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.
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,
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.