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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » What is the role of men in abortion decisions? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: What is the role of men in abortion decisions?
Lyrhawn
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Curious to hear other people's reaction to this

It's an article from the Atlantic that references a scene from the TV show "Girls" where one of the characters tells her boyfriend (quite matter of factly) that she's had an abortion and he reacts quite angrily. There's a conversation that follows from there on the article which raises some interesting points on both sides.

The scene in particular is what got me thinking and what made me pose the question in the thread title, "what is the role of men in abortion decisions?" Because I think it's very, very easy for men and women to look at this clip very differently. I think it's easy for a woman to look at it and say "who does he think he is? how dare he?" and I think it's pretty easy for a man to look at it and say "who does she think she is? how dare she?"

Now, I agree with the general premise that it's a woman's choice to do what she pleases with her own body (though I oppose late term abortions with a viable fetus if the health of the mother isn't in jeopardy), but I wonder what considerations are due the father?

So I'm curious what others here think. I was going to put this to Sakeriver but I'm not as comfortable over there posing potentially divisive topics as I am here. Try to keep it civil everyone. Thanks.

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Elison R. Salazar
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I don't think men in general have the same capability or understanding. It isn't like men can have pregnancy, we aren't more "objective" as a result; and I think in many cases there is such a long standing history of male patriarchal society controlling abortion as a by proxy means of controlling the sexual behaviors of women, that this means that as a result; there is a much higher standard in terms of when a male should have any at all concern with the decision.

Like, I think it's okay for a guy to be like "Well that's tragic." But not to hold her at fault; it's a difficult decision for women to make and men I don't think have a right to judge.

In the case of the fetus being, the actual legit child of a man then I think at the very least he should be informed, and discuss it; but the decision I think is ultimately hers; it's her body.

I think I'd be upset if I was never *told*, but If I was told within a reasonable timeframe of the discovery being made to come to terms with it and discuss it; I think that's the minimum.

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
"what is the role of men in abortion decisions?"
Only that which we are allowed by our individual women.
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theamazeeaz
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Ideally, both partners should discuss their respective stances on abortion before engaging in sexual activity*, and ideally both partners should discuss and agree on the procedure. In lopsided situations, however, the woman is always worse off. One-sided terminations of parental rights are often made under false pretenses, especially when it is the father who wants the child.

I have had two friends, both married, both veterans of multiple miscarriages, **while pregnant with their wanted children**, tell me they have never supported abortion rights more then at that moment. Until we reach the science fictional realm of accessible artificial gestation, the gestator chooses. After, we can discuss the issue of licensing our genetic material.

In the real world, there are a lot of reasons why a woman wouldn't discuss an unplanned pregnancy with the father, most of which are for personal safety. If the two are in a relationship, it might be time to reconsider it. Hard. Having an abortion and not disclosing, while justifiable, is a relationship ender, and that is equally justifiable. If the discomfort is because it's casual or very new, but otherwise good relationship, then if the decision needs to be made by relationship, or have an understanding in advance. The woman's health and happiness comes very, but it's stupid and naive to assume that a unilateral decision isn't going to make an intimate partner very very very upset. It's also equally stupid and naive to think that involving the partner is always a better choice.

If you are not capable of having a discussion about an unplanned pregnancy with the father, then abortion should be the default option. It might be safety, it might be maturity. If you decide to have a baby, it is because you decided against abortion, decided you wanted to give birth and carry a baby.

The other reality of the situation is what people want when the situation comes up is often different from what happens ahead of time.

If you need to make the abortion decision alone, I don't know if it's the best idea to disclose it after the fact.

*There is an okcupid question about which controversial issue is the most unacceptable for a partner to disagree with you on. The choices are abortion, death penalty and something else. Abortion is the only acceptable answer here for hetero couples. It's a dating site. It was the only option a couple would ever every have to make a decision on together.

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Heisenberg
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My two cents.

I would never make the case that it is in any way my decision. That being said, I might well get pretty angry over what decision she made, depending on what kind of relationship we're in.

A woman aborting my child and not bothering to tell me? Yeah, that's a deal breaker. Relationship over.

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PSI Teleport
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I'm close to a guy whose relationship ended exactly that way. He didn't even know she was pregnant. Which left me with the question: if you don't tell the guy before the abortion, why bother to tell him after?

My opinion is that allowing a man's sperm into your body carries with it the implied guarantee that you will keep his unborn child alive if he wants you to. That is assuming that the mother's health or well-being are not at stake and there were no pregnancy/abortion disclaimers discussed beforehand. In my mind it falls under the same category as offering to babysit for a friend. You didn't have to let the kid into your house, but now that he's there it would be nice to keep him safe until his dad comes to pick him up.

Of course, I'm pro-life anyway and I think the opinions on this are going to split along predictable lines. If the mother doesn't believe the fetus is a child, then it's logical that she might not care what the father wants her to do with it.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:
If the mother doesn't believe the fetus is a child, then it's logical that she might not care what the father wants her to do with it.

I think this makes sense, but there's a missing component there I think. I think there's an expectation with this belief that the man must not have any feelings about it one way or the other, but there's a total lack of empathy there, or at least sympathy.

I think of this a bit like free speech. You have the right to say just about anything you want, but you don't have the right to be protected from people's reactions to it. Likewise, a woman has the ultimate choice to end a pregnancy, but she still has to deal with the emotional toll that decision takes on the father, or if she fails to deal with it, must deal with the breakup that ensues. And I think that, despite it being her ultimate choice, to make that choice without consulting someone for whom it is also a major deal is, if nothing else, incredibly rude.

Unless she has specific reason to fear for her safety.

