Early in the conflict between abortion opponents and supporters, the pro-abortion community laid claim to women’s rights nomenclature. “Reproductive autonomy,” they argued, is a woman’s “right,” like the right to vote or the right to equal pay for equal work. Abortion, they insisted, would liberate women to pursue their sexual and career interests free of repercussions or dependence on their male partners. At the same time, corresponding legal and philosophical arguments for abortion as a special right took root in the American consciousness and persist to the present day. These positions are invariably rooted in the notion that access to abortion on demand is necessary for women to achieve equality with men by being as sexually free as their male counterparts.
This position predates Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that codified the so-called right to elective abortion on demand. For instance, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger posited in 1919 that “no woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” Context suggests that Sanger had birth control in mind, but advocates of elective abortion on demand soon adopted the same argument. In time, Sanger’s fledgling organization would ultimately grow into the largest abortion business in the United States. Today Planned Parenthood performs an abortion every ninety-seven seconds.
Abortion: Men Started It
The exercise of power over the life of one’s offspring is not a new construct. In ancient Rome, for example, the paterfamilias, or family patriarch, maintained a legal right to dispose of children deemed unwanted or unfit after birth. Likewise, a widespread preference for male children has compelled parents in China and India to terminate the lives of their daughters for centuries. Gender-determination ultrasounds have been used more recently to terminate these lives prior to birth, but the brutal infanticide of daughters remains common.
What is startling about the “women’s rights” argument for abortion ubiquitous in modern Western culture is that it reframes the act of abortion as a means to women’s freedom, whereas historically it was, by and large, a reflection of male dominance.
The same questionable argument for abortion as a necessity for women’s freedom steered the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade. Justice Harry Blackmun found a right to abortion in an eisegetical reading of the Fourteenth Amendment. He concluded for the Court that a “right of personal privacy” could be found in the “penumbras” emanating from the Fourteenth Amendment, among other places, and that this right included a woman’s right to “terminate her pregnancy.”
Penning his concurrence with the majority decision of Roe v. Wade, Justice Potter Stewart said the Court had shown that “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The irony here is that the due process clause mandates that no person be deprived of life without the due process of law—a protection that, thanks to Roe, unborn children no longer enjoy.
In order to make this argument, the Supreme Court had to reject the possibility that the preborn child was a person to be afforded his or her own rights at all. To this end, the majority decision interpreted the Constitution as not defining “personhood” as including the preborn. The opinion further concluded that, because they believed there was no consensus among doctors, philosophers, and theologians about when life began, the justices in favor of elective abortion on demand could not and did not need to resolve what they called that “difficult question.” They decided that preborn children weren’t persons simply because they didn’t see conclusive evidence otherwise. This shocking and extreme conclusion has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of American children.
Contemporary abortion enthusiasts often harness less subtle language than the Court to express the absence of concern for the humanity or personhood of the preborn child evidenced in Roe. For example, Salon contributor Mary Elizabeth Williams marked the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a piece entitled “So what if abortion ends a life?” Williams acknowledged that “a fetus” is “a human life,” but concluded that this reality does not render her “one iota less solidly pro-choice.” Why? In so many words, for the same reason Roe v. Wade determined abortion was a constitutional right: “[The pregnant woman]’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her . . . should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her.”
Having washed their hands of any obligation to consider the rights of abortion’s preborn victim, the Supreme Court’s all-male majority was free to craft an abortion rights argument predicated entirely on the perceived right of women to control their own bodies. It’s Margaret Sanger’s dream come true . . . or is it?
Men Use Abortion to Oppress Women
The passage of time revealed that the license to abort a child for any reason and at any point in pregnancy (thanks to the concurrent Supreme Court decision in Doe v. Bolton) would not yield the unfettered liberation contemporary feminists had predicted. Indeed, there was a major oversight in their calculations—namely, how men would turn the perceived freedoms of abortion on the women who had worked to secure them. Roe effectively promised men consequence-free sex.
Men—all too frequently seeking to maximize their sexual pleasure at as little cost as possible—found the right to abortion extremely liberating for them; all they risked was having to pay a few hundred dollars to avoid the potential result of their behavior. Meanwhile, women were too often reduced to mere objects for the sexual gratification of their liberated male counterparts.
