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Abortions Have Made Life Better for Millions Of Men: It's About Time to Speak Up in Support

It's time for pro-choice men to step up -- because our choices change their lives, too.

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Men still enjoy the luxury of being able to choose their level of parental engagement. Some walk away and never see their baby. Others dedicate the rest of their lives to their kid's welfare. Which path they choose is totally their decision, and they can (and do) reconsider that relationship at any time, at will.

Women have no such choice. Once we're pregnant, we're in it, full-on, for the next 20 years, whether we want to be or not. Since we don't enjoy the wide leeway men are granted on the engagement front, it's essential that we maintain control of the one choice we do have -- that is, whether or not to go forward with the pregnancy at all. To a degree that's simply not true for men, we have a few short weeks in the first trimester of pregnancy to decide, once and for all, whether we're in or out. Once we make that call, there's no taking it back or changing our minds. We will live with that decision day in and day out for the rest of our lives.

Pro-choice men get this, and that's why they've stepped so far back from the political conversation. And pro-choice women have encouraged their silence, because we've learned the hard way that whenever we get men involved in these discussions, we're vastly raising the risk that some of them are going to try to assert control over our choices.

But it's time for both men and women to rethink this hands-off position. Recent research has found that the vast majority of women who have abortions don't make the decision on their own. We almost always turn to our partners, family members, spiritual advisers, and doctors as we weigh our options. And of those supporting players, it's our male partners who have the biggest stake in the decision, and play the biggest role -- which is why, better than 80 percent of the time, our partners not only know about the abortion; they also support it. 

Just as we never hear from millions of women who have never regretted their decision to terminate a pregnancy, the millions of men whose lives have been unquestionably changed for the better by an abortion decision are also rendered completely invisible -- often, even to themselves. When I ask male friends about the role abortion has played in their lives, they get quiet, shy and furtive. "I supported my girlfriend through an abortion -- but I really don't think it's my story to tell," one told me. Or they simply don't make the connection at all. "Oh. My. God," another one said, his eyes getting wide with sudden realization. "If she hadn't had that abortion, I'd have been a father right now!" It was an ultimate " duh!" moment, as though he'd never really reckoned the full implications of this fact until just that moment.

The thing of it is, gentlemen: You do have a story to tell. You didn't make the final decision, but we know that in the overwhelming majority of cases, you were intimately involved in the conversations that led up to it. You were most likely the one who drove her to the clinic, and drove her home again. And the choice not to become a father, right at that particular moment, has had a major impact on every day of your life and every major decision you've made ever since.

Think about it. How would your life be different today if she hadn't chosen abortion? Would you be co-parenting with a woman you knew wasn't right for you? Or fathering more kids than your time and resources responsibly allow? Are there educational opportunities you would have had to skip, reducing your earnings for the rest of your life? Or career breaks that wouldn't have happened if you'd been encumbered with a kid (or another kid)? 

 
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