Does A Man’s Feelings Matter When His Child is Facing Extermination?

Abortion. Termination. Right to Choose. No matter how you dress it to suit your sentiments, they’re all synonyms for the same thing: a baby is about to die in the womb.

As the abortion debate rages on across the globe, advocates for and against the procedure have largely left one crucial party out of the conversation: the men who are partners in, and equally responsible for the pregnancy.

The business of child birth and child rearing has long been the primary domain of women, but it does not belong to women alone.  Men always have and always will play a crucial role in the reproduction process – and that’s by providing sperm. Even though his role is limited after the incidence of fertilization, it is that act that sparks the genesis of human life.

Why then wouldn’t his thoughts be consulted or feelings considered in the event of a planned abortion in the midst of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy? There are a myriad of reasons, but they all stem from one factor: a bias against men.

Because a man is anatomically unable to carry and birth a baby, there is an emergent doctrine that he does not have the right to choose whether or not his child has the right to draw its first breath or see the light of day. That ‘right’ presumably belongs only to a woman, simply because Nature has blessed her with the equipment to carry out this task. This is dismissive of men on various levels, the least of those being as a potential father and as a human being whose opinions on the procreation process he actively participated in should matter.

So how do people end up with unplanned/unwanted pregnancies?

a)      Condoms fail

b)      People stop taking pills

c)       You’re (both) drunk

d)      Neither party likes the feel of rubber and engages in unprotected sex

e)      1000 other reasons you could think of

And what do you do when one person wants to keep the baby and the other doesn’t?

Here again is the bias against men. If a woman gets pregnant and chooses to have an abortion, there is not much a guy can do about it, other than holding her hostage until the 9th month is up. If she chooses to go ahead and keep the baby against his wishes, he can be hauled into court and made to do whatever the state wishes to serve ‘the best interest of the child.’ From anyone’s perch, a man looks a lot like a pawn in the reproductive game. There are of course exceptions to every rule, and there are men who engage in unsafe sex, littering whole neighborhoods with their seed and spawning legions of half siblings. The focus of this post is not those guys, but rather decent men who find themselves in this quandary for the reasons stated above and actually WANT a responsible role in their child’s life.

In reading up for this topic, I was surprised to find that many men go through the same gambit of emotions leading up to and following an abortion that some women do. In her book Peace after Abortion, author Ava Torre-Bueno devotes a chapter to the effects of abortion on men. She cites the lack of control men feel – their anger at their own legal disenfranchisement from the decision, their guilt about contraceptive failure, and their empathy with their partner. In some cases, “men are confused when their partners are OK with having had an abortion, but they themselves are depressed, guilty, grieving or shame-filled.”

 

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, writes in his article Men Should Be Allowed to Veto Abortions (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/07/22/men-should-be-allowed-to-veto-abortions/)  that  “giving would-be fathers a lack of veto power over abortions is connected psychologically to the epidemic of absentee fathers in this country. We can’t, on the one hand, be credible in bemoaning the number of single mothers raising their children, while, on the other hand, giving men the clear message that bringing new lives to the planet is the exclusive domain, and under the exclusive control, of women.”

I asked my husband his opinion on the topic, and he agreed it was a sticky one. On the one hand, it would be “nice” if a man could veto an abortion, but on the other it’s the woman who has to endure and/or enjoy (imagine that!) the pregnancy. Add to that, everything concerning child birth is geared towards women. He cited the birth of our last daughter as an example.

“Even though I knew all about your symptoms and had been to every doctor’s visit, I still felt…excluded – like I was a spectator watching an event instead of a participant. When the nurses had a question, they asked you. When they had a form to fill, they brought it to you. I just felt like everything was about you…as it should have been, because it was YOUR medical condition in question.”

This saddened me a little bit. The birth of our daughter was not my “medical condition” – it was the birth of “our baby”.

Ablow writes further that “men haven’t been taught that they should consider the lives they help create as their responsibility from conception (other than providing financially for the child if born), but I believe those lives are their responsibility. And I believe that with that responsibility ought come certain rights.”

To explore this notion further, I tweeted to specifically seek out male responses on the subject of a man’s role in abortion, if he has one at all. The silence was overwhelming, save for one user who said that “it’s a girl and her girlfriends who decide what should be done…not us.” This silence confirms that the lesson that when it comes to abortion, men need to clam up has been well taught and well learned.

Ablow also says that he understands “that adopting social policy that gives fathers the right to veto abortions would lead to presently unknown psychological consequences for women forced to carry babies to term. But I don’t know that those consequences are greater than those suffered by men forced to end the lives of their unborn children.”

