Vermont Conversation: The abortion election and male allies

People gather in Montpelier on June 24 to protest after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Photo by Lia Chien/VTDigger

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Abortion was on the ballot in this week’s midterm elections and the results were emphatic: Voters, even in conservative states, want abortion rights over abortion bans.

This election featured the most ballot measures on abortion in a single U.S. election. Vermonters voted by a more than 3-to-1 margin to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. California and Michigan also approved constitutional protections for abortion. Voters in Kentucky and Montana defeated anti-abortion ballot measures. And in August, voters in Kansas rejected a ballot measure that would have amended the state Constitution to say it contains no right to an abortion. 

“Abortion won,” said Oren Jacobson, co-founder and co-executive director of Men4Choice, a national prochoice advocacy group that organizes male allies.

Politicians “who attempted to mess around with people's intimate decision making in that way should really take a message here … that people do not want their lives to be interfered with,” said Felicia Kornbluh, professor of history and gender, sexuality and women’s studies at the University of Vermont and vice chair of Planned Parenthood of Vermont Action Fund.

“They want to be able to choose when and whether and under what circumstances to have children. And that means access to abortion. It means access to contraception. It means access to vasectomy procedures if people want that. It means access to a full range of reproductive health care no matter who you are — if you're in a same sex relationship, no matter what your gender identification is. We want that freedom. It's a bedrock freedom, and I think it's time that everybody in the political system recognizes that and take it as the kind of high value that it really is.”

Jacobson argued that it is essential to enlist men and other allies to protect reproductive rights. One in five men in the U.S. have impregnated someone who has had an abortion

"About half of these men already had children and supported ending the pregnancy to better provide for their existing family," according to one report

Jacobson said that men are typically passive supporters of reproductive rights, and that has to change. 

“The mere act of men speaking up and lending their voices will normalize the idea (of abortion). This is to shift the culture and bring the majority of men who are pro-choice more actively in this fight. So I think it's really important that guys do share their story and do raise their voices.”

Three Vermont men shared their abortion stories on this episode of the Vermont Conversation.

Carl Werth of Waterbury Center recalled when his college girlfriend became pregnant. 

“She did not want to carry a baby, and neither of us wanted to be responsible for one. … If we had had to have the child, if it was a forced birth as they say, I think it would have dramatically changed the path of both of our lives.”

Werth said of the role that men should have in an abortion, “100% they should be supporting what the woman wants to do. Because it's her body. Period.”

Jon Williams, a grandfather in Waterbury Center, said he and his wife decided to have an abortion when they were in their 20s. He said the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade is “absolutely nuts.”

“A lot of women and families are in the position where an unplanned pregnancy could be absolutely devastating to the family. It's just such a fundamental right,” Williams said.

David Bolger, a school teacher from Moretown, is unapologetic about the abortions that he and his girlfriend had in college. 

“I don't feel regret it at all,” Bolger said.

He and his girlfriend Amy broke up after college but got married 20 years later. 

“That was when we were really so ready and able and capable to do a good job … at raising a family,” he said. “And we have.”

“It was Amy's right to choose, and we talked a long time about it. And I absolutely supported her in that decision, and I'm glad. I still have no regrets about that whole thing,” Bolger said.

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: david@vtdigger.org

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