One of the first cases that came up after Roe affirmed that women could make their own decision. Planned Parenthood v. Casey asked whether or not a woman had to tell her husband before she got an abortion. Why? Because the idea that she needed permission was an extension of our patriarchal society, the notion that a woman is chattel and does what a man says. I’ve raised my daughter to never, ever seek a man’s approval for anything.
I used to joke that I was a shotgun-and-shovel kind of guy: If you’re coming to my house to date my daughter, you better be hands-up and have packed a lunch because it’s going to be a long day for you. But I evolved because as she got older, I realized that I didn’t want to insulate her—I wanted to equip her to make the best choices. Now I tell her: You do whatever you want as long as it’s on your own terms. And if you’re not sure, you can talk to me or talk to your mom (she’s the smarter one anyway).
The cascade of abortion bans completely contradict what I’ve told her that her reality should be. I’ve always tried to make her feel assured that there are no limitations on who she wants to be. That nobody gets to define her except herself. This is not about being pro-choice or pro-life—that’s not an accurate reflection of what this fight is about. This is about pro women’s choice and anti women’s choice. There are people who believe women should not have this choice. That’s what motivated her to go down and march—her fear for herself, her future.
I let her go to the march. She stopped by my office afterward, safe, tired, and hopeful. My fears, however, haven’t dissipated. I worry, of course, that she’ll lose the right to control her body and reproductive health. But increasingly that’s the least of my concerns. If we allow our society to decide that people don’t have determination over their lives, their futures, their bodies, where does it end? Where will that lead us? If you can tell somebody, “I’m sorry, sweetheart, you can’t have this procedure,” what’s next? We don’t know. Maybe: We’ve decided we don’t like physical augmentation either; we don’t like you changing how you look because it’s not how God made you. We’ve decided you must always submit to men, to your husbands, because that’s what scripture says. And on and on.
I’m also afraid for her generation and how this might jaundice their views of our democracy. What is a more powerful and corrosive way to make people not want to participate than to rob them of their most personal, intimate, and profound choices? How can we move forward when a generation could feel so disempowered from making decisions?
The parenting struggle I have now is that I have to help my daughter understand that she lives in a society that doesn’t necessarily agree about what’s best for her. That’s not easy. I tell her she has a right to feel the way she does, and that sometimes you have to fight for things that you shouldn’t have to fight for at all.
But I’ve also told her I will fight with her. I will ask men to stand alongside her and her fellow protesters. Nobody’s saying we want abortions because we’re in the people killing business. Nobody’s happy to have an abortion. We’ve had difficult pregnancies, we’ve had things not go our way. We’ve had to agonize about what to do. We know the pain of it. My wife had to suffer, and I suffered by her side. There’s a pain in the powerlessness of how little we men can help.