Does A Man’s Feelings Matter When His Child is Facing Extermination?

Abortion. Termination. Right to Choose. No matter how you dress it to suit your sentiments, they’re all synonyms for the same thing: a baby is about to die in the womb.

As the abortion debate rages on across the globe, advocates for and against the procedure have largely left one crucial party out of the conversation: the men who are partners in, and equally responsible for the pregnancy.

The business of child birth and child rearing has long been the primary domain of women, but it does not belong to women alone.  Men always have and always will play a crucial role in the reproduction process – and that’s by providing sperm. Even though his role is limited after the incidence of fertilization, it is that act that sparks the genesis of human life.

Why then wouldn’t his thoughts be consulted or feelings considered in the event of a planned abortion in the midst of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy? There are a myriad of reasons, but they all stem from one factor: a bias against men.

Because a man is anatomically unable to carry and birth a baby, there is an emergent doctrine that he does not have the right to choose whether or not his child has the right to draw its first breath or see the light of day. That ‘right’ presumably belongs only to a woman, simply because Nature has blessed her with the equipment to carry out this task. This is dismissive of men on various levels, the least of those being as a potential father and as a human being whose opinions on the procreation process he actively participated in should matter.

So how do people end up with unplanned/unwanted pregnancies?

a)     Condoms fail

b)     People stop taking pills

c)     You’re (both) drunk

d)     Neither party likes the feel of rubber and engages in unprotected sex

e)     1000 other reasons you could think of

And what do you do when one person wants to keep the baby and the other doesn’t?

Here again is the bias against men. If a woman gets pregnant and chooses to have an abortion, there is not much a guy can do about it, other than holding her hostage until the 9th month is up. If she chooses to go ahead and keep the baby against his wishes, he can be hauled into court and made to do whatever the state wishes to serve ‘the best interest of the child.’ From anyone’s perch, a man looks a lot like a pawn in the reproductive game. There are of course exceptions to every rule, and there are men who engage in unsafe sex, littering whole neighborhoods with their seed and spawning legions of half siblings. The focus of this post is not those guys, but rather decent men who find themselves in this quandary for the reasons stated above and actually WANT a responsible role in their child’s life.

In reading up for this topic, I was surprised to find that many men go through the same gambit of emotions leading up to and following an abortion that some women do. In her book Peace after Abortion, author Ava Torre-Bueno devotes a chapter to the effects of abortion on men. She cites the lack of control men feel – their anger at their own legal disenfranchisement from the decision, their guilt about contraceptive failure, and their empathy with their partner. In some cases, “men are confused when their partners are OK with having had an abortion, but they themselves are depressed, guilty, grieving or shame-filled.”


Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, writes in his article Men Should Be Allowed to Veto Abortions (  that  “giving would-be fathers a lack of veto power over abortions is connected psychologically to the epidemic of absentee fathers in this country. We can’t, on the one hand, be credible in bemoaning the number of single mothers raising their children, while, on the other hand, giving men the clear message that bringing new lives to the planet is the exclusive domain, and under the exclusive control, of women.”

I asked my husband his opinion on the topic, and he agreed it was a sticky one. On the one hand, it would be “nice” if a man could veto an abortion, but on the other it’s the woman who has to endure and/or enjoy (imagine that!) the pregnancy. Add to that, everything concerning child birth is geared towards women. He cited the birth of our last daughter as an example.

“Even though I knew all about your symptoms and had been to every doctor’s visit, I still felt…excluded – like I was a spectator watching an event instead of a participant. When the nurses had a question, they asked you. When they had a form to fill, they brought it to you. I just felt like everything was about you…as it should have been, because it was YOUR medical condition in question.”

This saddened me a little bit. The birth of our daughter was not my “medical condition” – it was the birth of “our baby”.

Ablow writes further that “men haven’t been taught that they should consider the lives they help create as their responsibility from conception (other than providing financially for the child if born), but I believe those lives are their responsibility. And I believe that with that responsibility ought come certain rights.”

To explore this notion further, I tweeted to specifically seek out male responses on the subject of a man’s role in abortion, if he has one at all. The silence was overwhelming, save for one user who said that “it’s a girl and her girlfriends who decide what should be done…not us.” This silence confirms that the lesson that when it comes to abortion, men need to clam up has been well taught and well learned.

Ablow also says that he understands “that adopting social policy that gives fathers the right to veto abortions would lead to presently unknown psychological consequences for women forced to carry babies to term. But I don’t know that those consequences are greater than those suffered by men forced to end the lives of their unborn children.”

I couldn’t agree more. I am of the belief and opinion that all life is valuable, whether it’s in utero, a day old or 100 years old gasping for its last breath on the death bed. Life is life, whatever its stage of development. That’s science.


