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ISSUE 116 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/28/2003

Men play active role in pregnancy decision

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 28, 2003

Abortion is, and probably will continue to be, a very touchy subject. The facets of the argument, ranging from moral and religious to logical and principled, always center upon the woman who may or may not have the abortion. She is the point of contention: the body is hers, the pregnancy is hers, the fetus is hers and the choice is hers. It is difficult for a woman to become pregnant on her own, however. This raises the question: what is the role, and what are the rights, of men in the issue of abortion?

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent on the decision of the Supreme Court in 1992, said, “"Abortion is a unique act. It is an act fraught with consequences for others.”" The case was Planned Parenthood v. Casey; it ultimately overturned a Pennsylvania law that required married women to inform their spouses of an abortion. The Court cited the Roe v. Wade (1972) decree that abortion is a woman'’s right and woman’'s choice.

Supporters of abortion as only the woman’'s solitary decision argue that even informing the man of her decision could undermine her ability to make the choice for herself. As Stevens acknowledged in the aforementioned case, a mother’'s burden is a solitary one, and “her suffering is too intimate and personal for the State to insist "upon its own vision of the woman's role, however dominant that vision has been in the course of our history and our culture.”"

Potter Stewart, who supported the Roe vs. Wade decision, cited the Fourth Amendment (as recognized in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 1972), as: "The right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."

Stewart continued, “"That right necessarily includes the right of a woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” It is very clear that the law not only supports the woman’'s right to decide whether to have an abortion, but also her right to decide alone."

"The taboo nature of abortion," says author Arthur Shostak, "is one of the reasons the man’'s perspective has been “an invisible issue.”" Also, he added, guys don’t have any familiarity with the subject. He gave the example of a girlfriend coming back with the run-on sentence, "‘The test is positive and we’'re pregnant and I’'m having an abortion,’" where the response would be merely, "‘Whatever you want.’"

A survey involving 1,000 men who responded to questionnaires in the waiting rooms of 32 abortion clinics in 18 states revealed, “"The single greatest concern of the men was with the well being of their sex partner."”

Shostak, self-defined as "unswervingly pro-choice," co-authored “Men and Abortion: Losses, Lessons, and Loves” (1984), which is based on that survey.

The survey also concurs with past findings that the most common response for men is that he would support the woman no matter her choice – also indicating that the choice was hers alone.

Recently in Britain a man took his girlfriend to court, attempting to prevent her from having an abortion. But his situation is the same as that of men here in the United States. Men have no legal ability to force or prevent an abortion. In most cases, these laws do not even address the rights of men.

It is often pro-life groups, known in the UK as ‘anti-choice,’ who lobby for stronger, or any, rights for men. It is a unique role reversal, making the male sex press for more rights. The reasons are often religious, but also psychological. For there are experts who say that some men experience many symptoms that women endure in the days and years that follow an abortion. Catherine Coyle, a Wisconsin-based developmental psychologist, believes that some men experience a separate set of post-abortion problems related to anger, helplessness, anxiety, relationships and grief.

Hundreds of stories confirming these findings can be found on the web. They are often on religiously affiliated pro-life sites. A different slant on the story can also be found in the movie “Entropy,” (1999) where the main character, Jake, ultimately breaks up with his girlfriend ostensibly as a result of the stress her abortion has put on their relationship. At the end of the movie, he still has no closure with either the woman or her decision.

“"We must come to the realization that this is not a women's issue and it is not a men's issue; this is a couple's issue,"” Shostak said. He went on to cite the lack of counseling resources available for men who have gone through the abortion process. It is unclear, however, what type of legal recourse Shostak would advocate. The conundrum stands of how one would both increase the voice of men in the issue without infringing upon the basic individual rights of women.

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