Monday, January 28, 2008

Men's Abortion Rights: What Will They Think of Next?

By Sherrie L. Porter, Communication Intern

January 18, 2008

The religious right has fought hard to chip away at women's rights and personal freedoms for decades. Over the years, we have faced a range of attempts – some successful - to take away a woman's control over her body. Men's abortions rights, the newest disturbing trend in the battle to undermine Roe v Wade, claims that men are "victims" of abortion.

The idea of male victims stems from the concept of "post-abortion syndrome" -- a nonscientific term coined in the 1980s by abortion opponents who claim that women experience psychological trauma after terminating a pregnancy. While there are no long-term, credible research studies, proponents of this creatively named "condition" claim it leads to depression in women, as well as alcoholism and drug addiction.

In a recent Los Angeles Times piece, "Changing Abortion's Pronoun," writer Stephanie Simon sees the political calculation behind the curtain: "Abortion is one of the most common surgeries in the country, with more than 1 million performed a year; while some who chose the procedure surely come to regret it, doctors say they see no epidemic of trauma in either men or women."

Despite the lack of evidence for post-abortion syndrome in either gender, anti-abortion advocates suggest "lost fatherhood" can lead to domestic violence and an addiction to sex. Both claims seem to suggest a rationale for men behaving badly. Men, they suggest, experience symptoms of post-abortion syndrome equally if not more powerfully than women. Male victims throughout the country are sharing stories of "their abortions." In November, anti-abortion activists met in San Francisco for what they boasted was "the first ever conference on the effects of abortion on men."

In the movement for men's abortion rights, Ohio legislators are attempting to make headway. Ohio house bill 287, seeks to give a man the legal right to decide whether or not the woman he impregnates should get an abortion and would make it mandatory for all women to have the written consent of "the father of the fetus" before she can go forward with the procedure. Under the same legislation, rape and incest victims would need a police report to "prove" they need an abortion. As for a woman who does not know (or doesn't want to reveal) who the man is, she would be unable to elect the procedure. Anyone, including doctors, who violate the bill would be guilty of "abortion fraud" and charged with a misdemeanor.

"If a woman wishes to include a man in her decision about whether or not to continue a pregnancy, she may do so. But the state cannot mandate that she do so," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Requiring a 'permission slip' for abortion would mock the right guaranteed in Roe v. Wade."

Ohio HB 287 was introduced by Republican State Rep. John Adams in July 2007 and now sits at the desk of the House Health Committee. While it is unlikely that the bill will set sail--due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is not Constitutional--NOW activists are working across the country to fight the continual assaults on women's reproductive autonomy.

"What the extremists really want is an end to all abortion and birth control, severely restricting the personal, medical decisions of every woman in the U.S.," said NOW Action Vice President Melody Drnach. "While we will fight this legislation and every other attempt to deny our reproductive rights, we will not take our eyes off of the very real and dangerous fight that these extremists are waging against women."

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