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Book by mom of six puts onus on men to stop unwanted pregnancies

Writer Gabrielle Blair argues that irresponsible ejaculation by male partners is an often-overlooked cause of unintended pregnancies.
Ben Blair
Workman Publishing
Writer Gabrielle Blair argues that irresponsible ejaculation by male partners is an often-overlooked cause of unintended pregnancies.

During Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2018, writer Gabrielle Blair was watching — and going "absolutely bonkers, just hearing man after man grandstanding about abortion."

"It's so clear to me they don't understand the issue," Blair told NPR. "They don't understand that real people are going to be affected by this, that it affects both wanted and unwanted pregnancies like that. They just don't really understand what's happening here and they're just using this as a political tool."

Venting her frustration on Twitter, Blair described herself as "a mother of six, and a Mormon." In a thread that quickly would go viral, Blair explained why she was "convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion."

Blair unpacks that argument further in her new book, Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion, out this week from Workman Publishing.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Sarah McCammon: I'm sitting at this coffee shop; your book is on the table next to me. I'm not getting any looks yet, but let's start with that [title, Ejaculate Responsibly]. Why is it called that?

Gabrielle Blair: It's a bit of a prescription and it's also an argument...It's called that because I'm trying to shift the conversation about abortion away from controlling women's bodies and legislating women's bodies, and instead focus on the fact that men are not held accountable for causing unwanted pregnancies.

SM: You describe yourself as a Mormon mother of six on Twitter. Can you tell me why you choose to highlight that? Do you think people are surprised to hear a "Mormon mom" making this pitch?

In her new book, writer Gabrielle Blair places the responsibility for abortion squarely on men.
/ Workman Publishing
Workman Publishing
In her new book, writer Gabrielle Blair places the responsibility for abortion squarely on men.

GB: I'm both pro-choice and Mormon, and I'm comfortable identifying with both of those. But I know people make assumptions about me. If I mention that I'm a Mormon, if I mention that I have six kids — which I do — I know that people will be more likely to listen to me that might have differing political opinions ...even though they may not agree with me politically.

SM: How do people who disagree with you, and maybe are a bit more conservative than you, tend to respond to your perspective?

GB: Very positively. Because the reality is, what are they going to argue against? They want men to ejaculate irresponsibly? Who's going to argue for that? So as I walk them through and describe like, hey — we know how to reduce abortions. This is how it works. And we could do a lot better if we were focusing on men understanding that they are causing these pregnancies. That sperm causes pregnancy. That ejaculation is voluntary, while ovulation is involuntary. We could do a lot better. And if you're sincerely interested in reducing abortion...there is nothing in this book that you wouldn't be cheering about.

SM: There is a certain type of rhetoric on the left that says we should not stigmatize abortion, we should not talk about making it "rare." How do you think about that?

GB: I'm pro-choice. I think women that want or need an abortion should be able to get one whenever they want or need one. But I can also say I've gone through six pregnancies and I found pregnancy extremely difficult. And I'm saying that as someone who had a "normal," typical pregnancy with nothing unusual that happened. I still found it very difficult. And I found the first trimester especially difficult. And so if I could reduce abortions...I would do that, simply because it could prevent women from experiencing this very difficult thing that they didn't want to experience in the first place, that they didn't choose to experience. And so while I'm not worried about abortion numbers, for me, if abortion numbers went down, that would mean I'm relieving a burden from women, or that a burden is being released from women, and also that men aren't treating women's bodies so casually.

SM: [You argue that] "Men can easily prevent abortions and choose not to." What makes you think that men choose not to?

GB: Men have full control of whether or not they cause a pregnancy in that only a man can decide whether he's going to release sperm and where he's going to release the sperm. That's always his choice. And so if men didn't want to cause a lot of pregnancies, they could easily stop causing unwanted pregnancies. They could reduce or eliminate abortions out of unwanted pregnancies simply by ejaculating responsibly. They could do this without touching abortion law, without even mentioning women. They could do this completely, just by again choosing to ejaculate responsibly or legislating, you know, responsible ejaculation, if that's what they want to do. They choose not to. They choose to focus on women.

SM: Are there interventions or policies that you think would move the needle?

GB: If you included free vasectomies among all the birth control choices and made them free and easily accessible, that would be huge...I think the other thing we need is a social campaign that talks about the reality of vasectomies. They are much safer than tubal ligations, which is the comparable form of [permanent] birth control for women. Vasectomies are much less risky, but there are far more tubal ligations performed in our country than vasectomies, because there are a lot of myths and stigmas around vasectomy. Men really worry that they're not going be able to feel the same during sex, that their erection won't feel the same, that their orgasm won't be the same, and they don't want to risk that.

And I get it. But when you talk to an actual urologist, when you talk to men who have had vasectomies, these concerns really dissipate quickly...I think it could become an assumption that men are going to ejaculate responsibly, they're going to have a vasectomy, they're going to use a condom — that this is just a given that they're going to ejaculate responsibly. And I think we can get there. I know we can.

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Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.