Back to News & Commentary

Freedom isn't gendered

Share This Page
January 25, 2008

When I’m asked “why do you work in reproductive rights,” it is hard not to imagine that most of the emphasis is on the word you. As a man, my own right to choose an abortion or to carry a pregnancy to term is not constantly threatened by unwarranted government restrictions. But that isn’t to say the relentless stripping of those freedoms doesn’t directly impact who I am and my ability to live freely in the world I want. It only takes a couple clicks on a computer to see how quickly the rights enshrined in Roe thirty-five years ago (and since then slowly eroded) quickly expand into all aspects of individual autonomy. The decriminalization of gay sex, efforts to protect the right to die with dignity, and all sorts of individual freedoms are indebted to the values borne out of Roe. Roe stands for a woman’s autonomy and equality, and in every definition of myself, those are values I care about deeply. I work for reproductive equality because those rights are everyone’s rights, and attacks on reproductive freedom are exactly that: attacks on freedom that we cannot afford to tolerate.

I began working in reproductive rights as a college student at a local Planned Parenthood clinic. It was a firsthand education that a woman’s safe and equitable access to the full spectrum of reproductive options is an integral part of her dignity and autonomy. A woman’s right to make an informed decision for herself about when and whether to become a parent defines her ability to be a free and equal person in our society. Freedom isn’t gendered; it loses its meaning when we deny its protection to some based on immutable characteristics.

Working in this field can sometimes be depressing, when I look out and see all the scars on the reproductive landscape. When I find myself asking myself, why am I here, I’m reminded of Audrey Lorde’s realization that “there can be no hierarchy of oppressions.” Lorde addressed the commonality among her oppressed identities:

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only…. I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you

.I choose to work in reproductive freedom because it is to me at the core of everyone’s ability to be a productive and equal member of our society. I care about reproductive freedom because I care about freedom, and it is impossible to separate the two apart.

Trevor Lippman is a State Strategies Fellow with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page