In Richard Essery’s opinion, abortion is an area best left to those unexpectedly expecting.
It’s OK for men to have an opinion on abortion, but that doesn’t mean we should have the final say.
In my early twenties I briefly dated a girl who told me she could never be friends with someone who’d had an abortion. I can’t remember the exact reasons she gave but, almost 20 years later, we are still friends (albeit Facebook friends).
She has around 200 other Facebook friends; I really can’t be bothered to count how many are male and how many are female just to make a laboured point, but for the sake of easy mathematics let’s just say it’s 50/50, and 100 of her social network friends are female: statistically, 33 of them will have an abortion in their lifetime, so she is either a liar or she has since changed her mind.
Of course it’s also possible that, like me, she’s just grown up a bit and no longer counts those kinds of views as suitable small talk for early stage romantic liaisons (just as I have learned that telling girls I have a massive cock before they’ve seen it can only lead to disappointment).
It’s also possible that her friends haven’t openly discussed having a termination with her because of social stigma, or because they don’t know how she would react. Whether she still feels like this I don’t know, but, even if she does, she is entitled to her view, as is everyone else—including men.
Working in, and writing about, sexual health I’ve often used the topic of abortion as a litmus test when sounding out new friends and partners. This doesn’t mean I don’t have friends who are generally “against it”; they just aren’t fervent, blinkered hate mongers.
I think it’s totally acceptable to be anti-abortion, but only if your opinion was not formed by lazy, biased, incorrect or bigoted information and, more importantly, you don’t force your opinions onto others without bothering to question or explore their individual circumstances.
Contrary to what the papers say, there is no evidence that women use abortion as a method of contraception, but I’ve seen plenty to suggest that most have tried and failed to use a method of contraception correctly, or lacked the education they needed in order to protect themselves effectively.
Just as we shouldn’t stereotype girls and women as being too stupid, lazy or fickle to avoid getting themselves up the duff, we mustn’t pigeonhole all men as being uncaring, sexist, condom dodging serial shaggers.
While many people who are anti-choice are men, most people—of all genders—are pro-choice, and most people understand that the decision of whether or not to continue with a pregnancy is best left to the person who would otherwise have to carry that pregnancy to term, give birth, and then either look after the child or put it up for adoption.
It’s easy to be anti-choice if you’ve never experienced unwanted pregnancy, but you’d be surprised how quickly those deeply held views can change or soften when people find themselves directly affected. It’s only human to have double standards and it’s only natural to do as you do and not as you say.
Lots of the men I speak to are very supportive of their partner’s decision to terminate their pregnancy, but some aren’t; lots of parents I speak to support their daughter’s decision to have a baby, but plenty don’t. Many men won’t even find out when their partner, wife or daughter is pregnant anyway—and this confidentiality is essential—because some men will push women into having an abortion because they don’t want a child or grandchild, or the responsibility that comes with it.
But let’s not get on our high horses about being kept in the dark, we get most things our way; after all, we make most of the rules. We earn more, we aren’t defined by our marital status, we can be firemen, we can be policemen, hell, if we’re white, middle class and able bodied enough we can even be fucking Bishops if we want to.
Men hold the balance of power, but, sadly, we don’t exercise it with much thought. We judge women on their looks rather than their abilities, we make them pay tax on tampons, we feign disgust when they use words like “vagina,” and we do our best to make it difficult for them to access contraception services; why should we be surprised if they don’t want us telling them what to do when it comes to unplanned pregnancy?
Yes, abortion is not solely a woman’s issue, but it must remain solely a woman’s choice.
Image of young woman holding her pregnant belly courtesy of Shutterstock. Editor’s note about the image: The model appears to be approximately 20 weeks along. This is the usual cutoff point beyond which an abortion is considered “late-term.” Nearly all pregnancies are viable after the 27th week, and no pregnancies are viable before the 21st week. [Source: JAMA]