Thursday, March 12, 2009

Should men get a say in abortion law?

The Australian Federal Government has reversed its stance on allocation of foreign-aid dollars, in that funding can now be directed towards family-planning services, including education, contraception, and in cases where it is required, abortion. A key factor in this decision was the protection of vulnerable women, who may be forced to resort to dangerous, unhygienic and life-threatening backyard abortions. And, worse yet, attempts to self-abort using such refined tools as baling wire, cooking implements, or poisonous abortifacients.

Cue the flood of letters to the Sydney Morning Herald. Most were supportive of the leglislation change, but then we have the predictable response from one Kevin Hogan, who opined that it was: "a betrayal of all women... (the government is) forcing these poor people into Western-funded abortion clinics rather than addressing the real issues."

My immediate reaction to this statement was one of annoyance at a man who considered himself a commentator on the needs of women. Ignoring the fact that nobody is forcing abortions on these women (there has been a long-standing need and desire for family planning services in the regions in question), and that the "real issues" are overpopulation, poverty, lack of effective contraception and lack of female autonomy over reproduction, I wondered how appropriate it is for a man to weigh into this debate at all.

A close male friend of mine consistently refuses to participate in these arguments. He once told me that he didn't think men should. "It's not up to us," he said. "No man will ever have to have an abortion, so they shouldn't be making the laws for women who will. It's up to women to decide." Unknowingly, he echoed the words of a Planned Parenthood advertisement, which reads that "Seventy-seven percent of anti-abortion leaders are male. One hundred percent of them will never be pregnant."

It's a fraught issue. Yes, men won't have to undergo it personally, but as abortion is a public health matter, it can be argued that men shouldn't be excluded from the public debate where standards are set. And, there's no indication that women are more likely than men to bring reasoned debate to the table when it comes to abortion - some of the most vociferous emotional blackmail thrown around actually comes from women, vis a vis Nancy Reagan's public statement that "if you have an abortion, you are committing murder". However, there is something inherently and undeniably distasteful about men attempting to morally dictate to women who are walking in shoes that the men will never wear.

I have to admit, however, that there's an element here of hypocrisy. I am only too happy to hear male politicians and commentators expouse their pro-choice views. It's only when they take the anti-abortion stance that I get angry at men weighing into a domain that does not concern them. Perhaps it comes down to the element of judgment present. Men who support legal abortion are not condemning women for their reproductive choices, whereas the so-called "pro-life" lobby are doing just that.

To what extent should men have a say in abortion law?
Is it fair for men to condemn women who undergo abortions?


  1. I think that the real issue is not whether or men should have a say, but the underlying intolerance in our society. If men were able to be compassionate about the issue then we wouldn't mind them having a say. Unfortunately, so many people (women included) are unable to look outside of their own experience and put themselves in the shoes of another.

    Abortion is a complex and tragic issue. Even the most pro-choice person (such as myself) must, in moments of quiet contemplation, consider the abhorrent nature of the abortion procedure. The only way the abortion can be justified is by weighing up the evils that would be occasioned if it was not performed, against the evil that necessarily will be occasioned by its performance. It is a difficult and delicate balancing act.

    I agree with Clever Bitch that the "real issues" that give rise to the need for abortion need to be addressed. Perhaps men, and those in power, could spend more time focussing on those issues rather than just trying to curtail women's choices at a time when those underlying issues have already resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.

  2. What a complex issue. Complex for you, for me, for him, for her, for them and us. You views are valid no doubt. But let me remind you that even when something is ratified into law it doesnt mean the debate is over. It doesnt mean you are right, it doesnt mean you have won. And it definately does not mean we are any better off.
    How archaic you sound when you still speak of mens and womens issues, is if we are seperate and not travelling on the same road hand in hand supporting one another. You perceive your ideas represent a finality, as if you truely understand every angle of this infamous debate. And whats tragic is you think by doing so, you can overcome it. Infact the opposite is true.

  3. There is as much sense in making any sort of overall statement about this as making any statement about how children should be parented after a relationship, if there was one, ends. For that matter, any statement about how children should be parented at all...for that matter...who should be a parent at all. There are no answers..just luck.

  4. Mostly lucky - start using condoms. :)
    And please tell me, how should any child be raised?
    I retract my previous statement. Wear two condoms. Stock up on the morning after pill and buy a few coathangers. We cant afford any mistakes here!