I’m a huge Common fan, so I was pleased to find that he has an opinion on this topic and shared his male perspective through a song called Retrospect for life:

Knowin you the best part of life do I have the right to take yours
Cause I created you irresponsibly
Subconsciously  knowin the act I was a part of
The start of somethin, I’m not ready to bring into the world
Had myself believin I was sterile
I look into mother’s stomach, wonder if you are a boy or a girl
Turnin this woman’s womb into a tomb
But she and I agree, a seed we don’t need
You would’ve been much more than a mouth to feed
But someone, I woulda fed this information I read
to someone, my life for you I woulda had to leave
Instead I lead you to death
I’m sorry for takin your first breath, first step, and first cry
But I wasn’t prepared mentally nor financially
Havin a child shouldn’t have to bring out the man in me
Plus I wanted you to be raised within a family
I don’t wanna, go through the drama of havin a baby’s momma
Weekend visits and buyin J’s ain’t gon’ make me a father
For a while bearing a child is somethin I never wanted to do
For me to live forever I can only do that through you
Nerve I got to talk about them niggaz with a gun
Must have really thought I was God to take the life of my son
I could have sacrificed goin out
To think my homies who did it I used to joke about, from now on
I’ma use self-control instead of birth control
Cause $315 ain’t worth your soul
$315 ain’t worth your soul
$315 ain’t worth it


It’s a huge debacle. Perhaps the answer for those who men who want to save and keep their babies is to compensate the unwilling pregnant mother fiscally, as they would for a surrogate, even at the risk of reinforcing ‘gold digger’ stereotypes.  Maybe the answer is a little more civility, which is also very much lacking in our society.

11 comments On Does A Man’s Feelings Matter When His Child is Facing Extermination?

  • Abena, this is a hard one. Your psychologist is probably right about a disenfranchisement for men on this issue directly corresponding with high father absenteeism or irresponsibility.

    But I just don’t see how a woman could be forced to carry to full term if she doesn’t want to, save from making abortion without fathers consent illegal. And THAT opens up massive problems around rights of rape victims and such a move I think will greatly disempower women. If I was in that position I’d feel horrible…which brings the argument full circle because I guess that’s how some good men must feel.

    However I do think if a man does not want the child born they should be able to be excluded from paying for it! But thst’s a hard call too…oh I don’t know!

  • Oh, this conversation always ends in metaphorical bloodshed lol. Personally, i do and i don’t sympathize with men on this issue. I do for those who genuinely want to raise their child and are anti-abortion. But the majority of men (that i’ve observed) that make this “where are my rights” argument are just trying to get out of having to pay child support or raising the child.

    I think that the father should always at least be alerted if not consulted when a pregnancy happens because that’s their child too. But at the end of the day it is solely up to the woman. There are plenty of men out there who beg and plead for their partner to have the baby only to disappear or deny paternity and make the woman’s life a living in hell afterward.

    In this issue, even though i catch a lot of flack for my opinion, i say the man’s “rights” ended when he decided to have sex, especially if it was unprotected (which is stupid decision on the 1st place). Im sorry, but you knew the risks. Its biology and there’s nothing we can do about it. I don’t buy that “childbirth being under the exclusive control of the woman” crap as the reason for absentee fathers. If anything, the alarming rate of absentee fathers is the reason more women have abortions. We are not infants, we know how babies are made. Men need to build a bridge and get the heck over it. Im sure women would be more than happy to relinquish “control” if/when men can get pregnant, carry the swollen belly of shame if they are single, go through labor, and be the primary caregiver throughout the child’s entire life.

    And that whole yarn about being able to opt out of child support is bullskit. Who cares if you didn’t want the baby? Maybe she didn’t want it either. But like i said, you knew the risks coming into the situation, so why should the mother (who 99% of the time is already the primary caregiver even in a 2 parent household) be made to carry the full weight of an outcome caused by 2 people? Just because she has the right to have an abortion, doesn’t mean she should or would want to even if she didn’t want a child.

    Im rambling now so im gonna stop there. But as you can see, this is one of those topics that I could go on and on about lol.

  • I still maintain it is unfair for a guy who says he categorically does want a child to have to support it. This conversation is supposed to be specifically geared towards the good men, not the deadbeats, right?

    Fair play its a difficult decision for some women to make regarding an abortion. But its still a choice. Even a difficult or unwanted choice is still a choice. If a man is mature enough to know he does want kids and can’t support them, why should he pay? Why should his choice be ripped from him unfairly?If she made her choice why should he pay for it?

