What is Meant by the Word “Choice” in our Society?
It is striking that a strong feeling of anger can surface on the first evening of our women’s course. It can be so strong sometimes as to be a barely suppressed rage. It is usually directed at the partner involved in the pregnancy that led to the abortion. It can also be directed at the system of abortion itself. What causes this anger?
The experience of our courses shows that a woman with an unintended pregnancy will nearly always go to the man involved, tell him she is pregnant and ask him what he thinks they should do as a couple. The reply often heard is: “I will do whatever you want to do.” At face value this sounds supportive, but it is avoiding responsibility, avoiding engaging with the situation and sharing their actual feelings. As the pregnancy progresses many women would like to have had the option of continuing with the pregnancy but the disengaged and uncommitted answer of “I’ll do what you want” makes them feel that their partner is not committed and therefore their only realistic option is an abortion.
The following is a model answer that we use on the course. We are not saying that our expectation is that men are actually going to say this, we use it to illustrate the hidden issues. An answer like this would, however, genuinely open choices for the women.
She says, “I’m pregnant, what do you think we should do?”
He says, “If you wish to have the child I will stand behind you and support you in whatever way I can. If you feel you could not cope, then it might even be possible for me to take the child and raise him or her on my own if that is what you want. However, if we really feel that neither of us could cope, we could consider adoption as an option. I don’t know where our relationship will go, but I am prepared to work with you and I believe that with a bit of goodwill and hard work we can get through this together.”
We are not saying that abortion is all men’s fault, or that this is the universal experience of all women. Sometimes a woman will have a secret abortion without telling the man. Sometimes a man will coerce a woman into an abortion. There can also be a lack of communication. The fact is that the majority of the women on our course felt there was no alternative.
In reality they might not have continued with the pregnancy anyway, but what they wanted was a real choice, especially as they started to bond with the baby. When they reflect back on their situation, many felt betrayed and disempowered by the response of the men and the lack of a genuine choice. In our culture today what is actually meant by “choice” for the majority is effectively the sole choice of an abortion. But what about women who would rather be pregnant and continue with their pregnancy? Where is their choice? Where is their unconditional support of a partner and of society?
As Professor Kristin Luker (a pro-abortion feminist) puts it:
“Unwanted by whom? Women who were having abortions in the 1970s were women who did not want to be pregnant. If you talked to people in those days, they said it was a relief. They said that it gave them something they would not otherwise have had.
“Today, by contrast, we are increasingly seeing a population of women who would rather be pregnant but cannot continue the pregnancies for reasons not having to do with their own volition."*
The feminist writer Germaine Greer said:
*Bristow, J., 2008–09. Why do people get pregnant (when they don’t want to be?). Abortion Review. London: BPAS.
**Greer, G., 2000. The Whole Woman. London: Anchor Books, p.109.