Imagine this scenario. A woman falls pregnant and is overjoyed but her partner does not want to keep the baby and is in favour of an abortion. The woman is adamant it is her body and she is going to keep the baby regardless. The couple become estranged as a result but the man is still financially responsible for the child he never wanted for the next 18 years. Is this just the laws of biology at work or does there need to be a change?
The story in the British press about the couple who were torn apart over whether to abort their unborn baby with suspected Downs Syndrome has sparked a much wider debate. Whether men should have just as much say over if a woman has an abortion or keeps the baby as the woman herself.
It does not actually matter who this couple are as they represent the plight of many couples who find themselves in this huge quandary – whether because of the suspected poor health of their unborn child or, in the case of a perfectly healthy baby, because one person is not happy about becoming a parent.
The case of a Down Syndrome child is a particularly tricky one, and I can see, has the potential to rip apart even the closest of relationships. In this case the woman was determined to keep the baby whilst the man could foresee just how challenging it would be to care for a child with problems.
What is more incomprehensible to me however is the amount of couples who find they are suspecting a baby – a healthy baby – only for one to decide that they do not want to be a parent and so press for an abortion.
Currently a man is financially responsible by law to provide for a child, whether wanted or not, until they are 18-years-old. This has led to people questioning whether a man should have as much say over whether a baby is aborted or not, as currently men are being left in the position of supporting children they had no inclination to have or alternatively, are having to see their partners having abortions when they wanted to keep the child.
At present far more weight is given to the woman’s position as ‘it is her body’. But should this change?
Firstly, I find it difficult to see how couples manage to get themselves into a situation where they find themselves so estranged over surely one of the most basic aspects of a relationship – whether to have children or not. But then I guess I must be lucky. Of course there are women who can entrap men by falling pregnant against the man’s wishes but then there is obviously something amiss in the relationship anyway.
But my main point would be that a woman does unavoidably have a much different connection to the unborn baby than her partner. It is not just a simple matter of ‘it’s her body’. It is the effect the baby is having on that body. All the emotion and feeling that pours out almost from the very beginning. The sense early on that there is a little life growing within you, and as time moves on those first movements and the bonding and interaction that develops as the baby grows.
This is something which a man can never share, or understand, on quite the same level. Especially for first time fathers, there is generally the sense the pregnancy only becomes real as the woman’s bump grows and the baby within becomes literally more visible. As a result I feel this does not put men and women on an equal footing when it comes to making a decision on whether to keep a baby or not.
On the other foot, a woman is also more aware of the demands of the baby on her body and if she does not feel completely happy about becoming a mother it would be against human ethics surely to make her go through the mental, emotional and physical strain of carrying an unwanted child and giving birth to it on the wishes of her partner.
Because of these basic biological reasons I don’t feel men and women can ever be equal when it comes to deciding whether to abort a baby or not, whether this is fair or not. I think the only solution would be for the law to change so that men did not have to financially support a child they did not want, but then I guess that would open up a whole new can of worms.