Quick Hit Op-Ed Tuesday June 21st, 2016, 5:01pm

Op-Ed: Choice Is A Right We All Must Defend

The following is written by Oren Jacobson, executive director and co-founder of Men4Choice, "an organization that serves as a point of entry for young men to join the fight to protect and expand women's reproductive rights and make choice a voting issue for men."

In November 2010, Tea Party-aligned politicians swept into office at all levels of government under the guise of reducing government influence in our daily lives. That promise was quickly broken by many of those elected, who have since seemed more interested in using the authority of the state to severely limit access to reproductive health services and marginalize the women who make use of them. During the last 6 years, we have actually seen as many anti-choice pieces of legislation adopted by the states as the previous 15 years combined. In 2015, at least one piece of legislation was filed per day that would strip women of their basic rights.

These efforts aren't simply about preventing abortions, though. They are actually designed to make it harder to access basic health care and contraceptive services. For example, Planned Parenthood's abortion services make up roughly three percent of the organization's work, but that hasn't stopped anti-choice legislators from pushing to defund this vital organization that helps millions across the country receive affordable, critical healthcare.

That's only made worse by the fact that these legislatures are dominated by men, who make up 70% of elected officials. An elected body of men is asserting its control over the bodies of women in states across this country. While anti-choice men are working tirelessly to restrict access to women's reproductive healthcare, too many pro-choice men are sitting on the sidelines, or are totally unaware of what's happening. That's why Men4Choice was founded. That's why Men4Choice is needed.

Most men don't know that a woman's employer may have the right to dictate what type of medication she can use. Most men don't know that many state governments force women to wait up to three days before undergoing a safe, time-sensitive medical procedure. Most men don't know that such laws punish the poor at disproportionate rates, as a woman may have to miss multiple days of work, secure childcare, and travel a great distance for a procedure that in most states is not covered by Medicaid. Most men don't know that some states force women to endure a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound before they can exercise their constitutional right to choose.

If this is news to you, you're not alone. A little more than a year ago I was right there with you. I'm pro-choice, but for a long time, I just assumed that everything was fine and Roe v. Wade - the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that identifies medical privacy (the decisions we make with our doctors) as a right guaranteed by the constitution - ensured safe, legal access to reproductive healthcare for all women.

Apparently not.

There isn't a male legislator who would vote for comparable invasions of their own lives. However, this is what they are doing to the women who live in their states. They are making it as hard, humiliating, and expensive as possible to exercise fundamental constitutional liberties. At this point, it's not only about choice or access to reproductive health care.

It's about justice.

Our wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, and friends deserve to have the same level of control over their bodies and lives that we do. That's what freedom is. That's what self-determination means. That's what respect requires.

Our mission at Men4Choice is to engage, educate, and activate men to support the fight to protect and expand reproductive rights. We are an entry point for men to get involved. Join us at men4choice.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch.

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