  5. women need men to help them decide as they are emotionally overbalanced and logically deprived so lets all continue with the usual stereotypes. there is nothing to say that because an issue does not, at first blush, involve a particular group that it does not, on reflection require their response. the alternative would, for example, have deprived men and then women from suffrage.only people with depression or terminal illnesses kill themselves so the rest of us are deprived of comment on suicide and therefore from the right/duty of assisting that class of person in need. it may be facile to state a problem with abortion as did nancy reagan but the view nonetheless has an undeniable validity and if you agree otherwise lets go out and kill the disabled, especially the mental who cannot formulate their own views with our clarity and cogency.your argument for denial of rights to comment is based on the faulty syllogistic style argument- all crows are black, this bird is black, therefore this bird is a crow.
    if you accept we live cooperatively in society (without quibbling on what the terminology means) then we are mutually interdependent and all our brothers keepers and our sisters impose any form of restriction is destructive of the very liberties the "censorship" attempts to secure.why stop at men having no voice in the abortion issue-lets include the female young, the infertile, the old (post menopausal, the gay,virgins, the women who choose to not childbear so now we have a fairly safe rump (if i may be so bold as to express it thus) of nubile sexually active women comprising maybe 20% of the population who get to decide - ie it seems that the criterion for choice is sexual activity on which basis they can say "fuck democracy". but even in this group there is disparity with a large proportion holding that abortion is wrong.
    rephrase the question as whether any of us is entitled to dictate to another and you may have a more accessible debate but to reduce it to gender politics is absurd and reprehensible.of course we are all free and in theory can do what we like to ourselves. the problem becomes exacerbated when we seek to use community facilities in pursuit of that "freedom". another degree of complexity is introduced when the liberty involves potential of harm to "another" (whatever that term means in the abortion debate) and then naturally society feels it must be involved.pity the community that does not become motivated in such circumstances as therin lies slavery, exploitation and misery.

    thus your "issue" turns out to be a shallow argument that "something is right because i believe so"- the hallmark of dictators everywhere. not that its wrong;its just (as in the bible) not necessarily so.exclusion, denial of right, disenfranchisement are a sign of weakness and the building blocks of censorship and perpetualising inequalty. bluff overbearing prejudices are espoused by the miranda devines of this world and would be well disavowed by the rest of us.but at the same time like pauline hanson we should get rid of chinese.

  6. Just where exactly did I say that abortion was right because I believe in it? My opinion is that women should have the right to choose, but I don't credit myself as a moral arbiter. That's why I opened the forum for debate. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Anonymous (the long winded one) - I can see that your views are very critical but frankly your style of writing is so incoherent that I could barely grasp your message. In any event I think you've quite misinterpreted Clever Bitch's post.

  8. I thought I'd dop in on this one if that's ok. The initial post had the terms morally...distasteful about men intervening in situations they will never experience. It seems that anon who said we are not walking different paths really hit the nail. Athte same time I think that long winded has got some points that deserve airing although as Clever Lawyer said s/he is incoherent (I'd say just hard to follow) but her/his views seem to follow on from anon 12/3 2:44pm but not so sympathetically stated. That viewpoint seems to assume that the initial post had an aggressively femininist stance which has clouded the issues.

  9. Hi Passerby - whilst I agree with you that men and women by and large are walking on the same path, some may argue that the path diverges at the door of the abortion clinic. Thanks for posting.

  10. The answer to the question "To what extent should men have a say in abortion law?" is quite obvious for me. A law defines in which society you want to leave. Therefore I would say that men should be involved from the begining to the end of the law process whichever law is in question (as well as women obviously).

  11. This highlights the sexism against men very clearly.

    I was brought up that it is fair that with every right comes a responsibilty, the two go hand in hand.

    Now clearly our society believes that men who impregnate women have responsibilites to pay for the child for 18 years.

    Yet they get no rights - the right to get involved in the abortion descision, not in 90% of cases the right to bring up the child.

    They just get the responsibilites, not the rights.

    Its a new age of the Stolen Generation"

  12. This post seems very sexist to me. You say: "Yes, men won't have to undergo it personally" which is completly wrong. You should say physically as we do undergo it emotionally. I'm speaking from personal experience here. It never quite leaves you even though I didn't have to have the abortion myself, I was with my partner for everything and it was a joint decision. We both still agree that we made the right decision but can't help wonder "what if?". Men should, if possible, be involved in this decision and have a right to comment on it. Along with all decisions. It should not be a case of , that's a female decision or a male decision. It should always be a joint decision, if possible.

  13. I agree with everyone who says this post is sexist because clever bitch is a feminist!

  14. I am a girl, and I think the decision should be a joint decision for the most part. I think that if one partner does not want an abortion, there shouldn't be an abortion.

    Unfair Scenarios:
    - Partner who is carrying the baby in his/her stomach wants abortion, other partner does not want abortion, abortion is granted
    -Partner who is carrying the baby in his/her stomach does not want abortion, other partner does want abortion, abortion is granted

    Fair Scenarios:
    -Partner who is carrying the baby in his/her stomach does not want abortion, other partner does, abortion is NOT granted
    -Partner who is carrying the baby in his/her stomach wants an abortion, other partner does not, abortion is NOT granted

    This is my opinion for most cases. I agree with people who say that this is not a decision placed on a man or a woman.

