Abortion is the act of terminating pregnancy before the birth time for the child is due. It is also the expulsion or removal of the embryo from the mother’s womb and this can either happen spontaneously or willingly induced especially when pregnancy is not wanted or if the mother develops some health complications. When the later occurs it is often termed as miscarriage rather than abortion although in real sense it involves the termination of fetus life. The debate on abortion is a topic that has taken the center stage for long since the first anti abortion laws were made in US in the 1920s. These laws outlawed procurement of an abortion especially after the fourth month of pregnancy. Women have continued to advocate for their rights on abortion leaving men with no say on issues regarding the fate of the fetus but of late the debate has taken another dimension as men have come out in the open to advocate for their rights too. Most feminist talks claim that it is none of men’s business to dictate to women on what happens to their body and thus women do not have to consult their husbands incase they want to procure an abortion or not
This paper is going to conduct an intensive and extensive research on whether men should have a say when it comes to abortion. It will also in particular focus on why men do not have any say when it comes to the termination of a pregnancy.
Prior to the 19th century according to Riddle (1992), abortion was not illegal and it only turned illegal post this period. This is what in particular what happened in Britain where in 1803 the first anti abortion laws were passed. In the United States, abortion was to some extent allowed but the circumstances under which it was allowed varied across states. Termination of pregnancy was only allowed in cases when it was a threat to the life of the mother. Abortion was thus deemed to be a sin and a crime partly because of the risky procedure that was used and many would die while doing it. Men were very vocal and were on the fore front to condemn it especially those in the medical profession. These doctors referred to their female counterparts who procured abortion as part of their regular service as a threat to both their social and economic power and in the 19th century they succeeded in their campaigns to condemn it. In 1960s, women inspired by Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement they started to actively fight for their rights through feminist movements. These women lobbied, rallied and marched along major streets in the towns demanding to be allowed to have what they termed as “abortion on demand.” (Boston Women’s Health Book Collective., 1998)
Their efforts were duly paid when they succeeded in making some states review the anti-abortion laws for example abortion was allowed on pregnancies resulting from incest and rape to women below fifteen (15) years but the final decision to do it or not was left at the discretion of the doctors. Where laws were not reviewed, several cases in the supreme courts helped in addressing the same for example the 1973’s Roe vs. Wade where it was argued that the right of privacy contained in the 14th amendment was broad enough to encompass women rights on abortion that is the decision to terminate pregnancy to be left with the pregnant mother. In its ruling the court passed that after the end of pregnancy’s first trimester, the woman and the doctor had legal right to do it although the cost to do it was considered thus the rural women and especially those regarded as colored could not afford safe abortions. (Baber and Allen, 119)
Most of the laws that were passed concerning abortion legalization never addressed men’s rights on the same. The courts assumed men had nothing to lose or say over the issue something that has of late provoked men to stand up to fight and their right. This is a bit different from the way the situation was in the 20th century where only women and the government were on the stage, now men have joined in the stalemate making the issue to take another twist. (Hyde and Delamater, 2006)
In the United States, when a child is born the man is responsible for it until it attains eighteen years of age. Men are now questioning the legality of this law that burdens them with the responsibility for taking care of the baby irrespective of whether the baby was consensual or not. What pains them most is to see women terminate pregnancies at their will and would ignore men’s consent on this. Men’s say has not been given any consideration in the legal framework or simply it was ignored by the lawmakers. They argue that if they are forced to take responsibility for the kid then they should be consulted before the life of the embryo is terminated. When this law is critically looked, it gives women power to abort and derives men their say. It is ironical than it is due to men’s ability to sire that life is created but for the simple reason that women becomes the guardian of this life for the next nine months it is assumed that men do not have powers to sustain life. Even in cases where they would like to support abortion, no one seeks their opinion but outside the legal framework they were helped by attorneys to make their rights addressed. “Outside of state legislatures, pro life attorneys were offering “Fathers’ Rights Litigation Kits” to men intent on preventing their wives, girl friends or acquaintances from terminating pregnancies that these men shared responsibility for creating” (Tolleson-Rinehart and Josephson, 59).
While men say they are fighting for their constitutional rights, women on the other hand think it is a violation of their reproductive rights. What these feminist do not understand is that they are not being asked to give up their reproductive rights in order to have equal responsibility with men, they are only required to understand that men should have a say on abortion or to avoid killing the fetus without having a mutual consent with their husbands. They should make proper use of available means of controlling their reproductive capabilities by using methods such as sterilization and use of contraceptives. Abortion should be the last option and should be used only in extreme cases. If contraceptive services are improved and are made easily accessible, the prevalence of abortion cases would simply go down and this would partially solve this problem as less complaint on abortion rights would result. (McCulley, 1998)
As things stand at the moment men are not free to choose whether to become a parent or not. You may believe you are a parent today but tomorrow you are no longer. Women protected by the law deprive men of their rights to become parents because a woman can unitarily decide to terminate a pregnancy at any time therefore the fate of the father to become a parent or not is decided by the other. In other cases, the same law is used to burden men with some unanticipated responsibilities because a woman can decide to have a baby contrary to the wish of the father and what this means is that the father must provide the support for the child. The father should also be left free to decide whether or not to have a baby. This law can be oppressive sometimes because it gives the women all the rights over everything to do with the fate of the child for example the woman can either decide to adopt a child, whether to become a parent or carry out an abortion while on the other hand men have nothing to do or say. (Sterba 2001)
When a woman falls pregnant she is the one who decides whether she is mature enough to become a mother, whether she is financially stable to raise the child or whether the baby would compromise her career life. After assessing the situation along these lines, the woman may solely decide to procure an abortion thus sidelining the role that men play in procreation. When the issue of abortion is looked from an egalitarian perspective, abortion issue should be equally discussed by both parents in such a manner that the preferences and values of both parents are respected although the burden of the pregnancy lies with the mother. The two should have a mutual understanding where they would share the benefits and the shortcomings of the pregnancy (Sterba, 227).
