A man's responsibility, a woman's decision
Views 10 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 4 - 2017 | By: Vanessa Acain
Abortion will most likely always be a subject of contention. However, the debate has often been framed in terms of women’s rights and has consequently encouraged men to exclude themselves from the abortion process. This is a huge mistake.
From sexist stereotypes to constant objectification, women have endured a multitude of negative stigmas in regards to their body. But now that women are seeking to have complete control over their body, men don’t know how to react. The idea is that men shouldn’t have a say because women have been subject to oppression by the patriarchy for centuries. But abortion shouldn’t be only a “women’s issue.” A 1999 study by psychiatric and obstetric researchers at University Hospital in Umeå found that, because women are at the center of abortion cases (the termination, contraception, and procedure), abortion itself is then seen as a female issue due to the men being almost invisible in the process. But leaving women to handle the abortion process alone discourages men from taking responsibility for their sexual behavior. And if men are involved in the conception process, shouldn’t they also be involved in the decision of whether or not to terminate?
Hardly any research has been done on men and abortion. It is far more difficult to find studies on the psychological impact of abortion on a man when a woman excludes him from the process. Arthur Shostak, an academic researcher and professor of sociology at Drexel University, is one of the few who studies men and abortion. In an experiment called “waiting-room men,” Shostak interviewed an estimated 600,000 men as they waited for their partners during the abortion procedure. According to his studies, men actually do want to be involved, contrary to the stereotype that women often go through unwanted pregnancies without—if not abandoned by—their male partners. In fact, over 90% of the men Shostak studied wanted to actively participate. Many misconceptions about abortion have been manifested over the years due to the subject matter being considered a taboo. The controversial procedure does heavily impact women physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it affects men’s mental health too and that needs to be talked about more.
Men are struggling to help women with termination because they are isolated from the process. Referring back to Shostak’s studies, one of the men explained that abortion was, “a reality for one of us physically in a way I couldn’t ever understand, so I immediately also felt powerless. Throughout the wait, for the procedure, I tried to treat my emotions as secondary and just play a support role.” Although respectful, men are still missing the mark. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not their fault.
Abortion clinics are not doing enough to help both women and men. The key is getting men to be involved in the right way. The conflict points out to us the dire need for frequent and public conversations about abortion.
Most men whose partners underwent the abortion process are reported to still think about it for years on end because they could not process the event. I do believe that women should ultimately make the decision to have an abortion or not. The argument remains that it’s her body, her choice. However, men should have more of a voice. I argue that making abortion a women’s issue enforces the idea that it is just the woman’s responsibility to avoid the pregnancy. In the physical sense, pregnancy and abortion happen to women alone; but in the emotional sense, these things impact both men and women.