    I think you can’t give a man ownership of a woman’s body by making her abort or not. But making a guy raise a child he did not chose to have does not balance the scales. Equally, he should not have to do so to pay for the wrongs of past deadbeats when he himself is not one. But these guys in making that choice should have no claim or access to the child though.

  • I maintain my points as well and will only add this:

    If you know for a fact that either you do or you don’t want a kid, then freaking fornicate with like-minded individuals and this will no longer be a problem.

  • Wow, was I freaked out by the title of this piece or what! Of course, a father’s feelings should matter when his child is “facing extermination” but a fetus is not a child. If it were, abortion would be murder, which it, patently, isn’t. So, there, a father doen’t have to deal with this scenario because it rests on false premises.

  • Sorry for the long silence! I’ve been away from the interweb for a few days

    @Lady Ngo and Nsoromma – I have to confess, I enjoyed the volley match between you too! I think I agree with Lady Ngo’s statement that one should “fornicate with likeminded individuals.” The truth is, no woman will ever get pregnant if she really doesn’t want to, and no man has to father a child when he isn’t ready for one either. The burden of protection should not be placed exclusively on one person or the other. Both parties are equally responsible, because each knows the risk. As they say in the condom campaign: “if it’s not on, it’s not in.” Both partners should adhere to that. However, you’d be surprised (or maybe not so much) to find out how many women start off using a condom only to encourage the man to remove it towards the end of their sexual encounter so that he can “enjoy the thing.” I was astonished and disgusted when I first heard these accounts.

    Kofi – In some parts of the world, there is discussion about classifying abortion as murder. In New York for eg, if you kill a pregnant woman, you’re charged with homicide and fetucide/infanticide, depending on the stage of the pregnancy. Times are a-changing. We just had gay marriage legalized. It’s not a stretch to imagine that in a few years, a woman could be imprisoned for murdering her unborn child! The unthinkable happens every day.

  • Hmmm, I still don’t know what to say in response to this post. I don’t think a termination of pregnancy constitues an extermination. I can understand that people might object to abortions on moral grounds, but making abortions illegal does not stop the practice. It only drives the practice underground and needlessly endangers the lives of women. In Ghana for e.g., unsafe abortions are the leading cause of death for women.

  • I think there are several issues wrapped up in your response that could make up several different posts on the topic, from where a person’s view of when life begins to the morality of ending that life/’nonlife’, to the legality of abortion.

    I still hold the view that termination equals extermination. Lets look at China -with their one child policy- and India, two countries where sex selective abortions are the norm. A male baby has more ‘value’ than a female for any number of reasons. These countries now have a huge imbalance in male to female ratios. Why? Because females were/are being systematically exterminated in the womb. Assuming this practice goes on unchecked indefinitely, it’s not a stretch to imagine that a Chinese woman could end up on the endangered species list.

    I share your wish for one thing though: that there would be no need for abortion at all in the first place.

  • Whoa, Abena, state-ordered termination vs a woman’s free right to privacy? Cantaloupes and Papayas!

    Culturally-engendered gender selection and coercion (sometimes at the point of abandonment and death) terminations vs a woman’s free right to privacy? Huge distinctions between two positions.

    Not seeing them smacks of ideologically-driven moralizing.

    Completely immoral in my book to deny women a right to privacy because of these terrible situations.

  • Define “right to privacy”. Is this some portion of the abortion debate that I’ve missed? This point equally smacks of ideologically-driven relativism.

    And when did the state order termination of female fetuses specifically?

    You know what I’ve realized? At the end of the day, NO ONE is concerned with or has addressed the original theme of this particular post. Perhaps it would be expedient for one of the persons in this string to contribute a guest piece abortion, privacy, fruit and veg and I’ll add my ‘moral assertions’ in the comments section.

  • The famed jurist, Justice Brandeis apparently described the right to privacy as the “right to be left” alone. There are apparently several things in which the adult person can decide for herself or himself that do not affect others. A by herself can decide whether or not to keep a fetus, up to a certain defined point. She can do this in private, with the assistance of a professional, and the state has no business intruding in this decision. That is the underpinning of Roe v. Wade

    I am not sure that I understand what you mean, Abena, by moral relativism. I don’t think that both positions have equal merit, which is how I typically understand moral relativism. I think denying women abortion rights is immoral, since it infringes their right to privacy as well as insists that they behave a certain way to satisfy some religious code or other.

    I didn’t say anything about state-ordered termination of female fetuses.

    I addressed the issue of whether a man should have any feelings, whether they should be considered in an “extermination” of his child. As I wrote above, there is no child at issue here, so there are no reasons to consider a man’s feelings because no extermination is taking place.

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