If you were to ask someone to list their favorite topics of conversation, abortion probably would not make it very high. And there’s a good reason for that – I can’t think of a more polarizing and emotional issue facing our country right now. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be discussed at all – in fact, both sides would probably agree that the abortion debate is one of the most important issues in human history. After all, if a fetus truly is just clumps of cells with no right to life, then women all across the country are being denied their basic right to autonomy when states pass restrictive abortion laws. On the other hand, if a fetus is a human being just like you and me, then the United States has been legally permitting a genocide on a scale the world has never seen – almost 60 million children murdered since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
However, abortion being an extremely important issue doesn’t make it easier to talk about. I’ve been blessed to be able to serve as Tabling Director for Texas Students for Life for the past year, and I’ve seen firsthand how hard it is to unravel such a complex issue. When talking and dialoguing with other students on campus, there are a ton of emotional and relational roadblocks that have to be gently addressed before we can begin to have a rational discussion. But for me, there’s usually one more roadblock – I am a man. And for a lot of people, that means that my opinion about abortion is irrelevant.
Before going further, I want to clarify what this post is meant for, and what it’s not. This post is not meant to lay out an argument for why abortion should be illegal. Instead, I would like to discuss two more general questions:
- Should men be able to have an opinion about abortion?
- If so, why aren’t men more vocal about their beliefs on abortion?
So, should men be able to have an opinion about abortion? Judging by the conversations I’ve been able to have with students at the University of Texas, the overwhelming consensus is yes – as long as that opinion is deferring to the woman’s choice. After all, a man can never get pregnant. A man can never understand what it feels like to have to carry a child for 9 months. A man can never go through labor. A man can never understand the physical and psychological toll that pregnancy and childbirth can put a woman through. The law also does a pretty terrible job of holding men accountable for raising his child after the kid is born. Furthermore, the mother may not be able to financially support a newborn. Even if she could barely scrape up enough money to support them both, the child’s life would probably be filled with poverty and suffering. What makes me think that I, as a man who can never understand the situation of a pregnant woman, can have such a strong opinion about her choice to have an abortion?
These arguments come up pretty frequently when we do tabling events on campus, and I want to make one thing very clear: every single point is absolutely correct. I am a man. I have no idea, and I will never have an idea, of what a woman goes through during pregnancy. When confronted with these facts, I do my best to let the other person know that everything they just said was spot on.
But then I’ll tell the following story. It’s a little strange and morbid, but bear with me. Let’s say that I’m walking through the woods one day, and I come across a river. On the other side of the river, there is a woman and her newborn child. She is currently in the process of trying to drown her child when I happen to see them. Now, there a lot of noteworthy facts about this situation. I am a man. I cannot become pregnant, and I can never be a mother. I have no idea what this woman’s situation is. Maybe she cannot financially support her child, or maybe giving birth has put her through so much psychological trauma that she can’t bear it anymore. However, despite all of these factors, I think one thing is abundantly clear: not only do I, as a man, have a right to an opinion about the situation I saw, but I also have a moral obligation to step in and try to do something to save the life of the child. And the reason for that is simple: children have a right to life, and the fact that they pose financial and emotional burdens on their parents does not justify killing them. Therefore, any person who might walk by would be morally obligated to save the child, regardless of his or her gender.
This analogy raises an immediate response: namely, it’s not fair to compare a born child with an unborn child. The born child is a human being with rights, and the unborn child is simply a clump of cells – a potential human being, maybe, but definitely not a person with a right to life. And this point is completely fair. The story does not effectively argue that the unborn child is a person with a right to life (and, like I previously said, that’s not the point of this post). However, what the story does do is accurately frame the abortion debate. In the end, this issue is not about misogyny, government intrusion, or even women’s rights. The only important question regarding abortion is simply, “Is the unborn child a human being with a right to life?” If the answer is no, and abortion is no more morally wrong that getting a tooth pulled, then all men should be pro-choice. After all, a woman should be allowed to do whatever she wants, provided she doesn’t harm another person. If the unborn child is not a person, then no one (and definitely no man) should be able to deny her the right to an abortion. However, if the unborn child is a human being with a right to life, then abortion is now an act of murder, and the practice should be illegal for the same reason that drowning a newborn child in a river should be illegal: even when they may be a financial or psychological burden, human beings still have a right to life, and should be protected as such under the law.
There are two logically consistent positions for men to hold about abortion: either believe that abortion does not kill a human being, and therefore men should defer to the woman’s choice; or, that abortion does kill a human being, and therefore men should speak out against the practice. There is no room for the feel-good, wish-washy middle ground that many men try to take by saying that they are “personally pro-life”, but feel like they don’t want to tell women what to do. Again, if you believe that abortion takes an innocent life, and therefore should be illegal, that is a morally coherent position to have. If you believe that abortion does not take an innocent life, and therefore should be legal, that is also a morally coherent position. But to believe that abortion takes an innocent life but should be legal anyways is nothing short of cowardly.
So why aren’t men more vocal about abortion? I think there are two big reasons.
First, we believe the lie that because abortion affects women, men should remain silent on the issue. However, the opposite is true: it is exactly because abortion affects women that men should be vocal and take a stand. Abortion hurts our wives. It severs the natural, nurturing bond between mother and child and instead pits them against each other. The practice has dealt an incalculable amount of pain, shame, and guilt to women over the past 44 years since Roe v. Wade. Abortion also hurts our daughters. The latest statistics put the number of abortions in the United States per year at about 660,000, roughly half of which are girls.
However, the biggest reason why not enough men speak out against abortion is because we constantly seek the world’s approval. We don’t want people to think that we’re sexist. We don’t want people to think that we’re callous. We definitely don’t want people to think that we’re intolerant. But this desire to appease the society around us comes at an enormous cost.
If you’re a man, and you speak out against abortion, you will be judged.
You will be called misogynistic.
You will be told to stop telling women what to do with their bodies.
You will damage your reputation in the eyes of people you care about.
And that’s ok. Because the health and lives of our wives and daughters are worth more than what other people think about us. Even though society may tell men that their role in this issue is to stay on the sidelines, real men don’t sit back and watch their children be killed and wives hurt without speaking up and taking a stand. Real men don’t let fear of social consequence stop them from doing what’s right.
I’ll be the first to admit that I fall short of this so many times. I can’t count how many times when, if someone asks me what organizations I’m involved with in college, I’ve casually left out that I’m in the pro-life group at UT. I still care what others think about me, and I still fear rejection from people I care about. But if you’re a guy reading this, I hope you’ll join me in beginning to take a stand for what is right, even when it’s not the socially acceptable thing to do. There is too much at stake to do anything less.
Mitchell Clouse is a sophomore Finance major at the University of Texas at Austin. He currently serves as the Tabling Coordinator for Texas Students for Life.