The Manly Reasons Behind Some Women's Abortions
Many people seem to have misinterpreted this article and believe that I am, in a typical gender-feminist fashion, absolving women of responsibility or placing all the blame on men. This is NOT what I am saying at all.
By Carolyn Gargaro
July 1, 1999
I read yet another article today by a woman who exercised her right to choose to have an abortion. Among the reasons behind her decision to abort was pressure put upon her by the father of the child to "rid herself" of her pregnancy. Not wanting to lose her partner, she opted for abortion.
Such stories are not uncommon. Some women choose abortion, in part, because of male coercion, fear of the man leaving them, or because the man already has abandoned them."There were plans racing through my mind of where we would live, what we'd name it, what it would look like....But on his father's advice of 'it'll ruin your life,' [my boyfriend] opted for abortion. I was in shock, so I went along with him when he said that there was no way I could have it alone and that I'd be kicked out of the family." F. LaGard Smith When Choice Becomes God (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1990), 1992-1993Nancyjo Mann, founder of Women Exploited by Abortion (WEBA), describes the "pro-woman" attitude of those who influenced her decision to abort.I went to the doctor because family members had pressured me, had encouraged me. There was no "Nancy, maybe you should reconsider," because it was not my idea in the first place, it was theirs. My husband had walked out the door and deserted us. The responsibility of three children was just too much for him. And my mother said "It's obvious Nancy, no man's going to want you with three children, let alone the two you already have. You're probably not going to amount to a hill of beans and you're probably going to be on welfare the rest of your life." (Washington Times, August 3, 1983)"No man's going to want you"? So women should abort so they are more desirable to men? Does this attitude liberate women?
One of the "manly" reasons behind Kate Michelman's abortion (President of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League since 1985) was the disappearance of her husband. Her situation shows that, instead of her husband having to live up to HIS responsibilities, she instead felt she had no other choice but to abort."One night, my husband never came home. I was sure something terrible had happened to him. I called the police, to no avail. The next morning, my husband walked in the door and announced that he was in love with someone else and was leaving me. Then he was gone. It was not a gradual separation. It was a sudden, dramatic break. He also walked out of my daughters' lives. A few weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant again. I alone had to meet my children's every need -- financial, emotional and physical. I had no money, job or car. I had to ask friends to drive me to the market. The five-and-dime store refused to give me a charge account to buy school supplies for my children. I couldn't make the mortgage payments, and I had to sell my home and move into a small rental townhouse. My family was forced onto welfare. Facing another pregnancy was more than I could handle. (http://www.naral.org/issues/issues_stories12.html)Is this liberating? A man walks and a woman is left with two options - either live in poverty or abort? Why do people see this as liberating and pro-woman?
Some of these women realize afterwards that the choice was not really theirs, and that the existence of male coercion in their abortion decision was far from the "liberating" choice many pro-choice activists speak of. On the other hand, some women continue to proclaim that their "right to choose" was a choice that kept them free from "the patriarchy." When women abort, and do so in part because of pressure by a male - a father, a boyfriend, a husband - and then talk of how abortion "frees" women from male control and domination, do they not see that they are contradicting themselves?
It may seem that I am insensitive to these women and the difficult, emotional, and no doubt, often traumatizing situation they are in. The strong emotion I express on this issue is not contempt or insensitivity towards the women. Rather, it is more frustration at the fact that I see abortion as a method of hurting women's rights. You heard me. Hurting women's rights. When I say this I am usually immediately blasted by pro-choice women who believe that I want to take away a liberating choice from them. How liberating is it though, when a woman aborts because she feels threatened by a male? Or because she is abandoned by a male? Or emotionally distraught over a male? Pro-choicers often talk about pro-life men "controlling" women by trying to "deny them the right to choose," but is it any better when pro-choice men put women in situations where they feel as if they have no choice but to abort? Is it really a "free choice" when a woman decides to abort because of the pressure from a male, whether the male is her husband, boyfriend, or father?
Many pro-choicers may respond to this by stating that they don't believe women should be coerced into having abortions any more than they should be coerced into not having one. If that is so, then where is the outrage from all the mainstream pro-choice groups on this issue? I rarely hear pro-choice groups speak out about women who have aborted due to male pressure, male threat, etc., yet I hear plenty of them vocalizing quite loudly about the men who would try to convince a woman not to abort. And instead of outrage at the instances of coerced abortion, pro-choice advocates often accuse pro-lifers of demeaning women when they point out such things.
As I stated in my article, What is a Pro-Life Feminist?, abortion doesn't "liberate" women - it "liberates" men. Abortion on demand liberates men who want sex without strings, promises, or responsibility. And if the woman has the baby? Hey, that's her problem. She could have obtained an abortion - she chose to carry the child; let her pay for her choice. How long before men will exercise their "right to choose" not to support the children they help create? Think it can't happen? It already has. The National Center for Men is searching for a man willing to serve as plaintiff in a federal lawsuit aimed at ensuring a man's right to choose. The center is arguing that men should also be covered by the right to privacy as protected by Roe v. Wade, and that men should also be afforded the same choice of whether or not to terminate their parental responsibilities. There is now a whole web site dedicated to "Choice For Men" (C4M). These men talk of "not wanting to tell the woman what to do with her body so she shouldn't tell me what to do with my wallet". Is this attitude liberating for women? However, can we really blame these men for feeling this way? Isn't it a logical progression to assume that, since women have the sole choice over whether the child is born or not, that men will want the option to not be forced into parental responsibility?
I do realize that these "manly reasons" are not present in every abortion decision. I also realize that many men would never try to coerce a woman to abort, or sever a relationship if she is pregnant and refuses to have an abortion. But for those who do experience such situations, it's high time that we stop hailing this "choice" as liberating and pro-woman when aborting for "manly reasons" is anything but.
This article copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Gargaro and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.
- "Pro-Choice Pressure"
- Pro-life Feminism resources
- 'Male Abortion': A Fiction to Shirk Responsibility