Thursday, December 8

Why this gay male Ohioan cares passionately about abortion rights [COMMENTARY]

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by J. Bennett Guess, Executive Director, ACLU of Ohio

I am a gay man who understands that abortion access is fundamental to my own freedom.

I know, for some, that might seem like a confusing dotted-line to connect when it comes to a same-gender-loving man, but I have long understood the strong correlation between bodily autonomy and civil liberties. Abortion rights matter to all of us.

Unless, and until, you have ultimate control over what you can do with your body and what is done to it – including your sexuality, your reproductive organs, your choice to procreate or not, and your access to information about your sexual well-being, health, and options – then you are under someone else’s subjugation. And, as we are seeing play out now, an unchecked government will gladly fulfill that role.

In Ohio, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a six-week abortion ban took effect immediately, sending our state into crisis. The ACLU of Ohio fought back in state court, and was able to get the ban temporarily blocked by a judge, but we know anti-abortion politicians will stop at nothing to once again restrict our reproductive rights. In fact, the Attorney General has already filed a notice of appeal in our lawsuit, signaling the state’s desire to ban all abortions in Ohio.

It’s never lost on me that the same persons, organizations, and religious groups that oppose abortion rights are the very same ones that vehemently oppose birth control and safe-sex education, including any mention of LGBTQ existence. In short, those most against abortion have no interest in helping you not get pregnant. At first glance, it feels like an oxymoronic stance. But on deeper inspection, you discover their real motivation: attacking and impugning all sexuality, no matter its expression.

Moreover, the same crowd that insists that people with uteruses must carry all pregnancies to their ultimate conclusions is the same group that is constantly gutting our nation’s safety net programs for the poor and vulnerable, with children always the first and worst impacted. Anti-abortion crusaders aren’t pro-child; they are pro-patriarchy. Power over women’s lives and decisions is their ultimate objective.

“Abortion is Healthcare”

The same people who malign LGBTQ+ persons as sexually deviant are equally malevolent about women who seek reproductive care, including contraception and abortion. They think they know us and our stories, and can label us however they choose. They use religion to clobber us. They seek to steal our personal agency. But they cannot and shall not prevail.

All genders and gender identities, of all sexual orientations, need and deserve reproductive health care.

My husband of more than two decades, and I, made a shared decision that raising children was not something we were called to do. We have long considered that a deliberate, even sacred, choice. Other gay men and lesbians I know have wanted to raise kids for as long as they can remember. Both are equally valid choices, made in the best interest of the well-being of children. Both can be honored and celebrated.

I know women, both married and single, who have decided to continue an unplanned pregnancy. I also know women who have had abortions due to a variety of factors, including the well-being of other children. Both decisions are sacred, ethical, and worthy of respect and legal protection.

Let’s be clear: the judicial overthrow of Roe v. Wade is about restricting access to abortion, yes, but it’s rooted in more governmental control over our bodies; what we do with our bodies; and how, why, and with whom we make love with our bodies.

Ironically, some anti-abortion theorists now want to prevent you from even having children. My now-adult niece and nephew were conceived by my sister via in vitro fertilization (IVF). That was a reproductive choice on her part that resulted in two beloved children, but now, post-Roe, many willing, would-be parents fear that IVF procedures could be banned under the guise of a “pro-life” argument protecting all embryos. It’s as absurd as it is frightening.

Subjugation is the opposite of freedom. Be it patriarchy and misogyny, or homo/transphobia and heterosexism, those of us who care about personal and bodily autonomy will always advocate for full-options reproductive health care, especially today as we see abortion access being severely restricted in state after state.

Every attempt to undermine abortion rights should be met with full-throated opposition, most especially from the LGBTQ+ community, because we – of all people – should know what the real motivation is.

We’re not going back. None of us.


J. Bennett Guess, a United Church of Christ minister, is executive director of the ACLU of Ohio.

About Author

The Buckeye Flame welcomes guest commentary from LGBTQ+ Ohioans in support of our mission to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging LGBTQ+ Ohio content that chronicles our triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in these pieces belong solely to the author of that individual piece, and not necessarily to the The Buckeye Flame.

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