Men on Abortion?

April 29, 2014

Should men have a say when it comes to abortion? Absolutely.  Women have too much power when it comes to sexctrl and reproduction, at least here in the United States. Women have many more choices of birth control than men. They have abstinence, outercourse, abortion, combination pill, the progestin pill, extended cycle pill, sponge, birth control shot, cervical cap, IUD, female condom, vaginal ring, diaphragm, the patch, implant, the Plan B: emergency contraception, and spermicide as well as permanent sterilization via tubal ligation or hysterectomy. According to Planned Parenthood, men have five options for birth control: abstinence, condoms, outercourse, vasectomy, and withdrawal.  Women, hands down, have more power simply by having almost four times the choices for the prevention of conception.

“Once she accepts the man’s sperm and it fertilizes her egg, she loses her right to decide on her own. She has now entered into a contractual business arrangement where she is 50% stockholder…”

Many will argue with my statement of equality, stating that women have been oppressed by the patriarchal system and that they have had little choice over their bodies. Shaw calls for a de-medicalization of women’s health, meaning that there needs to be recognition of how women’s bodies have been appropriated through patriarchal ideology and the desire for control of women’s bodies needs to be returned to women. She says that the medical field has taken control over women and they become objects that have things done to them rather than being a participant of the treatment and the experts of their own bodies (Shaw, 145). This can lead to dangerous consequences, especially during labor and child birth as it relates to this topic; therefore they deserve the right to decide.

Along the lines of risks, Humber says that the decision making should go to the woman because she has more responsibility than the father. Fathers that do not want the obligation of raising children are simply financially responsible for them. Mothers have to wake up in the night for feedings, potty train, help with homework, arrange for child care, cook, clean, and everything else that goes along with child rearing. Therefore, it only makes sense that the woman has the sole decision on whether or not to keep the fetus (Humber, 38).  What about the fathers who want to be in their children’s lives? Humber obviously assumes that the father is not an active participant in the child’s life, in which case, her responsibility would be greater and therefore the decision making could solely be hers in certain situations which will be discussed later.

Many argue that abortion is the right of the woman simply because it is her body. She has a right to say what happens to her body and if she doesn’t want to carry a fetus to term she should not have to and absolutely no other person should make her. They say that this alone is the dilemma; others contend that parental obligation plays a role. First, let us look at what parental obligation is and how it is obtained. Contemporary philosophy says there are two main accounts of how parental obligation is acquired: by virtue of causing the existing child and by the voluntarist account (Prusak, 311).

Judith Thomson understands the voluntarist account stating, “Surely we do not have any ‘special responsibility’ for a person unless we have assumed it, explicitly or implicitly” (Prusak, 311). Therefore unless one voluntarily assumes responsibility for a fetus, they have no responsibility for it. This would be rather difficult for the woman unless she were to simply abort the fetus, to which she does have the option. Brake focuses on the relevance of abortion rights to parental obligation stating that “if a woman’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate her to support a fetus, then men’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a resulting child” (Prusak, 312). Therefore, given the permissibility of abortion, when a mother wants the child and the father does not, “the father should bear no legal responsibility for the fetus-person either before or after birth” (Prusak, 312); we will revisit this point a little later.

Prusak goes on to point out that men who voluntarily have sex with a woman, but unwillingly become fathers due to a contraceptive failure and the unwillingness of the woman to get an abortion definitely have a parental obligation by their causal role in the coming-into-being of the child. This is a normal risk of having sex and therefore they bear the causal parental obligation (Prusak, 315). The point he is trying to make is “that one is responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of one’s voluntary action” (Prusak, 316). I believe that this is actually an argument against abortion, and we are not focusing on that subject for the purpose of this paper. That being said, with abortion being permissible, it cannot be argued that some people ought not to have children. Bringing a child into the world with two parents that are not in agreement of parenting has great potential to cause unnecessary suffering to this “needy and vulnerable child” (Prusak, 316).

This brings up the concept of the “responsibility objection” in which the principle is that we are morally responsible for all the foreseeable consequences of our actions. Having sex is a high-risk action for which one ought to incur strict liability for the consequences (Prusak, 327). However, so far I have only seen that it is the women’s choice, upon conception, as to whether or not the men will be responsible for the act of sex. Previously, it was argued that a man willing engages in sex, he is causally responsible for a resulting child, if the woman so chooses. I do not believe that this is fair, the woman still hold all the cards when it comes to conception decisions; if the man must be responsible for the consequences of sex, I suggest that women also be responsible.

