Politics & Policy

Abortion Is Not a ‘Women’s’ Issue Because ‘Men Have Abortions’ Too

And so do transgender people and two spirit people and . . .

Feminists are now arguing about whether or not it’s offensive to talk about abortion as a “women’s issue” because gender is not that simple and men have abortions too.

“We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions,” feminist activist Lauren Rankin stated in July 2013.

Or, as Jos Truitt of Feministing explained: “Trans men have abortions. Gender queer people have abortions. Two spirit people have abortions. People who do not fit into the box of ‘woman’ have abortions.”

In response, abortion funds around the country have already been changing their names and language to be more “gender inclusive.” Last year, “Fund Texas Women” became “Fund Texas Choice,” because, in the words of co-founder Lenzi Scheible, the group “refuse[d] to deny the existence and humanity of trans* people any longer.”

But not every feminist agrees with Rankin and Truitt and Scheible and friends. At the risk of being branded a “cissexist,” feminist essayist and poet Katha Pollitt wrote a piece for the The Nation today daring to suggest that maybe it’s not totally offensive to link being pregnant with being female.

“I’m going to argue here that removing ‘women’ from the language of abortion is a mistake,” she writes.

“In an era where politics is all about identity, as a tool for organizing and claiming public space, are women about to lose theirs? Because after all we’re all just people now.”

Pollitt’s viewpoint may seem unquestionably logical, but the tone and language of her piece clearly demonstrate that she’s worried that she’s being too controversial:

“I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly,” she continues. “That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong—it’s happened before.”

Lest anyone think she’s some kind of uneducated moron, she also opens up the piece by clarifying that she does of course know that “men have abortions” and that “we can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people.”

She even offers a suggestion for how to support them:

“Why can’t references to people who don’t identify as women simply be added to references to women?” she asks.

Great question. Why not? After all, “Fund Texas Women/Transgender/Genderqueer/Two Spirit/Other” sure does have a nice ring to it.


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