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Abortion: a way for men to opt out?

The idea espoused in this article, of giving men the ‘right’ to what is termed a financial abortion in order to somehow equalise their right to opt out of pregnancy just like a woman, is interesting.  It is one that I have written about before when I see abortion advocates saying women ‘need’ abortion in order to be equal.   In fact, a woman’s ‘right’ to abortion gives her far greater rights than men.

The fact is that women are the sex that grows and births children.  This fact of biology seems to have escaped the notice of many although perhaps they are working on the wishful thinking notion that if they say it enough, the facts will change to suit them; like the gender-fluid advocates. 

There is nothing ‘equal’ in reproductive rights between men and women and no amount of wishing will make it so.  Women are far superior to men in this department, in spite of the fact that radical 60’s and 70’s feminism chose to uphold men and the ‘things men do’ in much higher regard and told women that unless they could do those ‘men things’ they were not good enough.   

The problem is not what men do or what women do biologically speaking.   The problem is that we have conveniently structured society around male biology to make it easier for them to do what they do.  We’ve done this so effectively that many came to believe that only men could even do those things unless women changed their bodies and rid them of themselves of their ‘unwanted’ children.

Yet in spite of the fact that we know that the vast majority of abortions are not taking place as an expression of freedom or autonomy of women, but of poverty and desperation, a proposal that would further disadvantage these women is being sold as yet another empowering move for them.

Giving men the right to a ‘financial abortion’ doesn’t give them equal rights unless they also have the option to choose parenthood, just like the woman does.  This would necessitate a man being able to prevent a woman from having an abortion; another fact overlooked by Deveney, the author of the article; an article so replete with ignorance that I am not sure where to begin.

  ‘… the litmus test is simple: Is it fair for people to be forced to become parents against their wishes? If it's not fair for a woman to be forced to bear a child or have an abortion, it follows it's not fair for a man to be forced to become a parent.’

It also follows that it is not fair for a man to lose his ‘wanted’ child to abortion.  The balancing of ‘rights’ and ‘equality’ in this regard just gets messier doesn’t it?   Almost everything we do in daily life is about juggling the rights of individual people, yet this simplistic solution, supposedly ensuring equality between the sexes has some major flaws.  It doesn’t create equality of ‘choice’ but it does provide a legally sanctioned way to further abandon women and children. 

I can hear the radical feminist screeching about the concept of ‘abandonment of women’ now as though the need for support at different times during life is a weakness, or that the need for social and relational stability during some circumstances makes a person ‘lesser than’.   The biological fact remains that women are more vulnerable during pregnancy, both physically and often emotionally as they manage changing hormonal states.  

So what?  

When did vulnerability and the need to provide a little more care and nurture become synonymous with something so terrible?   Was that about the time we started talking about killing off the elderly?   Or perhaps it was when we started insisting to women that they kill off their less than perfect babies?

Deveney decries calls on men to be responsible for caring for women and children and to stop ‘infantilising women’,

The word "responsible" comes up whenever fatherhood does — the idea that men should "step up" and "do the right thing" and support their own flesh and blood.

… again, as though the need for care and support is a weakness rather than a simple biological life phase.  In this context men are more able to continue to work and earn money.  That’s just a fact. Whereas women’s bodies are performing amazing acts of their own, no less important, perhaps even more important.   Why shouldn’t there be some complementarity to what they each do?   Why does this old 70’s feminist radicalism equate this to weakness?   Why are they still insisting that women are innately weak when in fact women are innately awesome and strong and can still be vulnerable, just like men can be.

She says,

But if there was an opportunity for men to opt out — blame free — of fatherhood earlier, there may be fewer cases of men abandoning their children later in life. Surely it would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child if its father opts out early in a pregnancy than if he abandons it (and its mother) after it is born?


Opting out of fatherhood sooner makes it clear it’s not the particular child he’s rejecting, but fatherhood itself.

Has Deveney not turned on a television in the last 2 years to see the number of TV shows devoted to parents searching for long lost children, siblings looking for each other, and one of the latest depicting adult children desperate to know their fathers?   It doesn’t take much of a google search to find the stories of abandonment, rejection and dejection that children experience even when donor conceived.   Does she seriously think that such intense emotions will be wiped away by rationalising that ‘it wasn’t me he rejected, it was just a pregnancy or just fatherhood.’  This constant focus on individual rights totally disregards the rights of yet another group of people; the children conceived and born as a result of this exercise of ‘rights’ with no responsibility.  