Men should also understand that they contribute to the problem of abortion so when they demand their abortion rights they should be conscious of the biological role that they play. Most cases of abortion result due to unwanted cases of pregnancy and thus they should not stay aside and keep pointing a finger to women who abort the fetus instead they should also use contraceptives to reduce the chances of having unwanted pregnancies.
On the other hand there are different reasons as to why men do not have any say when it comes to abortion procurement. Most of these reasons are given by pro-abortionists who in most cases are feminists. One of these reasons is that the burden of using contraceptives has been for some time been regarded as women’s responsibility. Men do not care whether they would impregnate women or not. A woman must make sure that she has used the right contraceptive before having sex to avoid unwanted consequences such as unwanted pregnancies. Most of the time they are forced to use unsafe methods while men use none despite the fact that there are other alternative contraceptives that are developed exclusively for men. For this reason, if the woman accidentally gets pregnant she has the right to terminate that pregnancy without seeking any permission or consulting the father over the fate of that pregnancy (Sterba, 227)
Another reason is that women are the one who carry the burden of pregnancy and what men do is just to be there for procreation. They are not liable for anything else or in other words the complications that are associated with unwanted pregnancies. What en forgets is that women just like men have their own things do for example they have career life, social, economic and political life which can be compromised by unwanted pregnancy. This is on the understanding that these pregnancies result due to mistiming of the right time to have sex, inconsistency in the use of contraceptives or using them in the wrong manner for example touching a condom with sharp tools. Feminists argue that if a pregnancy results under these circumstances then the final decision as to whether to abort or not should come from the mother as she is the manager of her personal life and what happens in her body.
Most of these rights were well addressed in the civil rights movement where abortion rights were extended to the privacy rights although in its broader perspective “Abortion rights were the key to sexual freedom on the terms as men by disconnecting sex from fertility and childbearing so those potential consequences of sex would not interfere with the liberal woman’s career, the planning of her family or other lifestyle choices” (Spreng, 168)
Those who advocate for men’s rights argue that woman must seek permission if they are married or the father is below eighteen years old or put in another way they have to consult the father before any termination of pregnancy would take place but the critics of this notion do not share the sentiment and argue that in certain coercive situations like in the case of abusive relationships, seeking consultation or permission would not be necessary and would not make any difference. (McCulley, 1998)
Making women to carry unwanted pregnancy is a contravention to the principles of democracy. May be due to lack of a better term it could be termed as slavery. The reality is that though men lose emotional attachment to the aborted fetus their loss can under no circumstance be equated to the freedom that women lose. Men have of late been fighting for equal right over abortion but it is true that it is the woman who suffers more when pregnancy occurs contrary to the claims that men and other pro-abortionists make. Again pregnancy can have severe consequences on the life of the woman for example it has bodily risks, affects her career and life and therefore the legitimacy to abort lies with the mother. Men feel bad when their fetuses are aborted but some men disappear once the baby is born leaving the burden of child bearing and rearing with the mother. The mother should be left to assess the situation to know whether it would be favorable to bear the baby or not in terms of the father’s commitment, her financial capabilities, her career life, the timing of the pregnancy as well as her social-economic and political life in general (Sterba, 278)
It is argued by feminists that the blame of unwanted pregnancy should be shifted from women to men. They argue that of late there are many ways of preventing unwanted pregnancies and in fact Mary Mohamad (Sterba 277) stresses the point that today men are more obligated than women to prevent these pregnancies by using the modern contraceptives which are not only easily accessible and more sophisticated but are also reliable. For this reason men should not sit back and continue blaming women as if they are solely responsible for unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion. She continues to add that if that unwanted eventuality occurs, the discretion whether to terminate or not should be left with the mother and not the father.
In conclusion it can be said that even if feminists argue that advocacy of men’s right on abortion is an abuse and a violation of women’s biological reproductive rights, they should understand that men should have a say over the fate of the embryo. At least the father should be consulted before the move to terminate its life is taken. Women should understand that both parties are equally responsible for that pregnancy and thus should not assume that simply because they are the guardian to that fetus they have all the rights over the life of that fetus. On the other hand men should also wake up to the fact that though they play a part in procreation, the burden that women have to bear cannot be equated to the emotional attachment they lose when abortion is carried out. Everybody should have control over what happens on their body and for this reason, women are obligated to decide whether to have the baby or not although pro-life activists do not allow late pregnancy abortions to occur. They argue that if any abortion is to be done it should then be done within the first three months before the life of the fetus becomes viable.
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