This is a blog post that’s been lingering in the back of my mind for some time now. It’s a question of forced paternity really, what should or shouldn’t men do when they come up against the ultimate life-changing experience, an unexpected, unplanned and unwanted pregnancy and why some people take it upon themselves to decide what the right or wrong reaction to such a situation is? I am a feminist, and an avid supporter of pro-choice under any circumstance. Women should have the right to their own bodies, to choose who, what, where, when and why they have children, they should be given the authority over their own womb, as, contrary to some belief, pregnancies can and do frequently happen accidentally as contraception does in some cases fail to do what it says on the proverbial tin.
Yet feminism and society in general is biased towards the male experience of an unwanted pregnancy. Why, if the women is allowed to decide what is right for her, are men not granted the same agency? Or maybe they are, but this is a topic largely un-discussed. What are a man’s options when he is faced with an unwanted pregnancy? Ultimately the outcome is linked with the mother. If she too does not want to go through with the pregnancy then the situation is simple, but if she wishes to continue with the pregnancy what options does the man have? It seems to me that he has three options; the first I define as the Male Abortion. Essentially the complex question I wish to ask is, Is the male abortion okay? The male abortion being the ability for a man to decide he does not want the baby he has accidentally created and to be supported and empowered in doing so. The second option is the Absent Father, he has no relationship with the mother but does see his offspring and has some interaction with their life on a largely uncommitted basis, the mother being the primary carer and he being anything from a secondary carer to a card in the post on a birthday. The final option is the Fatherhood by Duty, this is based upon the conservative belief and expectation that the male is obliged to “step up” and against his will be the father figure. He is expected to sacrifice his dreams for his child. This appears to be the dominant rhetoric for fatherhood, and I have seen many instances where this has been successful, one of those unexpected ways that life just sort of falls into place despite an-unexpected beginning. However there are many instances where the resentment and the responsibility of an unwanted pregnancy can become too much and in this we see the horribly named ‘deadbeat dad’, an inconsistent unreliable member of the baby’s life. With such a diverse range of outcomes of an unexpected pregnancy, why is it that we view only some as acceptable?
I am interested in this dilemma as I personally have had the experience of this definition of the male abortion. I chose to continue with a pregnancy that my (at the time) partner did not want. He and his family severed all ties and physically distanced themselves. He had no experience of the pregnancy past the 10 week point, he is not on the birth certificate and has never made any contact with his biological son. At the time this rejection of myself and my unborn child was absolutely devastating, It felt like the ultimate heartbreak and his decision would leave emotional scars for myself but also a lifetime of unanswered questions for the baby I was carrying. So why am I arguing for even the debate on the Male Abortion? Well I believe that there are some fundamental differences between motherhood and fatherhood. Past the conception the fate of the unborn child is ultimately either nature or the mother’s decision, and despite the male expression being either positive or negative about the pregnancy he can do nothing physically to change this.
I have found that after a significant amount of time has passed, after the juvenile hysterical drama has died down, and as my own ideologies and political alignment to feminism has grown I’ve had to reassess some the inequalities of expectation I placed upon someone who did not want to become a father. I believe that in the name of true equality his decision is to be absolutely respected. He knew he wasn’t ready and chose what he and his family believed was the right decision at the time. This decision was brave in its own right, he went against the narrative of “duty” and “what is right” to choose what was right for him and his career, something that pro-choicer’s like myself argue as one of the many perfectly valid reasons for abortion.
The greatest difference perhaps between the Female Abortion and the Male Equivalent is what happens once that decision is made. For a woman she ends the pregnancy, there is no baby, and granted, very respectfully so, the emotional recovery can take an indefinite amount of time. For the male, once he makes the decision and the woman still has the child, that child exists and it is that which is the difficult part. At some part I will have to explain the situation, but how do you explain to a child/teen/adult that someone specifically chose to remove themselves from your life, because it takes a very mature person to understand the reasoning behind that decision.
So, is it okay? How do we balance morality, fatherhood, and what we believe is right or wrong? Is there a right or wrong, and is our interpretation of pregnancy biased either towards the man or the woman, and how do we cope with the consequences. For now I have no answers, just the knowledge that more conversations of this nature need to happen, that we need to reassess the dialogues of fault and responsibility surrounding unplanned pregnancy in the name of equality, choice and wellbeing.