Where Are Men’s Voices in the Fight for Women’s Health?


Written by Rob Okun

Now that the public outcry has died down over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s ill-advised and short-lived decision to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s time to consider men’s role in this and other recent women’s health controversies.

In the heated debates that have boiled up recently over birth control and abortion, the loudest male voices have once again been those who want to restrict women’s health care. An all-male panel of Catholic bishops and conservative men testified unanimously to Congress that women who work for Catholic employers should not have access to no-cost contraception. Fortunately, a White House compromise on birth control–to have insurance companies, not employers, foot the bill for birth control–caught the Right flatfooted.

Soon after that brouhaha, in an incredible overreach, the Virginia legislature proposed that women seeking abortions undergo a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound. Although he had a chorus of conservative male legislators lined up behind him, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a favorite of Pat Robertson, walked back his initial support of the bill. At Gov. McDonnell’s request, the Virginia legislature removed the transvaginal ultrasound mandate, and the bill has now passed.

What more encouragement do we men need to add our voices to a debate so vital to the lives of the women in our lives?

Unfathomable as it may be to many citizens, we’re likely to have more such debates in the near future. And the fact remains that men’s voices have been too few and too soft when it comes to speaking out about women’s breast health, birth control and abortion.

To me, it’s manly to speak out alongside our sisters and mothers, wives and daughters. Too much is at stake for men to stand mute while sideline blowhards go after the women in our lives–first their ovaries, then their mammary glands.

Consider the politics of the Komen situation–who isn’t in favor of breast health? On top of advocating for the women in our lives, men get breast cancer, too: My wife’s cousin David was diagnosed three years ago. It’s in men’s interest to acknowledge these are community issues, not women’s issues.

Last summer my wife and I joined our cousin for seven of the 60 miles he walked to Boston to raise money for the Komen foundation. At the end of our leg of the walk, we wrote a check to the Komen foundation in his honor. We were delighted he was two years cancer-free. And I said a prayer of gratitude for my wife–healthy and strong 21 years after her own bout with breast cancer.

But now, despite Komen reversing its decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood, I am still angry that the foundation inserted politics into a nonpartisan issue–publicly working on behalf of one aspect of woman’s health while privately working against another. What if it were men’s health on the line instead of women’s? Would men stand silently by as other men introduced draconian legislation and clogged the airwaves and blogosphere pompously insisting that father knows best? Come on.

Too often, though, instead of speaking out on behalf of women’s rights, men remain bystanders. Are we fearful we’ll be put down, castigated as a mangina instead of celebrated as a mangina warrior? Remember the bumper sticker “Keep Your Laws Off of My Body?” It’s not just a slogan for women. Deep down, men know that an assault on women is an assault on us, too. But unless more of us are willing to raise our voices, we risk ending up like the boys who were banished to the back row of middle school chorus. You know, the ones who were ordered to mouth the words while the others sang.

I know it’s possible for men to sing out on these issues–as the editor of Voice Male magazine for the past 15 years, I witness them doing so every day. Want to know where you can start? A new initiative by Men for Women’s Choice has a series of action steps men can take in support of women’s health rights. There’s too much at stake to stay silent. It’s time to open up our mouths. It’s time to sing.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.


Related Stories:

Rep Steve King: States Can Ban Contraception

Fluke Fights Back Against Limbaugh’s Smears

Congress Calls Birth Control Hearing For Men


Photo from garryknight via flickr


Fiona T.
Fi T3 years ago

Please give at least respect to them

Lika S.
Lika S4 years ago

It's funny... The Tea Party wants to fight about not paying for birth control. yet they don't want to pay for babies out of wedlock, because God forbid you have an abortion...

Thing is, then why is viagra covered? So the men can keep impregnating the women? Yes, it's the same issue... So, if you want less pregnancy, then offer birth control along with the viagra, OR, quit covering viagra!

T.L. H.
T.L. H4 years ago

The point was that men are less likely to be involved but read these for more info.





LD B4 years ago

Male and female circumcision, while bearing the same name, are two quite different things, done for different purposes and generally done at very different ages.

T.L. H.
T.L. H4 years ago

I've noticed it too.In the movement to give males the same protection from circumcision as females have under federal law most of the people involved are women so maybe men just aren’t as interested in fighting for human rights because it isn’t considered “manly” to fight for human rights.

Scott A.
Scott A.4 years ago

I personally think that a “Men for Women’s Choice” Deserves a group for us to join to give our support.
My first glance at the link that went to The Michael Kaufman FB page led me to believe that this is a SCAM to get us to your site to purchase your books… I personally think that this is a valid cause and needs to have a Group page...Just my Opinion...
I hope this is remedied very soon...

LD B4 years ago

A fact lost on some who would restrict access to birth control. We've already had, in either this or a similar thread, one who attempted to argue for such restriction based on such conflation of risks. While that was not the only factual flaw in her argument, it was the one which provided a necessary basis for submitting it.

Sandra L.
Sandra L4 years ago

Fair. While there is a significant difference in the risk factors of traditional hormone therapy/usage and the bio-identical hormones, that is going well off topic here.

LD B4 years ago

Conflating the two leads to several potential problems, in that it provides the opportunity for those who would bar the one can claim that:

1) Its opposition is insufficiently understanding of matters of fact, as evidenced by its failure to make the distinction;
2) Its opposition engages in a deliberate attempt to deceive, as evidenced by its failure to make the distinction; or,
3) That the risks of the one are the risks of both.

Sandra L.
Sandra L4 years ago

I'm not sure why there would need to be such a fine distinction made, unless it would be used to deny access to the use of hormones for birth control.