I couldn’t agree more. I am of the belief and opinion that all life is valuable, whether it’s in utero, a day old or 100 years old gasping for its last breath on the death bed. Life is life, whatever its stage of development. That’s science.

 

I’m a huge Common fan, so I was pleased to find that he has an opinion on this topic and shared his male perspective through a song called Retrospect for life:

Knowin you the best part of life do I have the right to take yours
Cause I created you irresponsibly
Subconsciously  knowin the act I was a part of
The start of somethin, I’m not ready to bring into the world
Had myself believin I was sterile
I look into mother’s stomach, wonder if you are a boy or a girl
Turnin this woman’s womb into a tomb
But she and I agree, a seed we don’t need
You would’ve been much more than a mouth to feed
But someone, I woulda fed this information I read
to someone, my life for you I woulda had to leave
Instead I lead you to death
I’m sorry for takin your first breath, first step, and first cry
But I wasn’t prepared mentally nor financially
Havin a child shouldn’t have to bring out the man in me
Plus I wanted you to be raised within a family
I don’t wanna, go through the drama of havin a baby’s momma
Weekend visits and buyin J’s ain’t gon’ make me a father
For a while bearing a child is somethin I never wanted to do
For me to live forever I can only do that through you
Nerve I got to talk about them niggaz with a gun
Must have really thought I was God to take the life of my son
I could have sacrificed goin out
To think my homies who did it I used to joke about, from now on
I’ma use self-control instead of birth control
Cause $315 ain’t worth your soul
$315 ain’t worth your soul
$315 ain’t worth it

 

It’s a huge debacle. Perhaps the answer for those who men who want to save and keep their babies is to compensate the unwilling pregnant mother fiscally, as they would for a surrogate, even at the risk of reinforcing ‘gold digger’ stereotypes.  Maybe the answer is a little more civility, which is also very much lacking in our society.

  • xexe bilioxi

    Ultimately, a female is responsible for maintaining the babys life while being pregnant. If men had a choice to veto abortions then Lord help us all, there would be a major increase in the already known high percentage of men abandoning their responsibilities of being a father!!! Its way more than just being there when children are born its way more than showng up for their 1st birthday, ….. . What about when the mother has to carry around a car seat with the baby in the stroller and has to carry the diaper bag?? Where is the dad at when she needs help crossing side walks. Where is the father when she o longer has her own self time to fix her hair and make up?? … . Some men think its enough to be there for his child when he “can” .. . A woman must kep the child by her side majority of the time, that’s just life for a mother we don’t completely agree but regardless a mother does her job. Some men on the other hand, they just didn’t feel the need to grow up, or maybe they were raised with out their own father && they were never taugh how to be a father. That’s why society should re establish the principals and morals that we long forgot. How to choose honorable partners and restraining from sex early in life.

    • Thanks for sharing Xexe! I should have been more clear: this article was targeted towards men who actually DO want to keep their babies and be responsible. Trust me, I know all about deadbeat dads who do absolutely nothing besides send the occasional gift or pay child support when they ‘can’ or ‘want’…and sadly they are the majority, particularly in the Black community. But there ARE a decent number of men who love their children and would gladly sacrifice their personal freedoms for them. It’s those men I admire and hope we as a society can encourage to emulate.

  • Rasheeda

    Great Post Malaka! I think as with most topics involving introspection about feelings many men shy away from expressing those thoughts/feelings that seem to be contrary to the popular (albeit misguided) opinion. I think that most men given the opportunity would choose to keep their children. I think of the men that I know where their women have had abortions, must of them know the age their children would have been now and still knowingly acknowledge a longing for the road not taken (which is strikingly similar to the women I know that have had abortions). Your post reminds me of a short docu film I saw at the Atlanta Film Festival,Also Seen in Men , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl26c3uaY2Q. The film deals solely from the fathers point of view, it was an incredibly moving film to see men truly expose their feelings, in the way only a man can.

  • good one Malaka

  • Thanks Mia & Rasheeda!

    ‘Sheeda, the ONLY thing I didn’t like about your clip was that it was so short! That looks like an excellent documentary. And I agree with you: I believe the opportunity, many men would choose to keep their children. Unfortunately, biology is not on their side. Sadly the pervasive view in society is that when it comes to their kids, men are largely apathetic.

    Some of that is men’s fault, because they do little (or not enough) to dispel that view. After all, man who runs off and leaves his baby momma to deal with the rigors of child rearing is far more compelling a character than a docile family man, isn’t it? It’s like the age of decency died with the Cleaver clan.