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To my two exes who could have been the fathers of my children if I hadn’t had an abortion:
I keep expecting something in the mail every Father’s Day. A tasteful bouquet, some AMC movie vouchers, a 3-dimensional $8.99 collaged Papyrus card that reads, “Thank you for shouldering the major burden of reproductive responsibility and choosing to have an abortion so that we could both move forward with our lives.”
I don’t expect anything big ― just a token of acknowledgment that shows reproductive justice is an essential focus for you. I assume it is your focus not just because the ability to decide when to have a child is an essential human right, but because of the profound positive effect that at least one specific abortion had on each of your lives. In fact, I hope it has become so important that you can’t help but think of me, and justice, and Planned Parenthood’s funding, as the horrors of this nation’s Supreme Court reveal themselves.
I used to wish that all of my exes would wander a desert island for eternity, whimpering my name. Perhaps as a byproduct of being happily coupled myself, I can now honestly say I am overjoyed that both of you seem to have carved out lovely lives for yourselves, romantically and otherwise ― lives that would’ve been hugely derailed had things gone differently in high school and college, respectively. So I want to take a moment and say that I see you, and I am proud of you. But mostly, you’re welcome for my choice to have abortions.
I think it’s important that I get acknowledged by each of you individually for what I have done for you, so here’s a little high-level refresher of what you can thank me for.
Not-baby daddy #1: You have gone on to have a successful career as an actor, a feat that would have been near-impossible if only because of the child support that would have leeched those funds you used to pay for that MFA in theater arts. We would have a 25-year-old child. Let that sink in. Instead, you will likely get to star opposite 25-year-olds for several more decades. The world being a patriarchal cesspool aside, I am truly happy for you. And I feel proud that I did not rob you of your adolescence and your big dreams.
Not-baby daddy #2: After our on-again-off-again college romance, which was based largely on sharing mix CDs and a passion for historical sociology, you returned to your high school sweetheart and, as far as social media reports, you have been blissfully happy ever since. Thanks to me and the kind staff at Planned Parenthood, there is not a human-shaped reminder of that blip in your epic love story. Mazel tov!
Gifts aside, I want the three of us all to take a moment for gratitude. We are all happily married. We had children when we were ready. This abundance of agency is because of a simple medical procedure that is now under constant attack. As parents, we need to make sure our children also get to have this choice.
The political utility of understanding abortion as a right of people who have uteruses is important. It is also important that cis men step up and talk about abortion as something that affects them, and something they will fight for. Not in a way that centers cis male experiences ― i.e., please do not actually write thank-you cards, because that might make you seem like a hapless douche. But do stay invested in a way that acknowledges that people do not just end up pregnant by themselves. Everyone benefits from a society where families can be decided on, a society in which we understand abortion for what it is: a necessary medical procedure.
I hope, as I write this, that we share an insistence on framing this conversation as one of reproductive justice, not merely abortion rights, and I know that we have a lot to learn. For reproductive choice to exist, we must also have opportunities for all pregnant people, regardless of race, class, citizenship or gender, to go down any road they want with the support of social programs, including adoption services, prenatal and postnatal care, paid family leave and state-subsidized child care. All of these are noble, interrelated causes for all of us to focus our energies on.
I attended a counterprotest for an anti-choice rally where one of the signs read “Men regret the loss of fatherhood.” I cannot tell men what they regret, but my guess is this is a rather rare circumstance, and that a whole lot more men feel the opposite way. It is time for those men (you two included) to show up for reproductive justice. Probably not with a bullhorn, but with your bank accounts and with your bodies.
I am a bit tired, at this point, of the way many people who support abortion rights talk about abortion in hushed tones, earnestly calling it the “hardest decision a woman ever has to make.” Hi, person with a uterus here ― I have made many more difficult decisions in my life than terminating my unwanted pregnancies. Decisions like where to live, what to study, whether I should stay in a relationship, how to earn a living, how to address injustices big and small. I am glad more people are participating in #shoutyourabortion and other campaigns that shift the dialogue and take us off the defensive.
So, instead of being apologetic or defensive for this life-affirming medical care, I am going to be grateful (as I hope you are too). Grateful for the access I had to safe, affordable abortions when I needed them. Grateful for the life I have now. Grateful that I get to choose whether you remain in my life or not, without that decision affecting the life of a child. I am going to be vigilant in my pro-abortion rights stance ― and I know you are too, right?
So this Father’s Day, or on our abortiversary, cancel that Edible Arrangement and increase your monthly donation to reproductive rights orgs. I don’t expect anything lavish; even a small percentage of what you’d be paying in child support should do. During that free time I gave you by having an abortion, you can volunteer as an escort at abortion clinics. Go to rallies and give out water and sunscreen. Show us that your brand of masculinity is vastly different from the Bretts and the Clarences.
Support people with uteruses. Those of us who have one have been doing it for too long.
Thanks in advance,
Not your baby mama
“Caroline Jones” is the pseudonym of a writer, mom and fluffy dog enthusiast who lives with her planned children and her well-vetted spouse.