Credit - Jason Andrew for TIME
Greg Horwitch recently had a conversation with a white Kentucky man in his early 70s, and Greg had no idea that the man would be pro-choice. He discovered the case was more complicated as he questioned the man, who was born and raised in the South and had first intended to become a Catholic priest. He claimed to have never needed an abortion. Horwitch recalls that no one he knew ever mentioned having an abortion. Being against abortion was a given. But now he has considered issues like, "Would my daughter have access to the medical treatment necessary to preserve her life if she were pregnant and something went wrong medically?"
When Horwitch understood that Kentucky was voting on a constitutional amendment that would change the state constitution to reflect that it does not contain the right to abortion, he says the man recognized that abortion had not occurred to him as a political issue until this year. The individual ultimately expressed ambivalence on abortion but pledged to vote against the amendment and even signed up to call other voters who shared his views.
The two men spoke on the phone as part of a campaign by the network Horwitch co-founded, Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation, and the advocacy group SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), which is collaborating with pro-abortion activists in Kentucky to mobilize one million voters against Amendment 2 before the election. But
Progressive activists, scholars, political strategists, and candidates for office have begun to try to engage male voters with messages about abortion rights in the four months since the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization struck down a constitutional right to abortion. Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was considered a specialized, women's issue. It was frequently seen as peripheral to important elections since proponents could fight legislation that did not uphold the protections provided by that decision. The sentiments of male voters on abortion, however, are critical to the results now that abortion regulation has been restored to the states and has changed political elections across the nation.
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According to Gallup polls, about eight out of ten Americans believe that abortion should be permitted in some situations. This support has remained consistent throughout time. However, despite the fact that men are included in that support, researchers discovered that they frequently lacked the necessary communication skills or believed that women should take the initiative on the subject. According to Angela Vasquez-Giroux, vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the biggest organizations in the country advocating for abortion rights, "It's not so much that [guys] weren't supportive, it's that they weren't vocal about it." "What we're seeing now is a new part of that eight out of ten have been given a cause to get active," said the author.
Campaigners have been experimenting with new messengers in abortion-related advertisements and with various methods of advising males on how to speak about the topic in order to take advantage of this enthusiasm. Male doctors, male pastors, and a male narrator all appeared in ads for Sweet's Kansas campaign that framed the amendment as a "government mandate." She aired advertisements there on the History Channel and Fox News, which she refers to as "dad channels." Her campaign is advertising on Fox News and ESPN, while the Kentucky campaign debuted two new commercials on Tuesday with a similar male preacher and narrator.
Male characters have also been used in abortion-related advertisements in other campaigns this year, in locations as disparate as Arizona, Minnesota, and Texas. After the Dobbs ruling, Civis Analytics, a forward-thinking data science business, started examining how male messengers fared. Political data scientist Josh Yazman at Civis discovered that while traditional pro-abortion advertisements featuring mothers discussing having an abortion after their first child resonated well with women, those featuring men born after 1981—what he refers to as "bros"—were more effective with other voters. Conrad, a younger man with "flowing hair," appeared in an advertisement that his team tested where he expressed concern about the ladies in his life after Dobbs. The brother was performing far better with some of those demographics, such as males, Republicans, rural voters,
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Oren Jacobson, the creator of Men4Choice, a nonprofit that strives to inform and mobilize men in favor of abortion rights, claims that having men converse to one another about abortion rights is "essential" to their buy-in as "stakeholders" rather than just "allies." We must acknowledge the fact that males haven't been paying attention to women in this society for far too long, argues Jacobson. "We think that other men are the most effective and compelling communicators to help shift men's minds about this."
Choosing the appropriate men's messages
- The message itself is just as important as the messenger.
Keeping one's freedom from governmental supervision is one of the concepts that campaigns claim appeals most to males. This served as a major campaign issue for the group opposing the amendment in Kansas, known as Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. According to Sweet and Horwitch, it's also effective in Kentucky. According to Vasquez-Giroux, NARAL's study has also revealed that this framework is effective for men since "it's not so oriented on the physicality of the body." It enables males to consider the problem from an independent perspective, which they may already support. There are some people who outright state that they don't believe that abortion would be healthy for them or their
Ryan Irvin, the co-founder of Change Media Group,
which produced advertisements for candidates who favor abortion rights this year, claims that highlighting the positions of anti-abortion politicians and activists is another effective message. It has been a really, really crucial aspect, he claims, to highlight how radical some of the positions of some of the people we're supporting have been. The "Call Bulls**t" campaign, which encourages guys to use "regular guy speech" to call out "the men in power who are using their power to control women's bodies," is one of Men4Choice's most successful initiatives, according to Jacobson.
Credit - Jason Andrew for TIME
Appealing to men's worry and willingness to support the women in their life who may be impacted by abortion prohibitions has shown to be a successful third message. The majority of abortion messages, according to Bryan Bennett, a pollster at the progressive data company Navigator Research, still have a 10-point lower impact on men than they do on women, with the exception of those that emphasize forcing women to carry pregnancies to term in appalling conditions. For instance, a Navigator poll conducted in late September revealed that 83% of Democratic women and 77% of Democratic men viewed Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposed nationwide abortion ban to be extremely or somewhat disturbing. would mandate that women bear pregnancies for nine months even if they knew the child wouldn't live, while other messages had more pronounced gender differences.
Strong statements about how the state's abortion ban could harm women were more effective with men than less urgent messages, according to the Civic researchers who tested messages related to Kentucky's proposed constitutional amendment. Additionally, their national polling revealed that young men were more likely to support abortion rights if they knew someone had an abortion. Men are "powerfully driven" by the thought of assisting women, according to NARAL as well.
According to Jacobson of Men4Choice, many men engage in the discussion in this manner because it is how they have observed other men, particularly politicians, discuss the topic in the past. His organization, which annually offers a number of organizational fellowships for males between the ages of 18 and 25, works to help men get past framing that may be considered "paternalistic" by "meeting people where they are," he adds. Long-term, it involves culture change work, according to Jacobson. It's teaching a new generation of males how to approach this issue differently.
Some groups specifically embrace men of color who have not traditionally been part of abortion rights campaigns. A NARAL poll in Georgia recently released by EMC research found that 86% of Black people opposed the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and 79% against the state's six-week abortion ban. Civil rights leaders and generational
rights leaders discussed the need to promote this group in a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris in September, and Planned Parenthood has set up a food truck to talk to voters on the weekend at Spelman and Morehouse College in two historically Black communities. colleges and universities in Atlanta. At least half of this summer's Men4Choice campaign team identifies as people of color, according to Jacobson, and the group is collaborating with Planned Parenthood to run ads targeting Black people in Atlanta during the last stretch of the media cycle.
Yazman says this is important because researchers at Citizens have found that people of color who support reproductive rights are what he calls "pro-choice but persuasive" — susceptible to both sides. In preliminary research in states with abortion ballots, millennials and Gen Z citizens found men of color were more likely than other groups to see targeted ads. "They want to support restrictions if they hear a compelling argument about abortion restrictions," he said. "They tend to revert to more natural pro-choice views when they hear the news that aligns with their pro-choice views."
For this reason, abortion rights advocates around the country are working to urge people to have an impact in the medium term - but also potentially big impacts in the future.
“The next goal is to beat this amendment,” Horwitch says of Kentucky's amendment 2. “We're also laying the groundwork for future political growth, and I think we need a broader understanding of the interest of ordinary people in protecting abortion rights, fighting for things that seem universal. health care and just greater knowledge of the collective state.
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