Recently, for instance, new allegations have surfaced that NFL player Reggie Bush paid his mistress $3 million to abort the child she says he fathered earlier this year. Similarly, the NBA’s J.J. Redick allegedly drew up an “abortion contract” requiring his pregnant girlfriend, Vanessa Lopez, to undergo an abortion. His girlfriend relayed her feelings of duress to her abortion provider (Joshua Perper), but the abortion business proceeded with the termination anyway. Lopez allegedly walked away with Redick’s contractual payment of $25,000 . . . and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Stories like these are ubiquitous. Rather than liberating women, abortion has rendered women vulnerable to the sexual appetites of unscrupulous men who—freed of society’s expectation that they will care for the mothers of their children—use, abuse, and discard them in assembly-line fashion. Wanting the right to abortion for the sake of freedom and equality gave way to needing abortion for women to cope with the damage done by sexual encounters in which they alone were saddled with consequences. Frederica Mathewes-Green captured the tragedy of this deflated sense of liberation when she observed: “There is a tremendous sadness and loneliness in the cry ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
Last year, I penned a series of blog posts entitled “Four Points of Proof for Life.” These points of proof are scientific, biblical, philosophical, and sociological. In examining the sociological argument for life, I noted that every law reflects someone’s morality; the question is, whose morality do we wish to legislate: that of the moral relativist who believes humans are not all equal, or that of the moral absolutist who believes that killing an innocent human is always wrong, regardless of who, where, or what size that human is?
In 1858, while debating a defender of slavery, Abraham Lincoln said that anyone who admitted that slavery was wrong could not “logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.” In other words, the existence of unjust laws does not give us a legitimate right to do what is morally wrong. Unjust laws can only give us license to do what is wrong; and license is not freedom.
When seven men convened at the Supreme Court in 1973 to abolish state-level abortion restrictions in all fifty states, they did not unfetter a freedom that had been long withheld from women. Rather, they codified legal license to commit injustice. As a result, nearly sixty million children have died. And, of course, countless women have been exploited and betrayed by the false promises of abortion. They have been doubly exploited: by an abortion industry profiting at their expense, and by the men whose greatest ally in their pursuit of self-gratification is the abortion industry.
Men Can End It
This generation knows that abortion harms women; they have seen it firsthand. Abortion has left our mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters in emotional agony, spiritual turmoil, and, sometimes, physical incapacity. We have witnessed the insidious promises of Roe-era abortion promoters crumble in the wake of abortion’s reverberating consequences. Women have made incredible strides to reclaim the abortion conversation and publicly reject the notion that abortion is liberating or beneficial to women.
But women cannot and should not carry this banner alone. Thankfully, great progress has been made in recent years. Public opinion has shifted, and the abortion industry is beginning to be called out on its long-unchallenged betrayal of women. I often say that all that remains to end abortion in America is one long, sustained push to the finish line. But this will not happen until key groups—namely men and the Christian church, which is led by men—take an active role in ending abortion.
To do this, men must first and foremost practice sexual integrity. Porn, the hookup culture, and marital infidelity are patently incompatible with a pro-woman, pro-life worldview. Sexual self-gratification spawned abortion culture; self-control and fidelity are the first steps to reclaiming the culture for life. Men must start by rejecting pornography, being faithful to their spouses, and practicing self-mastery. They need to hold one another to high standards, mentoring and supporting one another in the practice of sexual integrity.
Second, post-abortive men should be encouraged to share their stories. Tens of millions of American women have had abortions. For every aborted child and post-abortive mother, there is also a man—a partner and father. The stories of post-abortive men fall on a diverse spectrum. Some men coerced their child’s mother into having an abortion, while others were unaware of the abortion or even the pregnancy until after the fact.
Human Coalition’s Vice President, Jeff Bradford, is a post-abortive man who came to his convictions after seeing the effect the abortion of his child had on his wife. Bradford shares:
I think the thing that really struck me . . . was my wife. Because every woman wants to be fought for. Every woman wants to know that she’s beautiful, that she is worth pursuing, and she wonders if her husband or that man in her life or her father is going to stand in the gap for her.
Whatever your story is, sharing it is the only way to break the taboo around men and abortion.
Third, men must actively engage in the pro-life movement. We will succeed when we work alongside the women who have led the charge to reclaim our children and our culture from Roe, taking a cue from their unapologetic stance against the abortion industry. My colleagues at Human Coalition and I have created an online resource center to help men who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The blueprint for our abortion-ending work comes from a quote by Hudson Taylor, famous 19th-century missionary to China. Taylor said that there are three stages to every work of God: impossible, difficult, done.
When men fully engage in the pro-life movement, we will bring the mission to completion.
Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Human Coalition and author of Abortion: The Ultimate Exploitation of Women. Human Coalition is one of the largest pro-life organizations in the country, committed to ending abortion in America by rescuing children and serving families in key, abortion-riddled communities nationwide. Find him on Twitter @BrianEFisher.