But haven't we moved past the thinking that people should be punished simply for engaging in pleasure? Do we really want our children to be conceived by force?

Herein lies part of the problem of this very tired 70’s feminism thinking; the viewing of pregnancy, birth and the raising of children as punishment. Parenting is hard work.   It brings enormous challenges, and many great joys.   Biologically speaking, if we don’t keep doing it we will cease to exist as a species in a very short amount of time; a fact very conveniently ignored by those only concerned about their immediate personal gratification.   

I believe every baby should be wanted, and every parent should be willing.

Really?  What if the baby is wanted by the father but not by the mother?  What if the baby is wanted by the grandparents, the father, the aunts and uncles, but still not by the mother?  What if the baby is wanted only by the mother and by none of her support people and she is therefore compelled to abortion because they refuse to help her with housing, money or vital emotional support?   How does ‘wantedness’ and your version of equality fit there?

Unfortunately, there is still an expectation in society that men should provide for women; indeed, many women and men prefer and expect it.

Just beginning this sentence with ‘unfortunately’ tells us everything about Deveney’s bias.   If MANY men and women prefer and expect these particular roles, what is the problem?   I for one am quite sick of hearing that if a woman chooses to be home raising children she has been somehow brainwashed into a socialised gender role and she’s oppressed.   Maybe she just chose it? 

Also worrying in the debate about financial abortion is the conviction that abortion itself is a scarring and emotionally traumatic procedure for women and parenting a child is always the better alternative.

More worrying should be the fact that the women who do experience abortion as scarring and emotionally traumatic are usually marginalised and dismissed from any discussion about abortion.  The fact that those most at risk of psychological harm following abortion are those who feel pressured toward it whether by people or circumstances, and women who have other specific vulnerabilities such as mental health problems or difficulties coping, makes this idea even more dangerous for women.   Suggesting that a man can opt out early in pregnancy does nothing to empower women or their children to ‘go it alone’, but does plenty to isolate and abandon women who may already be feeling unsupported and alone.

There are consequences for everything. But we need to start challenging moralistic ideas about the "blessing of conception" and be more practical about how it actually affects people's lives.

Yes, there are consequences for everything.   Conception doesn’t need to be framed in terms of a ‘blessing’ in order for it to be a consequence that requires adults to both step up to the responsibility of the ‘consequence’.   Nor does abortion need to be the way in which we resolve the issues facing women when they bear the greater biological role of children during pregnancy and early parenting.  We do need to look at the practical challenges.   These include not enough paid parental leave, inflexible work and educational institutions, seeing children as punishment and continuing to advocate abortion when it is known that it is used most often by women who feel they have no choice. 

What we know today is that women are not only capable of the unique and amazing biological function of bearing children, they are also capable of bringing their skill, knowledge and strengths to the professional and educational worlds.    If the Deveney’s of the world spent as much time and energy into addressing the actual social inequities instead of pushing for greater abortion access, women would have more choice and we could all benefit from their contribution.    



  1. Kate

    I only encountered the original article and various responses it gave rise to now. There are things in both the original and your article that I agree with – i just have one question. To me Deveny’s piece was centred on the specific case of when contraception has failed, it is early in the relationship, and no-one has discussed having children. To me those circumstances make her proposal very different from the idea that any man who is not up for fatherhood can opt out. I just don’t think if I was a man in those circumstances that I’d feel it was fair to have to take on such an important role, and if I was a woman in the same situation I would not wantbto be forced to take that role if I wasn’t ready for it. Nor would I insist my partner took it on if he didn’t want it and the pregnancy was as Deveny said purely the result of contraception failure. This is v different from both partners not using contraception or one person forcing their wish not to use contraception on the other.

  2. Audra

    This is a brilliant response. You said everything I was thinking but didn’t know how to express. Thank you!!

  3. Steph

    Awesome response. I read the article and was so furious! For one thing she doesn’t even know what “equality” means. It’s not sameness. It means equal opportunity and equal outcomes. Men can have children and still continue with their careers and their lives, even if they do have to pay child support. Women are the one who are physically restricted due to pregnancy, birth and lactation, and therefore require support, preferably from the person who helped put her in that situation! Go back to the 1800s when all a man had to do to “opt out” was not marry the woman he had impregnanted. Yeah let’s go back to those times when women were forced into extreme poverty and destitution, or turned to infanticide or feticide, while the man skipped off unencumbered, physically, financially or emotionally. Yeah. Real equality.

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