At one of my favorite websites, Bring It On, I have recently been privileged to have heard the thoughts and experiences of some wonderful women on the topic of abortion. Pia, Miz Bohemia, and Shayna have all written brilliant and touching essays on the subject. I thank them for their candor and bravery in sharing these with us. As women’s rights are again under attack, we need these stories to put a human face on the matter to replace the idea that a faceless mass of cells should trump the rights of the living. If my depiction of a freshly conceived zygote or a proto-humanoid embryo offends you, too bad. We are not human beings in 2 days or 2 months, any more than an egg, some flour and sugar are a batch of cookies once you throw them in the same bowl. If you happened to toss salt instead of sugar in the mix, you toss it out and go on with the day, not lamenting about the loss of your cookies that could have, should have been.

Through my own comments to their posts, and in essays of my own, I have stood firmly behind these women and their right to have dominion over their own bodies. I have done so because I believe firmly in their freedom as much as I value my own. But in all honesty, there is more to it than that. Abortion, as a medical procedure will never affect me as a man. But it has played a role in my own life, and were it not for the availability of legal abortions, my life would not be as it is today.

She was my first real love, and we’d been going out together for over a year. The relationship was the kind that every first young love is, full of passion and entanglement and silly arguments that grew into volcanoes. It was a time of infatuation with each other, of learning how to be more than just a date, but a partner with another person in ways that went beyond a quick hop in the sack. But of course, there was plenty of that too.

Like many teen lovers, sex was an exciting part of our relationship. With the abandon known only to young lovers, we would find time for sex several times a week. But though we were young and horny and full of passion, we were also intelligent kids who knew all about the dangers of sexual intercourse. We knew about disease, but that was not an issue as we both had had only one other sexual encounter before. Pregnancy was the thing to avoid, and we took the precautions available to us. First, she tried the pill, but as is the case for many women, especially younger women, the pill made her feel sick and why take something that makes you feel sick? Next option, condoms. Easy to use, no side effects, everyone’s happy. So that’s what we went with, and we were smart enough to always have one handy. Well, always except that one time. And it really was only that one time.

It is ironic that two people can take precautions against pregnancy every time they have sexual relations, but on the single occasion that they do not, they wind up with a pregnancy anyhow. This is an even more cruel twist of fate when even on that one time, best efforts were made to prevent a commingling of sperm and ova by using the time honored ‘early withdrawal’ method. But there it was. Strike one, you’re out. And there we were, two kids, aged 16 and 17, faced with a life altering decision.
Instinctually, I knew that my opinion would carry some weight, but that ultimately, the decision about what to do about this pregnancy would not be mine. I have never been the type of man who needed to dominate his female companions, to force my will to become theirs. Whether that is an unusual trait or not is of no relevance to me, it is who I am. I had no familial religious followings to guide me in my actions. I had no other person’s morality floating through my head. My concerns were focused on my girlfriend first, our own futures second, and the possible future of the baby, if it were to become one, third. No doubt these were the same thoughts as hers, albeit from a completely different perspective.

So we talked. And I told her that the most important thing for her to know was that I would stand by any decision she wanted to make. I would support her and the baby to the best of my ability if she wanted to continue the pregnancy and try to make a go of things. I would support her if she chose to carry the baby to term and then place it for adoption. I would support her if she chose to end the pregnancy with an abortion. I would not judge her decision or try to make her change her mind. Whatever she chose would be the way it would be.

Neither of us wanted to be parents. We had neither the experience nor the financial ability to offer a child a decent life. Hell, we still hadn’t finished high school. We talked about how choosing to keep the baby would not only put severe restrictions on the future life of a child, it would effectively end our own growth and progress towards adulthood before it had even begun. Instead of creating a new life, we would be destroying three.

At the same point, my girlfriend was terrified of the prospect of being a 16 year old pregnant schoolgirl. Not just because of the social stigma she would be branded with, or because of the eventual ire of her parents, but because she knew that her own body was not ready for the kind of havoc pregnancy and delivery brings to woman’s body. She was still growing and maturing and not ready for this kind of thing either physically or mentally. In realizing this, she knew that she could not carry the baby to term and then give it up for adoption.

That left us with the final choice. In our small town, there were no abortion clinics, but there was a very good, very discreet, women’s health clinic. My girlfriend went there for advice. We were directed to a clinic in the large city, some 2 ½ hours away. I had a job and could afford the costs. I had a car and could get us there. We could handle this on our own. She made the appointment, we made our necessary alibis without giving away our real plan, and we waited for the day to arrive.

The sun was shining, the summer was coming, and we were making the first real adult decision of our lives. It was a terrible day, all the way around. A small amount of melancholy cheer arrived in the form of her sister and one of my good friends, who happened to be dating her at the time. My girlfriend had told her sister, who was my age; she needed someone else to talk to. They were going to meet us up in the city before the abortion, and stay with us until the end. It was what we both needed, because even though I was there for her, and she knew it, I wouldn’t be able to go in the clinic with her. Her sister could, and we were happy she would not be alone. As a consequence, now neither would I, although even with my friend outside to keep my company, I felt as if I was in another world, such was my concern for my girlfriend. I knew she would be uncomfortable, scared, and alone with strangers when the time came.

In the end, as we drove back home alone that evening, we spoke few words. Each of us was thinking our own thoughts about the events of the day, and how we handled them. We knew that the right choice had been made. For her, for us, for the baby whose time had not come. I can’t tell you how she ultimately felt that night, but I don’t think it was good. I know it wasn’t for me. She had just gone through something no one wishes on another person, no one wants to have happen to them. But I think she also felt a great sense of relief in knowing that she had been able to have the chance to make that decision, the best decision in a bad situation.

We went on to enjoy another wonderful year and a half together after that night, but as things tend to go, we eventually broke up and moved on. Teen love seldom lasts a lifetime, although it is often one of the strongest kind of love we know. We went through our own individual ups and downs through our 20’s keeping in contact and staying friends, though rarely ‘hanging out.’ Ev
entually, we didn’t even live in the same town anymore. Today, we are both married and living life on our own terms. Had she made a different choice all those years ago, we would be in a very different place.

Men talk about not having a choice when it comes to abortion, that a woman has all the power and why can’t men have their say in the matter. Well brothers, that isn’t true. You do have a choice. Your choice is to stand behind your woman no matter what she decides. You can choose to be a man or to be a tyrant, forcing your will, your needs on her. You can choose to recognize that your role beyond being a sperm donor is limited to that of support staff until or if a baby is actually born. You can choose to honor the rights you demand for yourself when your woman asserts them for herself. You have a choice. And that choice is important. Your can choose to support her. But brothers, you do not have a right to a woman’s body. You do not have a right to her mind. And you do not have a right to a mass of cells, growing in her body, using her nutrients, and changing her life.

I said earlier that I stand behind a woman’s right to choose. Behind, instead of beside, because they have the uterus and the matter affects them directly and not me. Behind so that I can beat back those who break through the front line, who manage to tear a hole in the wall that women have created to protect their rights. Behind, because that is where support is needed.

Every tale about abortion is personal, and I have never really talked about this part of my life in this detail. I don’t really think about it often, although the recent furor over abortion has forced this back to my mind, especially the current discussion here at this site. But when I do think about what happened all those years ago, I know that the choice we made, that she made, was the best choice at that time. Instead of ending one life, she saved three. And she was able to do so because the law said she could. It is a law to preserve the life of the living. It touches the foundations of freedom. And men, we should all fall in line behind our women and fight to make sure it remains that way.

(Cross posted at Bring It On)