I am a Privileged Gay Man, and Yes, I Want You to Care about Abortion Rights!

Miles Noecker (minoecker@ursinus.edu)

I’ve been trying to find a balance between being involved with this fight while centering the voices of those whose rights are on the line. Abortion is a central issue for women, nonbinary, and trans people and their voices too often go unheard in politics. [And yes, the irony of writing an op-ed while simultaneously claiming we should listen to more marginalized voices is not lost on me.] As a cis gay man, the overturning of Roe v Wade has not impacted my rights to bodily autonomy (or the rights of potential partners) – at least not yet. To me, it’s precisely because of this point of relative privilege that it’s important to be involved in defending the right to choose.

There’s been a lot of talk of what conservative politicians will do next: targeting human rights founded on the right to privacy like access to contraception, gay marriage, even interracial marriage. I agree with the sentiment that we ought to be worried about what other human rights are being threatened, but it’s important not to lose focus on the fact that abortion rights are being stripped away right now. And activism can save abortion rights right now, while protecting other human rights from being stripped away. The overturning of Roe v Wade could be the start of decades of horrific human rights violations in America or it could be a moment of mass mobilization where the people demand better. I’m fighting for the latter. 

As president of UC Democrats, I’m doing everything I can between now and Election Day to convince my peers to vote for pro-choice elected officials. Now that abortion is a state-by-state issue, I believe my activism is best served by safeguarding human rights in my home state. Given the extremist Republican majority in the PA state legislature, it is crucial that not only do we elect another Democratic governor in Josh Shapiro to maintain veto power, but we also elect pro-choice PA state legislators to weaken the GOP’s ability to attack abortion access.

In response to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, Republicans in the PA state legislature are attempting to outlaw abortion through an amendment to the state constitution. To do so, they need to pass a ballot measure for a future election (they’re aiming for the spring 2023 primary) where it will be on PA voters to decide if abortion access remains legal in the state. The governor, Democratic or not, will have no say in the matter. Only pro-choice state legislators can prevent a ballot measure from occurring in an off-year primary election, when voter turnout is at its lowest.

If Pennsylvania can remain an abortion-providing purple state, we can serve as an example of how to combat the new brand of Republican Party extremism, which seeks to limit bodily autonomy, free speech, and voting rights. This can only happen through engaged activism which challenges our peers and institutions to act. 

As students at a private liberal arts college in a wealthy suburb, we are blessed with so many privileges others do not have. So, let’s use them. We need to fight for the people who will be disproportionately impacted by an abortion ban in our state, those whose options will be severely limited if Pennsylvania takes away the right to choose. I don’t mean to imply students of Ursinus College do not and will not need abortions – of course they do and will – but we should recognize that most of our student body has access to resources and information that the most underprivileged of our society do not. Many of us have the capacity to travel out of state to seek healthcare treatment, if need be. But we cannot feel comfortable with that mindset when that is not the reality for so many people across our state (including some students at this school). Let’s use our relative privilege to organize and mobilize instead of sitting idle.

To paraphrase my favorite series, Game of Thrones, I believe everyone has a part to play in the wars to come. My goal is to make sure everyone on campus is aware of the stakes of this election as they pertain to Pennsylvania politics. Pennsylvania elections are competitive contests where every vote counts. It’s a scary time, no doubt, but it’s not a time to cower away from the fight and let politicians silence us. It’s time to get in the game so we can win.