“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
On November 20, 2018, Mississippi Judge Carlton Reeves ruled the Gestational Age Act was facially unconstitutional and argued it was an attempt to establish precedence to overturn Roe v. Wade. In his ruling, he concludes,
“The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court. As Sarah Weddington argued to the nine men on the Supreme Court in 1971 when representing ‘Jane Roe,’ ‘a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life.’ As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.”
Those who claim to be “pro-choice” often espouse practices that perpetuate inequality. Subjective logic is predisposed to fallacious judgments. While I disagree with Judge Reeves’ ruling, I can understand why he felt his judgment was confined to upholding the Supreme Court’s ruling according to the law. The purpose of this article is to kindly disprove the Judge’s implication that men are somehow unqualified to speak to, or rule on, women’s rights issues, specifically, abortion. This notion that men are not allowed to speak to the issue of abortion seems intended to intimidate men into silence.
Judge Reeves remarked that the irony was not lost on him that the Act was signed into law by a man, noting the irony applied to himself as well, as he too, ruled on the issue. He wrote,
“As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion.”
His implication is that, because a man can not get pregnant or seek an abortion, he is not qualified to rule on the issue of abortion. This is a non-sequitur. One can implement sound judgment on specific issues’ effects. While it is true men do not experience carrying a child in the womb, neither do women experience parenthood from a father’s perspective. Based on faulty logic, women would not be qualified to rule on men’s issues.
Judge Reeves then references Roe’s attorney Sarah Weddington’s argument to the nine men who sat on the Supreme Court during Roe v. Wade, as Roe was decided by a panel of male judges. Judge Reeves acknowledges that it was in fact nine men who ruled on Roe v. Wade, and yet, he ironically does not reprove that instance. Why condone the fact that a panel of nine men ruled on an abortion case in Roe v. Wade but decry the fact that men ruled on another abortion case when it pertained to the Gestational Age Act? Judge Reeves implied in his ruling that the Gestational Age Act was a clandestine attempt to establish precedence in an effort to overturn Roe. He writes,
“The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
What disqualifies a man from ruling on an abortion, or, “reproductive health” case, as Judge Reeves referred to it? According to Judge Reeves, men’s gender and the fact men cannot carry a pregnancy or seek an abortion renders them unable to decide scientific, medical, moral, or legal matters regarding abortion. By that fallible reasoning then, are women who have had hysterectomies no longer qualified to speak to the issue of abortion? Are infertile female judges not qualified to rule on cases regarding abortion or reproductive health? Does the same irony noted by the Judge apply when a female judge rules that a man must submit to a paternity test? Respectfully, the faulty logic that Judge Carlton Reeves enforced in his ruling raises these very questions.
Laura Klassen, of Choice42, points out the obvious fallacy of this same logic in her parody video, “No Uterus, No Say.” Watch the video here.
During women’s suffrage, it was not argued that men could no longer enforce laws because of their gender. Similarly, during the civil rights movement, it was not argued that the racial majority could not legislate the civil rights of minorities. Instead, something far greater occured: true equality. Women are now legislators and honorable Judges as a result of the women’s movement. Women now preside over cases involving men. Susan B. Anthony said,
“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.”
Despite the majority of representatives were predominantly white men during both women's suffrage and the civil rights movement, those men were not prohibited from enacting certain laws but were called upon to provide due process and constitute laws for those who had no voice. So should the men sitting within the court of law today enforce legislation to protect those who have no voice. It should not be argued today that those who cannot give birth should be disqualified from ruling on reproductive health male or female. Such discrimination is a step in the wrong direction.
Instead, legislators and judges, regardless of gender, have the Constitutional, legal and moral duty to be a voice for the voiceless. To imply men are barred from holding moral opinions on abortion, which does affect them as well, denies science and discourages empathy and virtue, such as responsible fatherhood, supporting women in crisis, protecting life and women's health from the harm of abortion.
The real irony is not men legally ruling on women’s rights issues but judging that a woman’s voice is more important than the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable among us. I might not likely have the education to be writing this article today were it not for the voices of early pro-life feminists, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Who knows what opportunities have been afforded to today’s women which we might never have known were it not for the voices of women before us.
We did not disregard Rosa Parks because she was not a man. We heard her voice because she was justified in her actions. She took a firm stand and her defiance against injustice sparked the civil rights movement; one of the most monumental movements in American history. The movement was lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who became a voice that changed the future of the United States forever. When a voice rises up on behalf of the persecuted, all that matters is that the afflicted finally have a voice, someone to fight for them. The gender of such a voice is irrelevant.
“The happiest people I have known have been those who gave themselves no concern about their own souls, but did their uttermost to mitigate the miseries of others.”
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton
“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”
“Do not be silent; there is no limit to the power that may be released through you.”
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.