Most US states that prohibit or severely restrict access to abortions were voted on by male politicians. Should men have the right to decide on a problem that affects women so intimately?
The corridors leading to the Alabama Senate are filled with black-and-white photographs of previous legislative sessions – each poster framed as a yearbook page for an exclusively male school.
But inside the obscure public gallery, looking at the Senate floor, many of the seats are occupied by women. They are young and old, some in suits and some in bright shirts with pro-choice slogans stamped on the front.
They watch the drama in the chamber below, while a handful of Democrats and even fewer women make clear their outrage at the abortion ban, which will pass in just a few hours and, in a day, will become law.
The activists next to me at the gallery laugh and sigh at every argument and respond. Some shout one & # 39; Amen! in agreement as the debate continues.
When a female legislator arrives at the microphone, she says, "We do not police men's bodies the way we police women" – and that decision on a subject related to women so intimately is being made almost entirely by men.
Although women represent 51% of Alabama's population, its legislators are 85% male. There are only four women in the Alabama Senate, with 35 seats, and they're all Democrats.
Outside the white walls of the State House on Tuesday night, however, the women were the majority. Groups of pro-choice advocates shouted for hours on the patio, holding up posters asking for abortion freedom, for single women to decide what happens to their own bodies.
Delaney Burlingame, one of the young pro-choice activists I met there, told me, "These people do not care about protecting human rights. It's about women's control."
"They just want to be able to say," I control what happens in your body. "
So should men be involved in this debate?
The ban on abortion in Alabama – one of several that occurred in a surge in the anti-abortion legislation – rekindled the debate over another important issue: Should men be involved in this battle?
Internet forums like Reddit and social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are saturated with arguments for both sides. Yes – these laws affect everyone, including men. No – just women get pregnant, so why should we let men decide?
Travis Jackson was one of the few men who participated in the protests outside the Montgomery Capitol Building, wearing a shirt that said: Real men support women's rights.
But Jackson did not offer his opinion on abortion, saying he prefers to be silent on the details, since "women are the only experts when it comes to their bodies."
"When it comes to the abortion debate, I think men should say it's the woman's right to choose," he explains.
"This is their body, that is their choice, and that is their business. No man has the right to tell a woman what is right for their bodies."
Jordan Kizer is against abortion but says he thinks Jackson's decision is "honorable" and that men should "share their privilege."
"Believe in women, trust women. If they are saying that they feel a certain way or that this is their experience, you [as a man] do not say no, it's not, "he says.
Kizer is part of the New Wave Feminists group in Austin, Texas, which seeks to promote women's rights as a means of making abortion "unthinkable and unnecessary."
"I think a woman should absolutely have a say on her body, I just trace the line between her body and this different body that is inside her body," he says. "I know it's a tricky distinction for some."
On the other side of the debate, Oren Jacobson, one of the founders of the Men4Choice group, also believes that the issue affects everyone – but that male allies must strive for women to be free to make whatever decisions they choose.
"Many pro-choice men think this is just a question of women, and it's not their place. This is a question that affects all of us, and will require everyone to engage if we want to create a society where all are free to pursue the life they imagine for themselves and their family. "
Mr. Jacobson tells me that the question is not really about abortion, but about freedom and control.
"No person can be free if he does not control his own body, his own health and his own reproductive decisions. The role of men is to advocate for the basic freedom and dignity of all people."
Anti-abortion activists, however, argue that placing the burden of choice entirely on one woman pushes men apart and allows them to avoid paternity responsibilities.
Derrick Jones, the communications director of the nation's oldest anti-abortion group, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said men should participate in the discussions because "statistically speaking, half the aborted children each year are men."
"To say that this is a totally woman issue does not make sense to be much bigger than that.It is a human rights issue.To say that you are a man, you are not carrying this child, to reject the idea that men may have an opinion on human rights is insulting. "
Jones adds that there should be "absolutely" more female representation when it comes to legislative bodies like Alabama, but notes that many of the leaders of the anti-abortion movement are women.
Women are so divided over men
Carol Clark was one of the first protesters to appear outside the state house in Montgomery, and she stayed the night, until the bill passed in the Senate.
"Let a woman choose what she's going to do with her body," she told me, her voice choked with emotion. "It's not his body, it's her body."
This view is echoed by most of the women I spoke to in the Alabama protests; that women must dictate abortion laws because women must carry the baby, they must deal with the social and medical repercussions of pregnancy and have a child.
But on the streets of downtown Montgomery – and in many other US states with conservative leanings – there are many women against granting that choice.
Some have nuances – like a mother who could only say she was against abortion but who was "complicated" – but others are as harsh as some Republican lawmakers – like two young women who told me that abortion should be banned even in cases involving rape, incest or the mother's health.
Catherine Coyle, a psychologist and health and human rights advocate, says giving "unilateral power to women in abortion decisions is inconsistent with the notion of gender equality."
"As equal citizens [men] "As co-creators of life, they should be recognized as having a legitimate interest in protecting that life," she said. "As co-creators of life, they should be recognized as having a legitimate interest in protecting that life," Coyle said.
Where are the majority of Americans?
For the whole debate, abortion across the country is practically the same, even along the lines of gender.
According to a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center, 60% of women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 57% of men agreeing.
About 60% of black and white Americans interviewed also supported legal abortion in most cases, although support was lower among Hispanic Americans by 49%.
But along pro-choice or anti-abortion lines, a 2018 Gallup poll found the country divided equally. Even among women, 48% identified as pro-choice and 47% as anti-abortion.
Gallup also reported that while "around eight out of ten Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or in some circumstances, a deeper analysis of their attitudes finds the public favoring laws that are more restrictive than less restrictive."
Are men really making these laws?
It is true that in states with more conservative abortion laws, men make up a larger percentage of legislative houses.
In Alabama, although the governor who signed the abortion bill is a woman, the Rutgers University Center for Women and Politics (CAWP) still rates Alabama as 47 out of 50 in terms of women's representation in the legislature.
And while women saw big gains in public office during the 2018 mid-term elections, the vast majority of these new female legislators were Democratic supporters of pro-choice laws.
A Washington Post analysis of the state legislatures of Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia found that out of 367 votes in favor of abortion bans, seven of the eight votes were men – mostly Republican men. Of the total 154 votes against in the chambers, more than half were women, although most of the women legislators, even at the state level, are Democrats.
In the four states that have passed the six-week abortion bans – "heart rate bills" – this year, women make up an average of 23% of the state legislature, according to the CAWP. Mississippi is the lowest in that group and the country, with women occupying just over 13% of the seats.
Even so, anti-abortion activists are quick to point out that the Alabama ban was sponsored by state Congresswoman Terri Collins and sanctioned by one of the country's few governors, Kay Ivey.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of the New Wave Feminists, adds: "The irony is that they were older white men who gave us Roe [vs Wade] first of all."
"We tend to choose which older white men we want to agree on. You have to go further and realize that a lot of people [anti-abortion] movement are very diverse, and we are women. "