When it comes to a woman’s body, I agree she has sole right to say what happens to her body. One simple fact we are forgetting here is that she is the only one capable of the biological function of conception and carrying a fetus to term. Since this is the case, she has many more options to protect herself from this biological consequence.  Therefore, her right as sole decision maker over what happens to her body ceases upon her consent to have sex. Once she accepts the man’s sperm and it fertilizes her egg, she loses her right to decide on her own. She has now entered into a contractual business arrangement where she is 50% stockholder. Given that there are only two shareholders to this conceived cargo, things may get pretty tricky, however, it by no means grants her the authority to make unilateral decisions.

Jeffrey Blustein brings an example to the table. Joan and Anthony have sex, they use protection, Joan gets pregnant anyway. She decides to keep the baby and asks Anthony to contribute to the child’s upbringing. He is the biological father and willingly had sex however Anthony did not choose to procreate. Joan had a choice that Anthony did not have, namely, whether to terminate, she made a unilateral decision to keep the baby. It is argued that Anthony did have some control over becoming a parent, he chose in engaging in risky behavior. A child resulted and therefore he has parental obligations (Prusak, 328). Seems pretty simple, cause and effect, case closed.

Consider another example: John and his girlfriend are pregnant. They are planning on getting married and raising this baby. However, when the amniocentesis told them that their son was going to have Down’s syndrome, John’s girlfriend decided to abort. John begged her not to, told her he would take care of their son all by himself, she wouldn’t have to shoulder any responsibility, his family was even willing to help him. She aborted their son anyway. She unilaterally made a decision (Manninen, 1).

It is her body, her choice. “Women need to find places where they have the power to choose and are willing to speak in their own voice” (Magada-Ward, 424). In the late 70’s, the widespread availability of birth control and legalization of elective abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973) seemed to promise women the opportunity to make decisions about an area of their lives that had previously been regarded as beyond conscious control.  There was a study called the ‘Abortion Decision Study’ that discovered some authentic fault of female psychology (Magada-Ward, 425). Some women wouldn’t be able to go through with an abortion. Some wouldn’t be able to give up their rights once the baby was born, but would then harbor deep resentment for having carried the fetus to term. Many studies have been done with regards to women and abortion, but what about the men?

John, mentioned above, was still suffering emotionally a year after his partner aborted their baby. There are many outlets for women coping with the emotions that accompany abortion, but for men who feel that lingering sense of grief, there is no socially sanctioned way for him to express his sorrow. Men are expected to sever all emotional connections to the fetus and the hope of fatherhood to support the female in her decision. If he shows any adverse feelings to her choice to terminate, he may be viewed as attempting to interfere with her right to bodily autonomy and trying to oppress her (Manninen, 2).

Pay no attention to the fact that men suffer from this action, “the emotional toll can manifest itself in low-self-esteem, substance abuse, failed relationships and sexual dysfunction” (Manninen, 2). One man describes the experience as something that “seeps into the subconscious and always stays with you” (Manninen, 2). A study found that “adult men who experienced a partner’s having undergone an abortion during the teen years reported markedly more distress in early adulthood than peers who had not experienced a partner’s abortion” (Manninen, 2).
I find this inexcusable. In this area, women have so much power and little thought of the consequences to men. The ultimate decision lies in the hands of the woman alone. It even went so far as a 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where the woman does not have to inform the husband and co-conceiver of a fetus she plans to abort on the grounds that it would “impose an undue burden upon her” (Manninen, 2). How far does the protection of women have to go at the expense of men?

Manninen argues that men do not have a right, legally and morally, to veto a woman’s abortion decision and maintains that anyone that argues against this would not only be inconsistent with legal proceedings but would also entail a gross violation of a woman’s rights and dignity. She does however go on to say that women must understand that they have great power over men and that they must exercise that power in the most virtuous manner possible (Manninen, 3). She states, “No one can be forced to undergo a bodily intrusion in order to save the life of another individual, even if that other individual enjoys a full right to life” (Manninen, 4). This statement is in regards to two different examples. One example is from Thomson where a person becomes hooked up to a violinist to filter the violinist’s blood as well as his own. The person did not ask to be hooked up to the violinist, however the violinist is a very well respected person and it would be tragic if the community lost him. Nonetheless, the captured person has no obligation to remain his life support. The second example is a real case from 1978, McFall v. Shimp. They were cousins and McFall had been diagnosed with aplastic anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant to which Shimp was the only matched donor. Shimp refused to do the procedure even though it meant his cousin would die. McFall took it to court in hopes of a ruling that favored his right to live over his cousin’s unwillingness to donate; he lost and died two weeks later. (Manninen, 3-4).

