With Roe v. Wade in question, here's how Philly men can support women's right to choose | Opinion

Supporters of legal access to abortion, as well as anti-abortion activists, rally outside the Supreme Court on March 2, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

On Monday night, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court.  While the fight for confirmation unfolds in Congress, it is incumbent on us to ensure that Pennsylvania is ready for a time that Roe v. Wade — the 1973 decision that affirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion —  may no longer be the law of the land.

If Roe is overturned, women will be the ones hurting — dying, really. Unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide.

Without Roe, abortions won’t go away, but access to safe and legal abortion could become much harder. In 2016, more than 11,000 women in Philadelphia had an abortion. If Roe is overturned or weakened in Pennsylvania, 11,000 women would be forced to travel long distances, delay their abortions further into the term, and seek health care from unlicensed providers.

A legal abortion performed by a trained provider is extremely safe.

For too long men have been complicit in the government’s regulation of women’s bodies. Now is the time for men to take an active role in the fight for a woman’s right to choose. After all, in the words of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the fictional vice president in the HBO show Veep, “if men got pregnant, you could get an abortion in the ATM, let’s state the obvious.”

Here’s how men in Philly can support reproductive rights in our city and beyond.

Vote and make abortion a key issue.

In our commonwealth, there is a consistent and unrelenting effort by Republicans to restrict abortion.  Thankfully, Gov. Wolf vetoed abortion bans that passed the legislature.

For Elicia Gonzales, executive director of the Women’s Medical Fund, a Philadelphia-based organization that helps extremely low-income women who made the decision to terminate but can’t pay for it,  the stakes in the gubernatorial elections are extremely high, “If Gov. Wolf would not get reelected, God forbid, Pennsylvania absolutely could mirror Mississippi in our restrictive abortion laws.”

Imani Gandy, a senior legal analyst at Rewire.News, also stresses the importance of voting. “At the state level, what really people can do is to vote Republicans out of office.”

As the 2018 state elections and 2019 municipal elections near, we need to remember that a woman’s right to choose is not a settled issue. First, make sure that you are registered to vote here. Then make sure that you call on candidates and ask them to promise:

  • To vote against or veto any abortion-ban bill and targeted regulation on abortion providers.
  • To support the use of Medicaid funds for abortion.
  • To refuse to fund fake women’s health centers. 

Also, call Sen. Bob Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, and demand that he promise to vote against the confirmation of any Supreme Court nominee at least until the midterm election.

Don’t underestimate the power of local elections.

“In the absence of a moral center in Washington, D.C., and our Congress, cities are now the centers of innovation, progress, and morality,” City Councilwoman Helen Gym told me. According to the Local Freedom Index of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Philadelphia is among the top five cities out of the 40 evaluated. Gym says she is proud of the city’s commitment to reproductive rights and the pro-choice stance of many members of City Council and delegations to Harrisburg and Congress.

“I think that there is more that we can do here in our city,” she said. One of Gym’s recommendations is “expanding municipal coverage or funding for all aspects of reproductive health, which may include abortion.”

Don’t just tweet, donate.

Not all states would be equally impacted by an overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“States like California, Washington, very blue pro-choice progressive state are going to be fine,” Gandy explains. “If the court overturns Roe, California is going to say ‘well, come here for your abortions!'”

Traveling, however, is not cheap. This is why, according to Gonzales, the tine to donate is now. “We want to be able to create funding pools, whether it is a funding pool for travel and lodging, whether it is a funding pool to be able to provide child support, or whether it is a funding pool to be able to help somebody offset the cost of the actual procedure.” You can make a donation to the Fund here.

Put your body on the line so that women can choose what to do with theirs.

Every day, women in Philadelphia who seek an abortion and other services from clinics are met with anti-choice protesters who are there to intimidate them. You can volunteer as a clinic escort with The Women’s Center.

Educate yourself.

Explore the Pennsylvania page on the Guttmacher Institute website, watch TRAPPED, a documentary about the fight against targeted regulations on abortion providers that led to a Supreme Court ruling, read Dr. Willie Parker’s book Life’s Works about being a Christian abortion provider in the South, and/or listen to the podcast Boom! Lawyered.