The men who feel left out of US abortion debate
The fiercely-contested debate over US abortion focuses on the rights of the mother and foetus. But a lawsuit in Alabama by a man who says his girlfriend had an abortion against his wishes adds a third voice to the conversation, writes James Jeffrey.
After the rage has dissipated, after overcoming alcoholism as a coping mechanism, even after a new and beautiful family comes on the scene, a great sadness still persists – and likely always will.
That’s the message from men talking about their experiences of abortion, a voice rarely heard among the passionate multitudes in the US abortion debate, though abortion rights supporters argue that this group is an outlier and does not speak for the majority of men involved in an abortion. Currently, the usual male perspectives that feature are legislators pushing to restrict abortion procedures, drawing the ire of pro-choice supporters accusing them of trying to legislate women’s bodies. But now would-be fathers denied by abortion are speaking out.
An Alabama abortion clinic is being sued by a man after his girlfriend had an abortion at the six-week stage, against his will in 2017. The case is the first of its kind because the court recognised the foetus as the plaintiff and the father as the representative of his baby’s estate. “I’m here for the men who actually want to have their baby,” the man told a local news agency in February. “I just tried to plead with her and plead with her and just talk to her about it and see what I could do. But in the end, there was nothing I could do to change her mind.”
Currently in the US, fathers have no legal rights to hinder the abortion of a pregnancy for which they are responsible. State laws requiring that a father be given a say in, or even notified of, an abortion have been struck down by the US Supreme Court.
“I was in my 30s living the good single life in Dallas,” says 65-year-old Karl Locker. When a woman he was seeing told him she was pregnant, he says he felt “like one of those wolves with its leg caught in a trap”.
Nevertheless, he decided he had to support her – and the pregnancy. “I tried everything, I offered to marry her, to take the baby myself, or to offer it up for adoption,” Mr Locker says, explaining that he felt keeping the child would be the right thing to do. “She said she could never give her child up for adoption – it didn’t make cognitive sense.”