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Alabama abortion ban: Should men have a voice in the debate?


10 Senators of the State of AlabamaImage copyright

Most US states that prohibit or severely restrict access to abortion have been chosen by male politicians. Should men have the right to rule over a problem that has a very intimate impact on women?

The corridors leading to the Alabama Senate are lined with black-and-white photos from the previous legislative session – each framed poster like a yearbook page for male schools.

But in the dim public gallery, looking at the Senate floor, many seats were filled with women. They are young and old, some are in suits and some are brightly dressed with pro-choice slogans on the front.

They watched the drama play in the rooms below, when a handful of Democrats and a small number of women clarified their anger at the ban on abortion that would pass in just a few hours, and in a day, would become law.

The activists next to me in the gallery laugh and gasp with every argument and answer. Some shouted "Amen! & # 39; in agreement as the debate continues.

When a female MP moves toward the microphone, she says: We don't polish a man's body like we watch a woman – and this very close decision about women's problems is almost entirely made by men.

Although women make up 51% of the Alabama population, 85% are male parliamentarians. There are only four women in 35 Alabama Senate seats, and all of them are Democrats.

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Media informationThe new law in Alabama makes abortion illegal in almost all cases

Outside the white walls of the State Building on Tuesday night, however, women are the majority. Pro-choice support groups chanted for hours on the lawn, holding signs calling for freedom of abortion, for women themselves to decide what happened to their own bodies.

Delaney Burlingame, one of the young pro-choice activists I met there, told me: "These people don't care about protecting human rights. It's about controlling women."

"They just want to be able to say: & # 39; I control what happens in your body & # 39;"

So, should men be involved in this debate?

The ban on abortion in Alabama – one of the few steps in the Trump era in anti-abortion legislation – has revived the debate around another key question: Should men be involved in this battle at all?

Internet forums like Reddit and social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are filled with arguments for both parties. Yes – this law affects everyone, including men. No – only women who are pregnant, so why should we let men decide?

Travis Jackson was one of the few men who joined the protest outside the Montgomery capitol building, wearing a shirt that read: real men support women's rights.

But Mr Jackson will not offer his own opinion about abortion, to be precise, saying otherwise he prefers to remain silent on specific matters because "women are the only experts in their bodies".

"When it comes to the abortion debate, I think men must say it is the right of women to vote," he explained.

"It is their body, it is their choice, and that is their business. No man has the right to tell a woman what is right for their body."

Jordan Kizer opposed abortion but said he thought Jackson's decision was "honorable", and that men should "share their privileges".

"Believe in women, trust women. If they tell you they feel certain things or that this is their experience, you [as a man] don't say no, no, "he said.

Mr Kizer is part of the New Wave Feminist group in Austin, Texas, which seeks to promote women's rights as a way to finally make abortions "unthinkable and unnecessary".

"I think a woman must really have a voice on her body, I just draw a line between her body and this different body that is in her body," he said. "I know it's a kind of difference that is difficult to make for some people."

On the other side of the debate, Oren Jacobson, founder of the Men4Choice advocacy group, also believes this problem affects everyone – but male allies must fight so that women have the freedom to make whatever decisions they choose.

"Too many pro-choice men think this is only a matter of women and that is not their place. This is a problem that affects us all, and will require all of us to get involved if we want to create a society where all are free to pursue the life they dream for themselves and their families. "

Mr Jacobson told me that the problem was not about abortion, but freedom and control.

"No one can be free if they don't control their own bodies, their own health care, and their own reproductive decisions. The role of men is to advocate for the basic freedoms and dignity of all people."

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Media informationDina has to give birth to her rapist – under the ban on abortion Alabama women will have no choice

However, anti-abortion activists argue that placing the burden of choice entirely on a woman alienates men and allows them to avoid responsibility for being a father.

Derrick Jones, director of communications for the oldest US anti-abortion group, the Committee on the Right to National Life (NRLC), told me that men should be involved in discussions because "statistically, half of the children aborted each year are men man ".

"To say that this is entirely a matter of a woman skipping points about it is far greater than that. This is a human rights issue. To say, you are a man, you do not bring this child, to reject the idea that men can have opinions about human rights are insult. "

Jones added that there should be "really" more female representation when it came to legislatures like Alabama, but noted that many leaders of the anti-abortion movement were women.

Women are just as divided about men

Carol Clark was one of the first demonstrators to appear in a state house in Montgomery, and she stayed until the night, right until the bill passed the Senate.

"Let a woman choose what she will do with her body," he told me, his voice bursting with emotion. "This is not his body. That's his body."

That view was echoed by most of the women I spoke to in protest in Alabama; that women must determine the abortion law because women must contain babies, must deal with the social and medical effects of pregnancy and have children.

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Media information"Abortion is not good" – women in Alabama reacted to the bill passed there

But on the streets in downtown Montgomery – and many other US states with conservative tendencies – there are many women who refuse to make that choice.

Some are nuanced – like a mother who can only say she is against abortion but it is "complicated" – but others are just as hard as some Republican lawmakers – like two young women who told me abortion must be banned even in cases involving rape, incest or maternal health.

Catherine Coyle, a psychologist and advocate for men's health and rights, said that giving women "unilateral power in abortion decisions is inconsistent with the notion of equality between the sexes".

"As equal citizens [men] "You should have the right to voice their opinions on the topic of abortion," Coyle said. " As co-creators of life, they must be recognized as having legitimate interests in protecting life. "

Where do most Americans stand?

For all debates, the view across the country about abortion is largely the same even along gender lines.

According to the 2018 Pew Research Center study, 60% of women said abortion must be legal in all or most cases, with 57% of men agreeing.

About 60% of black and white Americans surveyed also support legal abortion in many cases, although support is lower among Hispanic Americans at 49%.

But along the pro-choice or anti-abortion line, a 2018 poll from Gallup found the country divided evenly. Even among women, 48% were identified as pro-choice and 47% were anti-abortion.

Gallup also reports that although about "eight out of 10 Americans believe abortion must be legal in all or some circumstances, further investigation of their attitudes finds that people prefer laws that are more restrictive than non-restrictive".

Do men really make this law?

It is true that in countries with more conservative abortion laws, men constitute a greater percentage of the legislature.

In Alabama, even though the governor who signed the abortion bill into law is a woman, the Center for American Women's and Political Universities Rutgers (CAWP) still places Alabama ranked 47 out of 50 in terms of women's representation in the legislature.

And while women see a huge advantage in holding public office during the 2018 midterm elections, most of the new women MPs are Democrats who support the pro-choice law.

A Washington Post analysis of state legislative houses in Alabama, Missouri and Georgia found that out of 367 who supported the abortion ban, seven of the eight votes came from men – and most men from Republicans. Of the total 154 votes that were opposed in the rooms, more than half came from women, although most women MPs even at the state level were Democrats.

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Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey signed the anti-abortion law into law

In four states that issued a six-week abortion ban – "heart rate bills" – this year, women make up an average of 23% of the state legislature, according to the CAWP. Mississippi is the lowest of the group and country, with women holding more than 13% of seats.

Even so, anti-abortion activists quickly pointed out that the Alabama ban was sponsored by the state congressman Terri Collins and signed by one of the country's several female governors, Kay Ivey.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of the New Wave Feminist, added: "The irony is that the older white people who gave us Roe [vs Wade] in the first place. "

"We tend to choose and choose which white man we want to approve. You have to go beyond that and realize that there are many people in this matter [anti-abortion] His movements are very diverse, and we are women. "

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