Should men talk about abortion?

Some argue that since men cannot become pregnant, they have no business opining on the morality of abortion. To illustrate the flaw in this argument, consider the following passage from a 1921 periodical advocating eugenics:


The South American plains Indian women, living much on horseback, limited their families so as not to be hindered in travelling with their husbands. When a traveler reproached a woman of one of the South American Indian tribes for the practice of infanticide, McLennan says he received the retort, “Men have no business to meddle in women’s affairs.”[1]


The author, who apparently agrees with this woman, cites her retort favorably. But if a man were to happen upon a woman in the act of killing her infant child, would he really have “no business” objecting? I trust that all of my readers, including the most ardently pro-choice, will recognize that such a man has not only the right but also the moral obligation to protest. Men have no business to meddle in women’s affairs. When applied to infanticide, this argument carries no force for us. Why? Because we all recognize that infanticide is not merely an affair of women. The act also involves a child.


For precisely the same reason, the no-boys-allowed argument fails when applied to abortion. Pro-choice activists are fond of the slogan, “My body, my choice.” But if the abortion procedure only concerned the woman’s body, then there would be no objection. The objection arises from the undisputable medical observation that the abortion procedure involves two bodies: the body of the woman and the body of the fetus.


Consider the following excerpt from a medical textbook describing how to perform a late-term abortion:


The procedure changes significantly at 21 weeks because the fetal tissues become much more cohesive and difficult to dismember. This problem is accentuated by the fact that the fetal pelvis may be as much as 5cm in width. The calvaria [skull] is no longer the principal problem; it can be collapsed. Other structures, such as the pelvis, present more difficulty. … A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus.[2]


Whose skull is crushed? Who is decapitated and dismembered? Obviously not the woman. There is another body involved in this procedure.


 

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Works Cited:

1. Edward G. Punke, “Birth Control in Relation to Poverty,” The Birth Control Review 5.10 (1921), 8-9.

2. Warren M. Hern, Abortion Practice, Philadelphia: Lippincott (1984), 154.