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Reproductive Health: Not Just a Women's Issue

Shelli Weisberg,
ACLU of Michigan
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April 12, 2011

In a sea of Planned-Parenthood-pink during a visit with Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow during the Stand Up for Women’s Health Lobby Day, a young man raised his hand and asked the million dollar question – why should men be involved in the fight for women’s reproductive health?

It was a good question, with a complicated answer, but one that would be a game-changer for women’s equality.

Sen. Stabenow answered that men have to share responsibility for birth control in a relationship and men have to be concerned about sexually transmitted infections.

And it’s so much more than that.

So how do we answer the question for this obviously enlightened young man and those like him who rode a bus for 12 hours from Detroit to Washington, D.C., to spend six hours at a rally defending family planning?

Men, who now dominate congressional leadership, are in the position to make decisions that most critically affect the reproductive rights of women in America. Women have never come close to representing our 51 percent of the population in elected positions and the 2010 election cycle was especially brutal across the nation with regards to equal representation.

And as much as we hate to admit it, we exist in a society where decision-making power and earning power continue to be dominated by men. Therefore:

  • We need men, especially those in political leadership positions, to recognize the key role they play in bringing about gender equality.
  • We must acknowledge that gender has a fundamental influence on the health choices available to everyone. Simply put, this is not just a women’s issue.
  • We must remind our male friends that changes in knowledge, attitudes and behavior are necessary conditions for achieving equality. It’s vital that men become goodwill ambassadors of a woman’s right to choose by discussing with each other and their elected officials the shared responsibility of sexual and reproductive health.

At the end of the day, reproductive rights of both men and women are fundamental; however it is women’s reproductive health that is paraded in the public for political gain.

Although we may not have all the answers, it’s clear that we can’t win the fight for equality without men. Therefore our direct engagement of men in our fight to get politicians out of our medical decisions is vital to our success.

There were a large number of men at the Rally for Women’s Health and it’s up to us to keep up the momentum and grow the list of men waving the flag for choice.

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