Men and women and the abortion debate

When I asked a couple of questions and shared a little of my view about abortion on twitter, I quickly got back responses to the affect of “shut up, it is nothing to do with you.” Here’s one example typical of that type of response:

“Okay, convince me that ANY man can have any concept of how it feels to be pregnant when there is any problem with that pregnancy, social, economic, biological, psychological. Why are there so many men in this debate? What do they think they can contribute?”[1]

One man felt very passionately that he was entitled to contribute and indeed to control the debate. Surprisingly, he was supported in this. I’m not sure whether that’s because his privileged position as the son of a former foreign secretary and as a high ranking journalist/commentator gave him this special position or whether it’s simply that he was saying the right things in agreeing with abortion. His contribution was to tell anyone who asked a question or gently raised an objection that they were:

“You are men bullying women. You may not see it, but you are.”[2]

The assumption being that if abortion is simply a personal medical choice, then constraining women from making that choice is to bully. Of course, it does rest on the assumption that abortion is about free, individual choice. In other words, to decide that your opponent is a bully, you have to deny the argument they are making. You can’t simply deny that argument by saying its proponents are bullies, you have to show both that their case is flawed and that their motives are wrong.

So, for example, if as I have argued, the people who gain the most from abortion are powerful men because

  1. It provides a means by which to cover up their affairs quickly and quietly
  2. It ensures that women are kept in the labour force longer keeping costs down and profits up

…then we need to consider again who the bullies are. Surely the bullies are the very people who have pushed forward something into our culture and morality that in fact disadvantages and hurts women.[3]

So, now I want to turn our attention to the question “Why should men be involved in the abortion conversation”?

I want to suggest that this comes back to one vital reason. The answer is that it’s because we are not meant to live in individualistic or gender isolation. Men and women were made for each other. In Genesis 2, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. He makes woman as someone who is like him but different to him (she complements him).The context for not being alone is first of all, the role given to humans to fill and subdue and care for the earth. There is a shared work which includes children which we cannot do on our own. This is important because so often some of our cultures in different ways put all the onus on women to take responsibility for children and raising them but it takes fathers as well as mothers to do this. Men need to be involved in the abortion conversation because they cannot abdicate responsibility for children. Secondly, the statement that it is not good for man to be alone comes in the context of a call to worship and obey God by keeping his commandment. In Genesis 3, we see what happens when man tries to abdicate his side of the responsibility.

I also want to suggest that those who assume men should be excluded from the conversation seem intent on demonising men, assuming that we are only out to bully and control. Now, there’s a tendency in all of us to do that as my comments above about how abortion actually suits man’s sinful tendency to coerce, control and cover up. However, there’s another side of the coin. Here’s an experiment I suggest you try. Find a group of men and women. Ask the men this question:

“If your wife’s life was at risk and there was a choice between saving her life or her unborn baby, which would you choose?”

Then ask the women:

“If you were pregnant and there was a risk to your own life, and/or there was uncertainty about the survival of the baby, which would you want the doctors to do, to save your life or the baby?”

Actually, you don’t need to do it do you? You know that instinctively the men after pleading for the option to save both would lean towards saving their wife. You also know that many women would opt to try and save the baby. That’s why we hear about women forgoing cancer treatment until their baby is born.

So, let’s not stereotype this debate as being about women wanting the power to choose and men wanting to stop them. Let’s get back to the vital question that both men and women want to know the answer to. “How do we best love both mother and baby? How do we best care for both and preserve rather than take life?”




[3] See