Dear Mr. Dad: I remember a thoughtful column you wrote a few years ago about abortion and the need for men and women to talk about it. I'm wondering whether your thinking has changed in light of the draconian anti-abortion laws in Georgia, Alabama and other places. I'm also wondering what you think about the laws in other states (New York, for example) that seemingly allow late-term abortions for any reason.
A: Wow, those are some pretty serious political questions. As I mentioned last time this topic came up, I try to stay out of politics, but these are important issues, so let's dig in.
To your first question, my bottom line hasn't changed: When it comes to family planning, I still believe that women should have 51% of the votes. At the same time, I believe that we've mislabeled family planning as a "women's issue," when, in reality, it has a profound effect on men as well. A woman's legal right to choose to terminate a pregnancy allows her to deny a man's just-as-legal right to become a father and unilaterally ends any hopes and dreams of fatherhood he might have had. Likewise, her legal right to choose to become a parent denies his just-as-legal right to not become a parent and forces him into a role he may not want.
For those reasons, I am -- and will always be -- a big believer in the importance of men and women discussing family planning issues together (except in cases of rape or incest, when the "father" should be in jail). To be clear, I'm not suggesting that men should have the right to force a woman to get an abortion -- or to bear a child -- against her will. Again, in my world, she gets to make the final decision. However, if we want men to be active partners in parenting, they must have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, to express how having -- or not having -- a child will affect them, to try to convince their partner that they're right, while also giving those same partners a chance to convince them that they're right.
As to the "heartbeat" laws and other recent attempts to roll back or criminalize abortion, I believe they're misguided. In my view, abortion should be legal, safe, and, hopefully, rare -- up until the point when the fetus is "viable," meaning it has a good chance of surviving outside the womb without extensive medical intervention. That's typically around 24 weeks.
At the same time, the laws allowing late-term abortion (or infanticide, in the words of opponents) are probably getting more attention than they warrant. The truth is that fewer than 1% of abortions happen at or after 24 weeks, and the majority of those are done to save the life of the mother or because of significant fetal abnormalities which, in the eyes of doctors, are not compatible with life. In the remaining cases, though, terminating a healthy, viable pregnancy for no medically necessary reason is too close to murder for my taste, especially when putting the baby up for adoption is a reasonable alternative.
The bottom line is that we need to make every attempt to understand that the abortion debate is not only about "women's rights." Completely excluding men -- as we currently do -- from the discussion and denying them a role in their own reproductive choices just reinforces the old stereotype that anything having to do with the family is exclusively a women's issue. The sooner we start seeing abortion as something that affects all of us, the sooner we'll be able to reach a workable consensus.
(Read Armin Brott's blog at www.DadSoup.com, follow him on Twitter, @mrdad, or send email to email@example.com.)
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