Men have a stake in the fight for abortion rights, too

OPINION: Many men think reproductive rights are a woman’s issue, but the ability to be thoughtful about when to become fathers is a huge part of men becoming the best fathers they can be.

A man holds a coat hanger with a pro-choice sticker attached as members of the Boston Red Cloaks gather at the State House to protest the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and call for support of pro choice for all women in the U.S. in Boston, Massachusetts on May 7, 2022. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

It was almost 30 years ago when an abortion saved my life. I was a twentysomething living in New York City, just starting my life. I was a kid. I did not yet know who I really was, and I lacked the wisdom and knowledge to fully take care of myself. But I was fooling around with a really cute girl who I kinda liked, but somehow I knew I wasn’t going to have a long-term thing with her. She wasn’t yet sure who she really was either. 

We had great sex, but outside of bed, we were immature and still figuring out how to behave in a relationship. But then, one afternoon, she came to my place looking frazzled and harried. She was stressed. She struggled to get words out. Finally, with a tone of fear and anxiety, she said, “I’m pregnant.” There was no joy. This was a nightmare. This was something neither of us was ready for. I didn’t even know what to say.

I knew enough from the movies to know that the guy who responds to that by saying, “Is it mine?” or “Are you going to have an abortion?” is a jerk, and that’ll make her shut down. I knew I had to be quiet and let her dictate what she wanted to do. That petrified me—she was in control of the rest of my life—but I kept my mouth shut. I knew we weren’t ready for a child. I knew we weren’t a good pair. I knew this was a crossroads that could change my life forever. But I said nothing. I just privately prayed. 

We tried to recollect how this had happened. We always used protection. But there was that time when the condom had ripped. And it had ended up inside her. After we finished, we spent a while looking around the bed for it until she realized what had happened. She pulled it out, and I thought, that surely won’t be a problem, right? It was.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she said she wanted to get an abortion. That had clearly been in her mind the whole time. She wasn’t ready. Inside, I exhaled one of the deepest breaths of my life. Thank God. I was so not ready to be a father. She was not ready to be a mother. We were only ready to screw up someone’s life.

Over a decade later, when I was in my 30s and clear on who I was, my wife and I talked and asked each other, are you ready for children? We decided we were and began trying. I think we’ve been good parents, and I know that my life has been so much better because I was able to be thoughtful and intentional about one of the most important decisions in a person’s life—when to become a parent.

I wanted to tell this story for at least two reasons. First, I believe abortion is a man’s issue as well. Many men seem to look at it as a woman’s issue, but it’s important for our lives as well. The ability to be thoughtful about when to become fathers is a huge part of us becoming the best fathers we can be. I know that there are many situations where people become parents by accident before they think they’re ready, and they figure it out and become great parents. I applaud those people, but I also think that’s not what you want as you construct a society—you want people to become parents with desire and intentionality because they have the best chance of being good parents. Government shouldn’t limit people’s options when it comes to us being able to plan when we become parents.  

A second reason why I wanted to tell this story is that I believe abortion stories need to be normalized. We need to be without shame in talking about what we’ve done and how it’s impacted our lives. The decision to have an abortion is never taken lightly, and it never happens without leaving an impact on people. I have never forgotten what we did when we made a mistake. I know people who have had abortions and felt immensely guilty. But they did what they knew was best for them. I cannot say for certain whether or not ending an early pregnancy is the same as taking a life. That’s a philosophical question that we could argue until the end of time. But I feel certain that a society is empowered when people are able to choose when they become parents, and it’s stronger when women are given the right to be in charge of medical decisions about their own bodies.


Touré hosts the podcast “Touré Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books.

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