To read part I of this series outlining basic pro-life arguments, click here.
December 10, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - There is a popular pro-choice cartoon showing some old men in judges’ robes, obviously pregnant. One of them says to another “maybe we should rethink our position on abortion.” People who argue this way assume what is plainly not the case, that all women take a pro-choice position on abortion. But even apart from this fact, there are many reasons why men as well as women need to confront the moral issue of abortion.
Certainly the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is unique to women. And although a man can try to understand empathetically, both the joys and the pains women go through remain a closed book to them. The wonderful sense of heightened life that comes with feeling that there is a new life within you, the first experience of the baby’s motion and the unique sort of intimacy that develops during pregnancy are things men can’t experience just as much as the morning sickness, the discomforts of late pregnancy, and the violent pains of childbirth are. But this proves nothing at all about whether men are entitled to make moral judgments about abortion.
First of all, as shown in my previous article, abortion destroys a living human being. We each began life in a woman’s womb and can therefore say for every abortion “it might have been me.” By virtue of our shared humanity, we all have an obligation to come to the defense of innocent and helpless human beings. If we saw an infant about to be run over by a truck, our duty to rescue it would be obvious. Abortions are morally similar, but they are performed in special facilities by people in white coats. The distinctively human features of the embryo or fetus are downplayed and hushed up. But they are there for anyone who chooses to look.
Second, for every pregnancy there is one man who has a particularly strong obligation to protect the new life – namely the father. The embryo didn’t just fall out of the sky or arrive via a stork; it came into existence as a result of an action performed by both of the parents. Parents have an obligation to care for their children – to protect and nurture them. Once pregnancy has occurred they are already parents; the time for “reproductive choice” has passed. Their son or daughter may be still tiny and immature, but it is there, and they are obligated to care for it.
The impact of abortion on fathers, especially, has been hushed up in order to make it look like abortion concerns only the woman who should therefore have the freedom to terminate the pregnancy. A number of men (in addition to aborted unborn males) are damaged by abortion and not just the father. The grandfathers, uncles and brothers of the aborted individual can be scarred for life as well. But the father is most deeply affected. The effect is immediately felt when the woman gets an abortion against the father’s wishes. There is a certain pride in being able to make a new life spring into being. A mystery and sense of power – whether or not the pregnancy was desired or intended. When the father tries to protect his baby and she goes ahead with the abortion anyway, feelings of rage and powerlessness flow naturally. (I was once on a radio talk show abortion debate in San Francisco, whose host was going through this sort of anger and powerlessness but felt too intimidated by aggressive feminists to say so on the air.) In destroying a man’s baby the woman is rejecting him on a deep level, and abortion usually terminates the relationship between the parents, even if the man went along with it willingly.
If the man pressured her into an abortion, severe guilt is likely to result at some point. (A friend of mine working on a suicide prevention hotline received a call from such a man.) And even if the woman insists on the abortion and the man feels relief at the time, feelings of grief and shame often surface many years later (as happened to a friend of mine in his late forties after his son died prematurely). A man who marries a post abortive woman will have heavy emotional baggage to deal with even if he had nothing to do with the abortion, and a woman’s capacity to bond with subsequent children can be seriously compromised by an earlier abortion.
In short, the poisonous ripple effect that spreads out from the violence of abortion touches the lives of many people, and not just the woman. Men as well as women can look at what is destroyed in an abortion and reflect about this in light of moral principles, and take a searching look at the consequences that result from abortion for those directly affected by it and for society as a whole.
Note: Celia Wolf-Devine is an extensively published author and lecturer in Philosophy. She, along with her husband Phil Devine are co-authors of a book on Abortion published by Oxford University Press.