Men’s Voices Dominating Media Coverage Of Reproductive Rights Is A Huge Problem. Here’s Why…


If there was any doubt the war on women’s reproductive rights was real and growing increasingly aggressive, all you have to do is look at the furious rate of laws being proposed and passed almost every day.

Although we are seeing some vindication for women whose access to safe and legal abortion as well as other vital reproductive healthcare services are being preserved by judges across the country, don’t be fooled thinking that the anti-abortion laws being struck down are deterring close-minded politicians from abandoning this ridiculous fight.

The state of Florida just voted on advancing a piece of legislation that would criminalize abortion procedures, which is not only unconstitutional but very near-sighted. We’ll get to the reasoning of why this, and many other laws proposed and passed are near-sighted in a minute.

However the day before this news came out, we heard the two people responsible for the string of undercover videos reportedly showing Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the sale of baby parts for a profit were indicted by a grand jury in Texas, the same state which currently has a very important case before the Supreme Court, arguing the restrictive HB-2 bill is also unconstitutional and places unnecessary burdens and restrictions on abortion doctors and clinics.

North Dakota is the latest state to have a Supreme Court strike down not just any anti-abortion law, but the most extreme by far. The ND law “fetal heartbeat” law ruled any abortion performed after a heartbeat was detected in a fetus (which is most commonly discovered at 6 weeks, making this law clearly ridiculous and outlandish) would be illegal. The law was brought about in 2013 but thank heavens for the Supreme Court ruling which had enough oversight to see how unconstitutional this was.

In many stories like this, the issue is framed from a political point of view, and at best, scientific. It is very rare that the every day voices of women whose live are affected by abortion and restrictive repro rights laws are being heard in mainstream media. And this is where the issue of near-sighted-ness is important.

There is one particular type of voice that dominates the national conversation about abortion, and everyone else’s voice is merely a defense, or a justification of certain outcomes. That voice is male, usually Caucasian, and predominantly religious. This is not an exaggeration. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio made news recently for assembling some sort of a “pro life advisory group” which would help shape his ideals and policy-making strategy about abortion laws. This is probably the furthest we have seen a politician go to ensure they dominate the political and social landscape of abortion in the United States.

Because we are so used to seeing white, religious men take the lead on this issue, whenever a pro-choice voice speaks out, it is seen as scandalous, controversial or going against the social grain. Women are shamed and condemned for daring to share their pro-choice views, as in the case of viral hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion founders Lindy West and Amelia Bonow. Their bold social discussion showcased perfectly how polarizing this issue is. The hashtag was hailed by progressive groups as a means to give women a voice, but the women were also forced to go into hiding and call upon law enforcement after vicious harassment was directed their way.

It was a watershed moment in the current battleground for women’s reproductive rights, which we believe really started back in 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that for-profit employers could choose not to provide birth control in their insurance packages because of their own religious beliefs. That, coupled with the (now debunked) Planned Parenthood sting videos and the 2016 Presidential campaign, has ensured abortion is 100% a political chew toy.

A recent report released by the Women’s Media Center confirmed just how biased this issue is even in the media. They found that male voices and perspectives eclipsed female ones.

“When it comes to stories about abortion and contraception, women’s voices are systematically stifled – as writers and as sources. In articles about elections and reproductive issues, men’s voices prevail, especially in coverage of presidential campaigns, with male reporters telling 67% of all presidential election stories related to abortion and contraception,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center.

That means we find it uncomfortable when women speak affirmatively about their abortion experience, because we’d much rather hear it from a male, negative perspective as has been happening. WMC conducted an in-depth review of 1,385 news stories, columns, op-eds and editorials about reproductive issues published between August 1, 2014 and July 31, 2015. The research focused on 12 high-circulation media outlets and widely used wire services: Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Reuters, San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press, The Denver Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today.

