Reproductive Equality: Why Should Men Have a Say in Abortion

In the majority of secular states of the world abortions are allowed legally, although the issue of the total or partial prohibition of artificial pregnancy termination is raised continuously. Here, the particular attention is paid to the paternal rights regarding abortion decision as an extension men rights versus current female unilateral and often uncontrolled privilege. Indeed, on the one hand, the decision on abortion lies in a common legal field for both women and men who are to become parents on equal terms, which means that both parties should share equal rights to opt in or out of parenthood. The issue, however, may be controversial due to a number of biological, social, and moral grounds, which is further discussed in this paper.

Above all, when we talk about the perception of abortion through a female discourse, we always turn to the key concept of a woman owning her body. This idea refers to the classical principles of individualism: a woman bears a fetus; fetus is the part of her body and cannot be separated from it, and a woman is the only one who participates in child’s birth, while a man is biologically excluded of these processes. From this standpoint, since the body belongs to a woman, and only she can make decisions on what to do with it and have her own reasons for that, in this case, – whether to terminate her pregnancy or not. In fact, this freedom of an individual is supported by law, and thus, as Rebouché (765) rightly notes, in current legal norms no one is able to oblige women to keep pregnancy or act otherwise, to force a woman to change her decision, since it has crucial impact on her own future life. However, genetically the fetus is the property of both parents, which is further reflected in the legal status of children who were given birth. Starting from this point, duties and rights of both parents begin to be perceived as shared. Apart from the fact that such double standards actually mean that an embryo is fully deprived of its rights, they also reveal the mechanism how a woman is provided with a legal right to deprive a man of his freedoms to either become or not to become a parent against his will.

Thus, in the first stance, the problem of the right of a man to prevent a woman from having an abortion remains unresolved. In those cases where a man can confidently assert that he is the father of a child, where he wishes, is ready and is able to take full custody of the child after one is born, should a pregnant woman still have the right to independently and arbitrarily make the decision to remove the common fetus? Thus, the modern policy of abortion dictates that as long as he does not have the right to vote, a man therefore cannot be required to bear responsibility for the life of the child, in whose conception he took direct part. For example, a medical protocol before and after an abortion procedure does not usually include questions addressed to fathers about their feelings (Makenzius et al. 213). Fathers are not asked what they feel after abortion of a fetus that has reached the second trimester, even if they have not seen their child on ultrasound and do not live with the mother. At the same time, according to Shostak (362-63), psychiatric practice shows that many men experience the excruciating and burning pain that is caused by abortions committed without their consent, often when they did not even have the opportunity to say that they wanted a baby to be born, and that they were ready to take full care of it even if they would have to do it alone. However, deprived of the right of veto, a man is forced to leave his offspring at the disposal of a woman, while she is granted with the privilege to get rid of shared genetic codes at her wish.

The other side of the coin is that empowering men to prohibit women from doing abortion will result in currently unknown psychological and social consequences for women who will have to bear and give birth to children against their will, which is also a restriction of their individual freedom of choice. For instance, studies show that today about 65% of women “feel pressured” by others in terms of whether to have or not to have an abortion (Rebouché 770). Data on both sides may mean that the issue of mutual consent for parenthood cannot yet be effectively placed in the legal field through the mechanisms of general norms. Remaining in the private sphere of moral choices, it is, however, most often solved in favor of a woman.

In the second stance, when a man does not demonstrate any desire to share parenthood with a woman, but she decides to keep the unplanned child, the man is also deprived of the right to a so-called financial abortion and the denial of responsibility for the life of the child he conceived. The loudest attempt to achieve equality in this matter was the case of Dubay v. Wade 2006, which resulted in the Supreme Court of the United States recognizing the right of women to abortion (Rebouché 773-74). In the fall of 2004, 25-year-old Matt Dubay began to date an unnamed girl. Their relationship did not last long, and after their parting, it turned out that Matt’s ex-girlfriend was pregnant. Already in court, Dubay claimed that the mother of his future child lied to him about her fertility and that she was taking contraceptives as additional protection, and he himself had told her on numerous occasions that he did not want to become a father. During the trial, his lawyer relied on the fact that the current rules for the payment of maintenance violated the article of the 14th Amendment on equal protection of men and women. It still did not help Matt Dubay as he expectedly lost the case in the court.

The court conclusions reasonably emphasized the fact that despite manipulative psychological component, a woman cannot choose or guarantee or predict whether she will get pregnant during a consensual sexual intercourse. In addition, the Court decision articulated once again that the right to abortion derives from a woman’s right to bodily integrity (Rebouché 775). At the same time, about 10.4% of men in the US were subjected to reproductive coercion, which includes the sabotage of contraceptive means, control of a man’s reproductive health without his knowledge, pressure for conception and so on (Grace and Anderson 6). These actions are treated as a type of domestic violence and are subject to control by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet having made a conscious choice to participate in sexual intercourse, a man accepts the risks, and therefore, cannot abandon this responsibility in the future.

As an answer to this challenge, different countries work out bills on legal abortion which would to free men from reproductive coercion without violating the rights of women wishing to become mothers contrary to the opinion of a partner. Thus, for instance, the liberal parties of Sweden promote the idea of legal abortion on early stages of pregnancy which is intended to balance the equality of choice before the point of no return. When registered for a “legal abortion”, a man will be freed of obligations to pay child support if a woman decides to keep the child, but he will also lose other rights to have impact on his genetic offspring (Makenzius et al. 215). A logical argument of critics here consists in the risk that male opt-outs will lead to an increase in abortion rates overall.

Thus, the issue of male voices in abortion decision making always intervenes with complex and sensitive aspects of morals versus nature. On the one hand, having given a woman the right to decide the issue of an abortion on her own, most countries today do not take into account the right of men to fatherhood and offspring. On the other hand, the unilateral decision of a woman to keep a child is closely related to forcing a man to unwanted distribution of his genetic fund as well as to financial responsibility for the choice of a woman. At the same time, woman’s right to abortion cannot be questioned as well as infringed in favor of the freedoms of the other party. In fact, the discussion of the equality of parents’ rights has got polarized into two offended camps: men who suffered from female manipulation and multiple women who were deeply hurt by male irresponsibility. Both sides have their own truth and their unique freedoms, and in any case, the very recognition that the existing system is flawed shows the positive tendency towards securing reproductive rights of both sexes.

Works Cited:

Grace, Karen Trister, and Jocelyn C. Anderson. “Reproductive Coercion: A Systematic Review.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 17 (2016): 1-20.

Makenzius, Marlene, Tydén, Tanja, Darj, Elisabeth, and Margareta Larsson. “Risk factors among men who have repeated experience of being the partner of a woman who requests an induced abortion.” Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 40.2 (2012): 211-216.

Rebouché, Rachel. “Abortion Rights as Human Rights.” Social & Legal Studies 25.6 (2016): 765-782.

Shostak, Art. “Men, Me, and Abortion: On Doing the Right Thing.” Men and Masculinities 10.3 (2007): 360-366.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: October 27, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]
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