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Fathers carry pivotal sway in abortion, experts contend

WASHINGTON (BP)–As people on both sides of the abortion debate gather in Washington this week to mark the 29th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, there’s an ongoing effort to examine why women have abortions in the first place. Some say men are pivotal in the decision women make.

“It’s almost a unanimous statement…among all [women who have had an abortion] that they felt like they had no choice,” observes Wendy Wright, spokesperson for Concerned Women for America in an interview with CNSNews.com.

That’s ironic, Wright said, considering that the entire abortion movement was based on the idea of choice.

“But they feel they have no choice because their boyfriend, their husband [or] their parent is forcing them into it, telling them that they have to have this abortion, that they’re not going to support them if they don’t,” said Wright, a pro-life activist who performs outreach work to women entering abortion clinics.

A 1998 survey conducted by the liberal Guttmacher Institute of 1,900 women who were seeking abortions found that number one reason for their choice was either that they couldn’t afford it or were unready for the responsibility. Forty-two percent of women cited one of these reasons.

Other reasons given included concern about life changes (16 percent), trouble in the relationship with the baby’s father or fear of single parenthood (12 percent) or lack of maturity/too young (11 percent).

The Guttmacher Institute characterized most of these reasons as “social problems.” Wright traces it back to the father.

“Again, it does still go back to the fact that the abortion isn’t something they wanted; it’s that they felt they couldn’t cope, that they couldn’t finish their college career [or] advance in their career,” said Wright. “Human nature is [that] she’s going to be dependent on the man; and if he doesn’t offer the support to give life to her child, then she’s not going to feel very likely she can do it on her own.”

An analysis by Catholics For Choice seems to support that conclusion. “Study after study has shown that in many countries of the world, women who have abortions would have continued that pregnancy if circumstances had been different.” It’s because many women who become pregnant unexpectedly are poor and feel they cannot provide a decent life for a child, the group says. And too often, “men are not prepared to love and commit to women and children.”

Olivia Gans, a pro-life activist, agrees with Wright that men play a pivotal role. Gans herself had an abortion in 1981, before devoting her life to pro-life activism the next year.

“The single most important, powerful factor in the decision women make [according to a growing body of research] is the attitude of her partner, the baby’s father,” said Gans. “Eighty-percent of the decision is, in her mind, established based on his reaction.”

In modern times, women actually expect more involvement from their partners in child-rearing, said Gans. If instead he urges the woman to have an abortion to stay together as a couple or says, “‘I didn’t want you to get pregnant; I have no interest in this; you deal with it; [or] it’s your decision, you do whatever you want, I’ll just do whatever you tell me to do,'” said Gans, women often experience those responses as a form of isolation and rejection.

Gans believes that the activism and rhetoric on women’s freedom to choose has taught men that “the noble thing to do…is to say, ‘well, honey, I’ll drive you there.'”

In fact, the president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League may have made a different choice if her husband had been supportive of her own pregnancy, according to Wright.

“In the early ’70s, [Kate Michelman] had three kids, her husband left her, and she found herself pregnant,” said Wright. “That’s why she had an abortion. She was a single parent; she couldn’t cope. If she had had someone around who would have supported her, she probably would not have been this crusader for abortion rights.”
Hall is a staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Christine Hall