Sunday, July 31, 2022
By Prof. Margaret Drew, UMass Law School
This is the time that women need allyship.
Advocates for women cannot afford to be apologists. In the world of intimate partner violence, advocates found themselves speaking in gender-neutral terms. This is appropriate when including the high abuse rate suffered by gay men. Lesbian and trans women are included in the victim population when advocates discuss violence against women. But when advocates discuss violence against women in heterosexual relationships, they typically begin with this caveat or its equivalency: "While most victims of IPV are women, we acknowledge that men can be victims also." True enough but the percentage is small. This form of gender "neutrality" is a significant tool of female gender erasure. When discussing cisgender male-female relationships, the insistence on using gender-neutral language in IPV discussions is part of the trend to erase women as the primary focus of intimate partner violence in heterosexual violence.
I am concerned that an even more significant erasure of women is happening as part of the abortion discussion. The Dobbs decision was an exercise in misogyny. The majority opinion makes this clear. The celebration of those with strong religious ties stems from the misogyny of many organized Christian religious sects and their doctrine. When advocates argue that Dobbs was an anti-female decision, trans women are included, as the decision further reduces the status of all women.
The insistence on including references to trans men and others distracts the audience by limiting the discussion to those with uteruses. This deflects from the focus on the deep hatred of women by oppressive jurists and others who are unwilling to recognize misogyny as the driving issue. Male control of women is the underlying social and cultural problem driving the abortion ruling and restrictive statutes.
While some trans, non-binary, and other gender-expansive individuals may and do need abortions, the number is a small minority of those needing abortion services in any given year. While recognizing the numbers may reflect under-reporting, one study reports, "The best approximation, from all known abortion-providing facilities in the United States, estimated that there were between 462 and 530 transgender and nonbinary abortion patients nationwide in 2017." By contrast, another study by the same organization (Guttmacher) reported that in 2017, "862,320 abortions were provided in clinical settings..."
The numbers evidence the problem. If Dobbs discussions were about the procedures of abortion only, then gender language would be inclusive of all with uteruses. But this discussion is much bigger than that. This is about the efforts of men, the male state, and religions, to control women beginning when white Europeans arrived in the US.
Women need the support of trans men and other gender expansive individuals and their organizations to support all women in their anti-discrimination struggles. Our trans brothers, please stand with women.