The last month has been particularly brutal for abortion rights activists and women’s health advocates, as state after state has proposed and/or passed various bills that restrict abortion access and undermine abortion care. In response, there has been a re-energized reproductive rights movement, with many across the nation stating that they “Stand With Texas Women” or “Stand With North Carolina Women.” But in this response, abortion rights activists have overlooked and dismissed a very important reality: Not everyone who has an abortion is a woman.
Abortion is so often framed as a women’s issue by both those who advocate for abortion rights and those who seek to dismiss abortion as frivolous. And for abortion rights, a movement that took root in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this makes sense. Prior to a deeper understanding and problematizing of gender and the way that it works, in our social construction, only women had abortions because only women could get pregnant. But in 2013, we should know better, and we need to do better.
At this crucial moment for reproductive freedom and abortion access, the abortion rights movement stands at yet another crossroads: How do we adequately address and include those who have abortions but are not women?
We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions. Trans men have abortions. People who do not identify as women have abortions. They deserve to be represented in our advocacy and activist framework. Honestly, I am guilty of perpetuating that harmful myth, both in my rhetoric and framing. I often frame abortion restrictions as misogynistic attacks meant to control women’s reproductive lives, and that is true. But abortion restrictions also affect the lives of people who aren’t women, and they hinder trans men and gender-non-conforming people and others who were Designated Female at Birth (DFAB) from accessing abortion care, as well.