If men don't join the debate about abortion then how will we ever find out what men's experience of this important issue is, asks Paul Mills.
A few weeks ago I watched a TV programme which has caused me real thought – so much so, that it has taken me three weeks to be able to successfully sit down and write this article.
The programme concerned was BBC3's look at the issue of abortion (Abortion - Ireland's Guilty Secret). The programme was presented in a balanced way by Alys Harte, looking carefully at both sides of the debate and across the community. Like me, the programme acknowledges the real challenges in how we think about this issue and the significant schism between the 'pro life' and 'right to abortion' camps; and the challenges for example in deciding what is the upper limit in terms of weeks for an abortion to be performed, and under what qualifying circumstances – so that's not what this article is about.
What this article is about, is asking the question 'Where are the voices of men in these conversations and debates?'. Astoundingly, during the whole of the programme there was only one relatively young potential father interviewed – and he presented as needy and was very much in a 'puppy dog' way supporting his partner and the process she was going through – whilst bemoaning the imperfections of the system.
What we did not see was a single man engaging fully with the programme about his feelings on the abortion of his child, about his involvement in the process and sharing of the decision making, and shared responsibility for the terminated foetus. We were not therefore able to properly access the issue from the male perspective – to begin to appreciate what it is to be a potential father dealing with the questions and emotions and the potentially bowel watering effect of having to choose abortion – or life for ones offspring. I have to say that I became outraged that this is so.
As a man myself I am really clear that my seed is, to me, sacred; and therefore being part of the decision and responsibility/accountability around how the result of its part in creating a life plays out, is something that is probably only eclipsed in importance by a handful of other things – for example an existing other life. So, I asked myself again; where are men in this debate?
I reflected back through my years of adult life and realised that, apart from a handful of professional situations as a coach/mentor I have never heard a single man discuss, celebrate, lament or verbalise in any way, about an abortion he has been involved in as a dad!
How can this be. Apparently there are around 200,000 abortions a year in the UK – that's 770 per working day! So how can it be that so many men remain almost silent on the matter.
What I did find was a really thought provoking Telegraph article by Neil Lyndon looking at the 'controversial' Bill tabled in Ohio, seeking to give fathers a final say in abortion. Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, the bill fell, however it did gain a significant following – and stoked some real questioning about where men's rights are, in law around the proactive termination of pregnancy.
Our Feminist colleagues point out vociferously that a woman should have absolute rights over her body; this, I have no issue with. At the same time a woman's body, as the life support system of a foetus – jointed created by the woman and the father must have shared responsibility and , if men and women are truly equal, then the man must have much more voice and say in the destiny of their child; whatever your views about viability and when a sperm and egg transmute into a new life. For me it's simple. Joint, equal and mutual responsibility and say starts at conception.
So, fellow men, where are our voices, where are our legal and moral rights to a share in the decision making – come on – let's hear them!
---Photo Credit: Flickr/Treslola
Paul Mills lives on the West coast of Scotland. He is is a parent, a trainer in the education and care sectors, an ex foster carer and therapeutic teacher who cares passionately about and working with young people, especially boys, as they start their life’s journey.