Manninen argues that just as the judge and McFall could not legally and morally compel Shimp to donate his morrow, “a woman ought not to be compelled to undergo pregnancy (which is a form of bodily intrusion) in order to keep a fetus alive” (Manninen, 4). While I can agree with Manninen that no one should be forced to undergo bodily intrusion to save a life however, I disagree in pregnancy being a bodily intrusion. I see it as a causal reaction, to which the female is only 50% responsible. Since it is impossible to abort 50% of the fetus, other alternatives must be sought.
Wesley D. H. Teo is quoted in this paper as saying, “the law which makes a wife (or any woman) the sole decision maker in an abortion has totally disregarded the husband’s (or any man’s) right to procreation; it has in effect, provided for a constructive sterilization of the male” (Manninen, 5). Manninen argues that the woman has only denied this opportunity to become a father to this specific child and that his overall interests in procreating have not been violated. My question is would it be acceptable for a husband (or any man) to deny his wife (or any woman) to become a mother to a child that had been conceived? Imagine you are going to have a baby. You picture all the things you are going to do with it, say it is a son. You imagine T-ball practice, kindergarten, riding a bike, football, basketball, taking him to a pro game, his first car, prom, graduation. You develop this relationship with this concept of becoming a parent. Now imagine someone taking that dream from you. You have no choice, you are helpless, lost, powerless, and devastated. But that’s just the way it is, it’s her body, her choice.

Throughout my research I found much discussion of abortion and women’s rights to choose, and women’s constitutional right to privacy of her own body all tracing back to the 1973 Roe v. Wade case of the feminist movement. I find it quite sad that this case is still being touted as such a revolutionary moment for women. In taking a closer look at this case, Roe v. Wade was initially based on a lie and that Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) possibly said she was raped in order to obtain a legal abortion. However, when that failed because of a lack of evidence, she appealed to the court as a single woman. A poor single woman who could not afford to travel out of state to obtain an abortion and that it should be her constitutional right to terminate this unplanned pregnancy. Several years later she claims it was all a lie, she was young and confused, she was seeking a divorce from her husband and found herself unexpectedly pregnant.

Regardless of the shaky ground this infamous case was built on, the fact remains that it is deemed a woman has privacy rights to what happens to her body. However, let us not forget and possibly add to this already unstable foundation to women’s right to solely choose, this case was built by the understanding that the father was not included in this court proceeding whatsoever. Had he been there, expressing his right to be a father, his contribution to the matter at hand, the outcome very possibly would have been quite different. In courts today if one party does not show up, by default the other party wins. How can this be justice if one party is completely unaware of the charges and dangers facing him?

So far it certainly appears as if women should not have the sole decision in abortion, however, one topic has yet to be discussed; Dead-beat dads, it is a phrase that is very common in today’s society. While I feel this topic deserves attention, the matter pertaining to whose right to decide will be my primary focus. That being said, should a woman be able to abort if it is believed that the man with be a dead-beat, by this I mean he will abandon the child and be uninvolved in the child’s life. I touched on it earlier about the woman having more risk and responsibility and the father simply being the financial provider. I know of a few cases where the woman has tricked the man and gotten pregnant, when the child is born the only role he is allowed to have in the child’s life is via child support. I have seen Craig’s List ads for positive pregnancy urine tests to specifically “trap your man”.  I am not denying that there are men that impregnate women and take the voluntarist account. In the cases where the men are mere means of financial obligation, should they be if they have no other right of involvement in the child’s life? Humber says that it appears Hales simply assumes that all men want to be relieved of the burdens of child support and that they do not view the parenting experience as something good. Humber argues that this may be “true of many men – perhaps even most – but certainly not of all” (Humber, 39). He finds it problematic that men who want to be fathers have absolutely no right to demand that their wishes be considered as one factor influencing the abortion decision, but it is fair to force them to pay child support. Women have options to absolve their responsibilities of conception, men should have options as well.