    It's actually wrong to say that a man will never have to experience being pregnant:
    1) Pregnancy happens to two people, not just one.
    2) If you are speaking of physically carrying a baby in your stomach, there have been cases of men carrying babies in their stomach.

    Pregnancy is a joint process. Each partner should take equal responsibility.

    It's not right for one partner to bail out, but if one does, the other partner should have a right to take care of the child.

    Here is another scenario (my own personal scenario):
    One partner is carrying the baby (my female partner) and the other is infertile (me).

    In the above scenario, the "Woman's Right" to choose phrase just doesn't work. I am an equal partner. Luckily for me, my girlfriend sees pregnancy the same way I do.

    In the case of a transgender man (someone who was always a man, but was born with the appearance of a female and may appear female with hormones if desired, the phrase, "Woman's Right," doesn't even make sense.

    The phrasing is SEXIST!!!

    In special cases of rape against one partner (male or female), the life of the partner who is carrying the baby being at risk, or the child being born a vegetable (or something similar), abortion is pretty much a given, but otherwise I hate abortion.

    If it has to be legal, it should be a joint decision.

    Pregnancy is more than carrying a baby in your stomach.

  15. To 4.33pm -
    I have now heard everything. A "Partner" carrying a baby in "HIS/her" stomach? I am yet to encounter any verified case of a pregnant man, although I challenge you to cite one (not including the "pregnant man" who was in fact a gender-reassigned female). I'm also a bit at a loss in trying to work out how pregnancy is "more than carrying a baby in your stomach". Apart from the fact that you probably mean "uterus" instead of "stomach", isn't that basically the definition of pregnancy?

    I find it disturbing that you consider that anyone, partner or not, should be able to force a woman to endure an unwanted pregnancy and birth. This relegates humans to the level of livestock - fortunately the majority of the population acknowledge this and weigh that reproductive autonomy is crucial.

  16. I don't get it how one person has to take responsibility for their actions by paying child support, but the one carrying the baby has to take no responsibility whatsoever. If a person with a penis doesn't want a take care of a baby, too bad. The argument is, "Keep it in your pants." If you, a feminist, are truly for gender equality, shouldn't you use the same argument against people who physically carry babies? "Keep it in your pants."

    Are you even aware of the emotional trauma that another partner has to go through when they want their baby, but they have no rights to it, and it's taken away from them because all of a sudden they're considered less of a parent, and therefore have LESS say?

    The pain of losing a child that you want is much, much worse than physically carrying a baby. If a life is in danger, than I can understand, but...

    You basically support emotional heartbreak that could scar someone for LIFE. Once the physical carrier has a child, they can give it to the other partner if they don't want it.

    I am a GENDER EQUALIST. I believe in equality for all genders. When it comes to abortion, that's what I believe...and more. If the other partner can be a woman, then the bottom line is EQUAL PARENTHOOD.

    Positions like yours make me wanna burst out into tears because they are insensitive and cruel. Forcing someone to carry a baby sounds cruel, but forcing someone to deal with the heartbreak of losing a child they really, really, really wanted is far WORSE. Clearly, you don't believe that. I understand the pain of gaining weight and morning sickness...but the pain of losing your own child? That doesn't even compare!

    You're only thinking of ONE partner. Your position is completely and utterly sexist. If you had any heart whatsoever, you would think about the other person instead of just ONE.

    If you were an infertile mother, a man, or a lesbian partner who wanted their baby but couldn't have it, you would probably understand how it feels.

    I hope science enables fetuses to be transferred to surrogate mothers and transgender fathers so that this whole slew of sexism will just end.

  17. chris lee, manchester ukMay 12, 2009 at 6:24 AM

    all here seem to have a view but not experiencedit from a mans's perspective. I have. Men, in my view, should have a say. I wanted the baby, she didn't: where was my say? Legally I didn't have one. Yet if the child was born I'd be legally responsible. My view is that both male and female should take responsibilities for their actions; namely: if you have sex carry the consequences NOT have a cop out option, there's the foetus to consider too

  18. I'm so sorry, Chris. You must've had to go through a lot of emotional pain. I completely and utterly agree with you. If I could give you a big hug, I would. Even as a woman, I still empathize with you as I am an infertile female. I don't get to experience the joy of holding a baby in my very own stomach; the child's kicks, the excitement of knowing that life is sprouting inside of you, the feeling of baring the seed of the child that will be yours right out of your own body. Healthy women who weren't raped often take physical pregnancy for granted. As an infertile female, I would jump at the opportunity to hold a baby in my stomach. I am lucky to have a partner who would never abort our child without my consent- or abort the baby at all unless her life was in danger or she was raped by another person. Chris, I apologize for what happened to you, and I give you lots of hugs and warmth from the deepest depths of my heart.

  19. I don't think that men should have a say in the law of abortion because they don't know what women and teenage girls would have to go through if they were to have a baby. But I'm not saying that the father of the child shouldn't have a say in the decision of has son or daughter being born.