Abortion is a procedure with a dark past. For a very long time, secret abortions performed without the necessary medical competence was the norm, and as a consequence women died or were maimed for life. An absence of safe, legal abortions is still the case in many countries around the world, which is something I vehemently oppose.
I believe that every country that hasn’t already done so should have their abortion laws reformed, so that abortions can be done legally and with complete medical support. I fully support legislation that allows for free abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with a possibility of granting an extension as long as the fetus isn’t old enough to be able to survive outside the womb.
However, I do not support the view that once free and legal abortion is in place we have reached the goal of reproductive freedom. It’s true that free and legal abortion bestows reproductive freedom, but only upon half the population. We’ve liberated women by making available abortions that are safe, legal and in many cases included in medical insurances or government funded health care. Men however, have no rights and no freedoms whatsoever vis-à-vis abortions.
Men and Abortions
If a woman becomes pregnant, then the woman can choose to have an abortion, even if she and her partner had agreed beforehand to have the baby. Similarly, if a couple has agreed to get an abortion in case of an accidental pregnancy, the woman can decide to keep the child and make the man pay child support for the next 18 years! No method of contraception is 100 percent safe, so accidental pregnancies do happen regularly.
These facts lead to a scenario where the woman has all the power, all the rights and all of the freedom. The woman’s decisions are the reproductive destiny of the man, in a very real sense. Every man is expected to trust a woman 100 percent, whether they are carefully planning to have a child, or if the couple is instead trying to avoid a pregnancy.
How can we motivate men to be responsible fathers under these circumstances?
Here’s a breakdown of what pregnancy means for a man nowadays:
- Prenatally, the mother has all the rights. She can keep the child or have an abortion, even if that goes against what the couple had decided beforehand.
- Once the child is born, fathers are expected to take on 50% of the responsibility, and even if the man never wanted the child he will be forced to pay child support.
- In case of divorce, the woman is usually favored by the courts and women win the majority of custody battles.
This is a very confusing situation for men, to say the least. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; you cannot expect men to be responsible if men are not awarded any rights, yet this is exactly what we expect of men in relation to pregnancy.
What’s the Solution?
In my mind abortion is actually one of the “hard” problems of the gender field, i.e. a problem where there is no obvious solution and no obvious way to improve the current situation. I don’t believe in removing the woman’s legal right to decide when and if to get an abortion, since I cannot conceive of how that could be done in a satisfactory way.
Instead, I think we need to focus on cultural values, and how we discuss abortion in society. Instead of saying things like “my body, my choice”, I think we need to propagate the idea that men and women should make conscious agreements on how to handle accidental pregnancies, and then respect those agreements. If no agreement has been made, the potential mother and the potential father should sit down and discuss what needs to be done, from the perspective of all the affected parties.
Abortion is not about the woman having rights and simply doing whatever she feels like doing, even if she’s legally entitled to do so. It’s about taking all the affected parties into account, which include the fetus, the potential mother and the potential father.