard their sexual partners’ abortion as a threat to their masculinity.
It’s nothing new—in an age where men and women are moving closer to equality, the traditional gender-inequality holdouts are positioning themselves as the ones who will “make men, men again.”
Ironically, Bauer’s column accomplishes this through a non-aggressive touchy-feely approach. He disguises his real purpose by camouflaging it under the guise of caring about men’s mental health. This is the first time I’ve heard the anti-choice-created “post-abortion syndrome” used as a male ailment, but when you’ve made up an illness you can infect anyone you want to.
During my time as a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood, I identified three types of men that came to the clinic on termination of pregnancy days. There were the supportive boyfriends and husbands, the friends and fathers of our clients, and the men who accompanied those they impregnated because they felt a sense of ownership.
This third group paced back and forth in the parking lot, sat in their cars and hinted at their ability to become violent after being energized by the chants of the anti-choice protesters who told them to “be a man,” go into the clinic and “take back” what’s theirs.
On more than one occasion these men entered our screening area and demanded we bring back their women. One went so far as to call the police and to allege that we were keeping his car keys. They were enraged—they saw their women not as partners, but as things, which included the fertilized egg inside them.
Sadly, these men are not unique to the clinic where I escorted and in fact can be much worse. In Jacksonville, Florida, a man went beyond the usual insults, humiliation and physical abuse and murdered his girlfriend who had an abortion. Once he found out that she was no longer pregnant, she became an empty vessel with no value of her own.
To strengthen his position Bauer throws in a bunch of statistics and cites a study on how miscarriage affects men. This is of course is one of the only times anti-choicers love “science”-–when it is within their own narrow perception and can be used to justify their Neanderthal behavior. In fact, the way of life Bauer seems to advocate is not too far from cavemen choosing a woman, hitting her over the head, dragging her back to the cave, raping her and then holding her hostage until he can claim his offspring.
The woman whose “man” lost his car keys told me it was the second time she had been in this situation. The first guy had demanded she keep the child because it was his and then fled once he was asked to help. This man was similar and they had only been dating for a few weeks. She kept nervously peering out the window at him as he paced the parking lot. After another one of his failed attempts to remove her she asked me what I would do.
I told her that I couldn’t tell her what I would do because I would never be in her situation. But I did tell her that if my girlfriend were in the same place, we would discuss it and then I would support her through whichever decision she made. As a man, I do want my voice heard but ultimately the change that occurs to me will never be the same as the one that occurs to her.
Likewise, the first group of men, those who were in the clinic with their girlfriends, holding their hands, comforting them or even making them laugh, displayed real love and commitment between two people. For the most part, you could tell they had come to a decision together and were there to support each other.
Certainly, as a man, I can understand the desire to feel a part of my girlfriend’s life and hope to someday play an active role in the decision of having a child. But people like Bauer who make men out as the victims of abortion are attempting to justify the continued segmentation of women into unequal relationships.
There is something to be said about creating an environment where men and women in relationships shape their reproductive destiny together. However, the answer is not ratcheting up the already high level of control and power men exhibit over women—it’s about truly empowering women and stopping the process of intimidation and the physical and emotional abuse they endure when it comes to decisions about their bodies and futures.