Who then should decide on abortion and how do we try to resolve this issue? Manninen says that women have all the cards when it comes to gestating a fetus and they should be conscientious how they play those cards. They should share the cards with “good and decent men” as much as possible, especially when the fate of his future as a father lies unilaterally in the woman’s hands (Manninen, 17). She says that for a woman who would like to abort, but the man desperately desires to become a father, carries the fetus to term in order to give a good man a chance to become a good father, this act would be courageous, kind, fair, empathetic, selfless, noble and extremely virtuous (Manninen, 15). She believes the woman still should have sole decision on abortion, but that really the only reasons she should abort if the man desires to keep it is if: 1) her health and safety would be effected, 2) she were a rape or abuse victim or 3) it would affect her career.

I can agree with Manninen and feel this is a great step in the right direction. However, I still disagree that she should have the sole decision on whether or not to abort. I hold my position that given all the options that she has for contraception, if conception occurs, this ventures into a joint business transaction in which she is 50% stockholder, allowing her 50% decision capabilities. The facts are that she has the biological capabilities to create and carry a fetus, men do not. If the woman is unsatisfied with the way evolution has formed her, there are medical procedures that she could undergo to ensure she would never get pregnant. She could also choose to only have sex with men that have had vasectomies. There are also many alternatives for women available at the adult book store in the form of vibrators, men do not have many options, but that is an option they share. And of course abstinence is also an option.

However we are sexual creatures and I do not believe artificial options nor abstinence will appeal to the masses. Therefore, as sexual adults we must fully understand and be willing to be equal participants in the decision making process. The feminists are screaming for equality, however it appears they only desire equality when it benefits them alone. It must be understood that if a woman does not choose to implore the aforementioned sureties to avoid conception, she must be willing to share equally in the decision making with her sexual partner. Each participant must listen and take into account the other persons desires. One way to avoid undesirable conditions would be to discuss before having intercourse, what each person desires. If she is just setting off on a big career path and children are not an option right now, if the male is unwilling to agree to an abortion should the need arise, they ought not to have sex. If the male has zero intention of sticking around and is not ready to be a father and the woman is unwilling to accept abortion, they should not proceed.

If they agree to take the risk and see what happens and when they do get pregnant, he does not want to keep the child and she does, he has the option to receive a “legal abortion” wherein he has no legal obligation or connection to the child. Of course, vice versa, if the woman decides she does not want to become a parent, she receives the “legal abortion” even though she carries the baby to term, she will have no obligation to it after its birth. Some will argue that forcing her to carry a fetus she does not wish to keep could be psychologically damaging and it is treating her as an object. I counter that this was a known risk that she was willing to take at the onset. By agreeing to have sex, a woman who does not have a hysterectomy or tubal ligation, accepts the risk of conception and hence the obligation to carry the fetus to term if the other party desires this option. I make this analogy: if a woman knows a man has hepatitis or some other condition that may be transmitted via sexual intercourse and she proceeds to have sex, she may have to deal with the consequence of contracting said condition. Same is true for conception. Since abstinence, tubal ligation, hysterectomy, and vasectomy are the only sure ways to not possibly conceive a child, if she does not adhere to those options, she must be willing to allow the sexual partner equal say in a conception situation.
Some have argued that many people think that children are the key to securing a relationship. A man may say he wants the baby and therefore the woman carries the fetus to term. When he realizes that this child will not solidify his relationship and the woman really does not wish to keep the baby nor continue a relationship with the man, the man then decides he does not want the child. I believe that it should be a legal contract to abort your parental rights. That being said, legal contracts get broken, and while it should be upheld, would this be in the best interest of the child? The woman would have the choice to put the child up for adoption or keep the child and perhaps file a civil suit against the man for being negligent on the contract and compensate the woman for her time of gestation.
There are many other arguments that could be addressed. However, the purpose of this paper is to show that men should have equal say in abortion. I believe I have argued this point well by simply stating this is a biological function that does have preventative measures. If these are not implemented and she agrees to engage in the high-risk game of sex, she must also agree to give her sexual partner equal rights in the conception decisions. This can be further addressed and possibly avoided by talking to potential partners beforehand to know where each other stands. Perhaps even obtaining signed contracts as to each persons’ responsibilities and agreed decisions should certain situations arise. This may be a mood killer but it is better than what men are faced with today and that is women having all the power in abortion and reproductive rights.

One final note, while doing this research, I searched for “mens’ rights & parenting”, “mens’ reproductive rights”, and “men & abortion” with zero results. After searching “mens’ rights & child support” I got 7 hits, apparently that’s what mens’ rights are today, the right to pay child support. Being a woman I certainly appreciate women’s rights. However, I also have four sons, three of which are teenagers. I desire them to have as much say in the decision of their future children as their partners do when the time comes. They definitely ought to have more rights than just being obligated to pay child support.



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