Douglas Emhoff Wants Men to Stand Up for Abortion Rights—He Should Start With Joe Biden!

Emhoff is hosting an event in Atlanta to call on more men to care about abortion rights. Great! But has he considered starting at home with his wife’s boss? 

Douglas Emhoff Wants Men to Stand Up for Abortion Rights—He Should Start With Joe Biden!

Men should care about abortion rights. Duh. So, I’m all for Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff—Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband—hosting an Atlanta-based event with Men4Choice on Tuesday to call on more men to stand up for abortion rights. But what I will say is that Emhoff is starting with the wrong men. Has he considered calling on President Joe Biden, the most powerful man in the world, to try standing up for abortion rights, first?

Per NBC, Emhoff’s event is timed to the fifth anniversary of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signing the state’s six-week ban into law and is in partnership with health care providers and local activists. The audience is “expected to be made up primarily of men and will include some students from Morehouse College.” It will be the first of several events hosted by Emhoff and Men4Choice, with more to come in states including Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina—all of which are competitive (or somewhat competitive) purple states that have recently enacted abortion bans. In January, Emhoff observed the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—which was overturned in June 2022—by telling Esquire, “I look at this issue as a father, as a son, as a husband, and I’m still enraged about this.” 

“If you’re a man, and you’re looking at having a family or you have a family, these issues completely impact how you’re going to live your life. I’m at an age right now where I’ve got a group of guy friends who all have daughters and some of those daughters are still of college age, and you’re thinking about what if your daughter wants to go to college in one of these states like Texas with a ban?” Emhoff said. All true! But I can certainly name one man Emhoff probably has in his contacts who might have a little more power over all of this than a male college student.

As the Biden-Harris campaign increasingly centers abortion rights and its overly vague pledge to “Restore Roe,” neither the president nor vice president seems particularly capable of specifying plans to protect and expand abortion in a nation where over a dozen states have totally lost access to care—nor do they seem particularly interested in even saying the word abortion.

In fact, almost every time Biden speaks on abortion, he seems incapable of doing so without simultaneously insulting abortion patients, or just falling back on pithy but hollow liberal slogans. In February, Biden declared to a room full of rich donors, “I’m a practicing Catholic. I don’t want abortion on demand, but I thought Roe v. Wade was right.” It closely reflected a similar statement from Biden last summer: “I’m a practicing Catholic. I’m not big on abortion. But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right.” Perhaps the most insane thing about these two nearly identical statements is that they’re just… wrong? A majority of Catholic Americans support abortion rights, so the insinuation that Biden can justify his disdain for a standard medical procedure by citing his Catholic faith is bullshit. Then, there’s the fact that Roe did not, in fact, “get it right”—that Supreme Court decision still left far too many people vulnerable to massive barriers and even the threat of criminalization.

I’m all for more American men mobilizing for abortion rights—they should be donating to or volunteering with abortion funds, supporting organizations that protect pregnant people targeted with criminalization, talking to other men about abortion rights, voting for local and state-level candidates who will protect and expand abortion access in their communities. But what is Biden going to do to help people living in states that have banned abortion? What is his plan to stop escalating attacks on abortion pills? Stop prosecutors from trying to jail people for pregnancy loss? What is his plan for any of these issues beyond “I am not Donald Trump”?

A fundamental principle of organizing is that change starts at home, in our own communities, between us and the people we’re closest with. So, it’s great that Emhoff is trying to get more men to care about abortion but has he considered starting at home—the White House—with his wife’s boss? 

We clearly don’t need to tell Biden’s campaign that abortion is important—they know and that’s why they’re running on it. But it’s one thing to run on Roe, on niceties and slogans, and another to actually get proactive and wield everything in the executive branch’s arsenal to get people the abortion care they need.

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