The men dominated not only as journalists but also as sources quoted. Female journalists wrote just 37% of articles about reproductive issues while their male counterparts penned 52%. Another 11% did not have bylines. Quotes from men account for 41% of all quotes in articles about reproductive issues while quotes from women account for just 33%.

WMC co-founder Gloria Steinem said it should be the other way around, given that reproductive issues affect women more than men.

“The American public — and especially women — deserve accurate, informed and experienced media coverage on reproductive health, state and federal legislation, abortion and contraception,” she said.

This is not something to just gloss over, dear readers. It is important to understand just how the dominant voice of the media and politics is playing a dangerous game with an issue that is A) none of their business, on a general level, and B) should not be used as a weapon because when you point a weapon at someone, they will fire back.

Despite a Gallup poll from May 2015 showing how the majority of Americans are pro-choice for the first time in 7 years, if you believed every “authoritarian” voice in the media and government you’d think the opposite. We want to be part of a generation that gives voice to everyday women who are sick of the stigma of abortion and their personal reproductive and sexual health choices. It’s one of the reasons we believe the presence of political figures like Hillary Clinton is so important, as she has been fighting not only to protect repro rights, but introduce legislation to expand them.

In light of the need for more women to raise their voices about abortion in order to break down stigma and cut through false rhetoric peddled by conservative politicians (e.g, that women use abortion like birth control, despite the fact that the majority of women who get abortions in the US are married women with who already have at least one child), the Center for Reproductive Rights created a powerful video campaign (shown throughout this post) called ‘Draw The Line’ where celebrities such as OITNB’s Dascha Polanco, actress/director Elizabeth Banks, ‘Parks & Rec’s Rhetta, and ‘The Leftovers’ actress Amy Brenneman share real life abortion stories on behalf on real women who have had abortions.

In a sense it is mirroring what is happening with the SCOTUS HB-2 Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt case where the judges are hearing numerous testimonies from women who have experienced abortions, including politicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, mothers and more, in a bid to bring back the human voice and reality of the abortion landscape today.

Draw The Line was launched right before the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, January 22, in a bid to empower more women not to be afraid to speak against the dominant voice in this issue.

“For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has said the Constitution protects a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her health and family, including abortion. Now the Court must reject political schemes to prevent women from acting on these personal decisions. The health of millions of women in Texas—and across the country—is at stake. We’re asking you to stand with us against political attacks on reproductive health care and say: This is where I draw the line,” says the description on the campaign’s website.

They want any woman who has had an abortion to join a community of supportive and non-judgemental women by sharing your story with the organization. Some of the stories shared by the celebrities on behalf of the women in the 7-part video series talk about women being bullied and shamed, sharing thoughts of parenthood being a choice, not a punishment, being made to feel like a criminal, and sharing what a difficult decision it was.

These are the voices and stories that should be dominating the national conversation about abortion, not someone like Marco Rubio and his cronies who are on some pseudo-religious agenda to get elected by tapping into the sensibilities of the Evangelical voter base. Therefore, we are sharing these videos in the hope it will encourage any woman considering abortion, or who has gone through one and felt silenced or shamed, to know you are not alone. You are not a criminal, and you are not a murderer. This is one of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever have to make, and we want to be a media platform dedicated to protecting a woman’s voice, and her choice.

The final question and challenge we have for anyone who refuses to budge on their view that abortion is murder: would you be willing to put your energy toward reforming an adoption and foster care system which sees thousands and thousands of children slipping through the cracks each year into a life of poverty because adoption is so expensive, complex, and biased? Would you be willing to lobby for a paid family leave law and raising the minimum wage to ensure women never have to choose between their family or their job? And would you be willing to reform our hideously archaic sex education system where only 22 states out of 50 require public schools to teach comprehensive sex ed, but only 18 of those states are required to teach medically accurate information? Would you be willing to admit that states which teach abstinence only and subsequently producing the highest rates of teen pregnancies is causing a major problem which is of far greater importance than fighting over abortion laws?

To see all 7 videos from the ‘Draw The Line’ series click here.


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