Men and Abortion

June 19, 2019 Updated: June 20, 2019


Should men have a say on the question of abortion, either as a matter of law and policy or as a personal matter in their own lives?

Some feminists say no, though their ire is directed only at pro-life men, those who support the right of children in the womb not to be killed. (Like women, men are divided about equally on the question.) And it’s pro-life men, not pro-choice men, who get attacked on social media comment threads and the like for presuming to speak at all. “No uterus, no say!” is the slogan.

Silencing Pro-Life Men

Behind the effort to silence pro-life men is the notion that only those who bear the burden of pregnancy are entitled to voice an opinion on the matter. It’s an odd view of public policymaking, and it’s hard to find an analogous case where it would not appear absurd.

Does anyone argue that only young men, who bear the main burden of killing or being killed in battle, are entitled to voice their opinions on foreign affairs or matters of war and peace? And few, I suspect, think that only slave-owners are entitled to an opinion about the morality of owning or killing a slave? Or that only caregivers of the severely disabled should be allowed opinions on euthanasia in such cases.

Not many would be persuaded today by arguments that the slave, like the child in the womb, is not a full human being and so is not entitled to the same legal protection as others against being killed.

More generally—and in even more extreme terms—some such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) claim that bans on abortion in such states as Alabama (where both the bill’s chief sponsor and the governor who signed it into law are women) “aren’t just about controlling women’s bodies. They’re about controlling women’s sexuality. Owning women.” It’s a “brutal form of oppression” called patriarchy.

This narrative about opposition to legalized abortion being a way the patriarchy keeps women down may persuade some men to keep silent. Not, of course, those who support abortion as a necessary backstop for the pill in sustaining the promise of casual and uncommitted sex. Nor those who rely on the option of abortion to protect their reputations and careers from the unwanted side-effects of their promiscuity. Such men have learned well the modern feminist line as the acceptable way of defending their own interests.

No, the men silenced by this patriarchy narrative are those who have misgivings about the key questions at stake here—the humanity of the little human being inside the pregnant woman and that mother’s right to have her offspring killed. Also to be silent are men who would have been willing to welcome, protect, and support their child and his or her mother, but whose son or daughter is killed in the womb without their consenting or even knowing about the abortion.

Two Men and an Abortion

The story of my friend Jason Scott Jones, a film producer, writer, and human-rights and pro-life activist, illustrates both kinds of man. Jason has told his story, describing how he and the girl—both still in high school—adjusted to learning she was pregnant. They scrapped their hopes and plans for college and career. He dropped out of school to join the Army. After basic training, their new plan was, they would be together and he would provide for all three of them. Jason embraced his role of father, protector, and provider when his girlfriend told him the news, just before his 17th birthday.

Jason tells the heart-breaking story of how the girl called him when he was close to graduating from basic training, crying her heart out as he’d never heard a woman cry before, to tell him again and again that she was sorry and “It wasn’t me.” Her father took the phone from her hand and told Jason she had had an abortion. Jason fell apart, but managed to get out the words to his captain, “Sir, call the police, my girlfriend’s father killed my child.” The captain gently explained to him that, since Roe v. Wade, abortion was legal. Jason became from that day a committed pro-life activist.

Most men are not so vocal or vehement on either side of the abortion issue. I suspect that for every man who responds to his girlfriend’s unexpected pregnancy as Jason did to protect and provide for his child, there are several who gladly write a check for the abortion clinic to protect their own plans and freedom. Given the demise of the shotgun wedding tradition—even as a metaphor for pressure on the man by the pregnant girl’s family to marry the girl—it’s reasonable to suspect that many men react as the girl’s father did in this case, protecting his family’s reputation at the expense of his preborn grandchild’s life.

We don’t have reliable statistics on the relative proportions of those, like Jason, who become fathers, providers, and protectors, as opposed to those who seek sex without commitment or responsibility and would rather respond by encouraging the girl to get an abortion. We don’t know how many fathers and brothers would support the pregnant girl and her baby compared with those who would persuade or coerce her to have her child killed.

Men as Promoters of Abortion

There is no, however, question about the key role played by men in advancing abortion as policy and practice. Feminists from Mary Wollstonecraft in the 18th century to Margaret Sanger in the 20th, abhorred abortion. It was feminists in the 19th century, not supporters of the patriarchy, who campaigned for passage of anti-abortion laws. What happened to turn feminists in the late 20th century into campaigners for abolition of those laws that their sisters had won a few decades earlier?

One part of the explanation has to be the key role of men in advancing the cause of abortion. It was not until Sanger’s retirement and death in the 1960s that the male abortion advocate Alan Guttmacher took over as president of Sanger’s organization, Planned Parenthood Federation, and turned it into a corporate advocate for, and then one of the world’s leading providers of, abortion.

It took the relentless efforts of journalist Larry Lader and abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson to persuade reluctant feminists and women’s movement leaders to support legal abortion. With relentless persuasion and bogus statistics, they eventually won over Betty Friedan—the first edition of whose book, “The Feminist Mystique,” didn’t mention abortion—and Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown. Lader and Nathanson founded NARAL, now called the National Abortion Rights Action League, and persuaded a reluctant NOW (National Organization for Women) to take up the cause.

All this is well described in Nathanson’s book, written after he renounced his life as an abortionist responsible for the destruction of some 75,000 young lives, and also in Sue Ellen Browder’s account of her career at Cosmo, where she saw firsthand how pro-abortion men like Lader and Nathanson subverted the women’s movement.

Both the press and the Supreme Court itself relied on abortion statistics that, as Nathanson later admitted, were completely made up, fabricated because the truth was not on their side. The shameless behavior of these men played a decisive role in promoting abortion in a women’s movement that had always opposed it.

Paul Adams is a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawai‘i and was a professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University. He is the coauthor of “Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is” and has written extensively on social welfare policy and professional and virtue ethics.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Paul Adams
Paul Adams
Paul Adams is a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawai‘i, and was professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University. He is the co-author of "Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is," and has written extensively on social welfare policy and professional and virtue ethics.