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Samprimary
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if my s.o. had an abortion without telling me at all, straight up having it in secret, it would pretty clearly tell me that there was none of the basis of trust and cooperation in our relationship that i at least presently expected there was. i'd ask questions about why specifically i was not told. depending on the answers, i'd probably conclude that it's time to end the relationship and move on.

it doesn't have to be a judgment on the appropriateness of her actions, per se, it's just effectively a clarion revelation on the nature of the relationship and whether it is appropriate that it continue. i have no interest in being 'together' so apart from someone.

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
I think there's an expectation with this belief that the man must not have any feelings about it one way or the other, but there's a total lack of empathy there, or at least sympathy.
From whom, I wonder? Who gave you that impression?

Bc as far as I've seen, the guy has every right to feel any way they happen to feel... it's when folks start talking legal mandatory consent from the father that people draw the line

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
quote:
I think there's an expectation with this belief that the man must not have any feelings about it one way or the other, but there's a total lack of empathy there, or at least sympathy.
From whom, I wonder? Who gave you that impression?

Bc as far as I've seen, the guy has every right to feel any way they happen to feel... it's when folks start talking legal mandatory consent from the father that people draw the line

That was a response to the instance in PSI's example where the woman doesn't care about the father's response because she doesn't think the fetus is a child.

But I also think there's a slightly larger phenomenon at play where men's feelings aren't taken as much into account. I think that stems from the general expectation of manhood. Men are supposed to bury emotions, and therefore become emotionally stunted. I think that's something men have internalized, but I think it's also something women have internalized to some degree too. If they don't often see men displaying much emotion, they don't expect it, and perhaps subconsciously assume it isn't there, and therefore don't really look for it.

It's something we have to work on as a society.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I think a quick chat before engaging in intercourse about protection, and what if it fails, is not out of the question...sure, it's not sexy, but it is the evolved, adult thing to do, regardless.

Then again, I've been w/ only my wife for almost a dozen years, so what do I kno about such things [Dont Know]

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
I think a quick chat before engaging in intercourse about protection, and what if it fails, is not out of the question...sure, it's not sexy, but it is the evolved, adult thing to do, regardless.

Then again, I've been w/ only my wife for almost a dozen years, so what do I kno about such things [Dont Know]

I think that's responsible as well, but that's not really what this discussion is about, and given the wide prevalence of multiple forms of birth control, clearly discussing birth control before sex isn't a silver bullet to prevent the abortion debate.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Not just discussing birth control...I specifically mentioned talking about what happens if that BC fails.

Men have EVERY right to be picky about who they penetrate, and share how strong their feelings are about the potential outcome, if, in deed, they have strong feelings.

Basically, it's on the man to speak the hell up BEFORE a dip dip dippity do time

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Stone_Wolf_
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Because if the discussion happens AFTER coitus than you roll the dice that she shares your feelings, as she has ALL the franchise when it comes to bringing life changing parasite to term.

Also, I just assume everyone is anti partial birth abortions unless medically necessary until they say otherwise, just like I assume everyone thinks the holocaust is real until they say otherwise

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Lyrhawn
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While I think that's a good idea, I think it's still sort of beside the point for the question I'm posing here.
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PSI Teleport
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Lyrhawn, I think I agree with your analogy to free speech. Again, setting aside the fact that I'm pretty strongly pro-life, I think there is a "right," for lack of a better word (maybe "freedom"), to choose to do a selfish thing that hurts other people. Of course, following this will be the consequences, whether legal or civil or social. The woman can do what she wants, but it would be bad logic to suggest that the man doesn't have the right to be pissed or end the relationship just she because she had the right to end the pregnancy.

As far as the implication that the man must not have strong feelings about it, what I meant in my example was that the man's opinion might matter to the woman but wouldn't trump her belief in her right to make decisions for her own body. I just said it in a harsh way. I don't know for sure, but if I were pro-choice I think I might get a little salty if my dude thought his opinion on my pregnancy was as important or more important than mine.

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
While I think that's a good idea, I think it's still sort of beside the point for the question I'm posing here.

Can you restate it please?

BTW, for those who do not kno, my wife is permanently disabled BECAUSE of childbirth. Yet another reason why the choice MUST stay with she who's body it is.

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:
I don't know for sure, but if I were pro-choice I think I might get a little salty if my dude thought his opinion on my pregnancy was as important or more important than mine.

Or, I imagine, if your man insisted you abort his child.
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Heisenberg
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Who are you arguing with here, Stone Wolf? Because I see exactly zero people here saying that the man should get to choose whether the woman has an abortion.

What I am seeing are people saying that the man has a right to be upset over that decision, and his feelings shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
While I think that's a good idea, I think it's still sort of beside the point for the question I'm posing here.

I think planning ahead can be part of making the decision, so I think it's on point.

In a broader sense, I think there are two decision spaces, and each has multiple factors.

The first decision space (1) is the legal framework. I would say the main factors in this space are: (a) Rights and interests of the fetus, (b) rights and interests of the pregnant person, (c) and interests of society at large.

1a: Everyone has an equal standing (moral responsibility and moral right) to weigh this factor.
1b: Presently, women should have a much higher standing in defining this factor. This could change with biotechnology that allowed everyone to become pregnant.
1c: Everyone has an equal standing.

As with any place where there are competing rights/interests, something has to give. I think men have a place in defining and defending the interests of fetuses and society at large, and not so much a place in defining the interests of pregnant people.

Practically speaking, our legal system doesn't recognize the type of standing I am trying to describe in 1b. But I think men SHOULD be deferential about this. This is not really the status quo.

I don't think this approach makes the legal status of abortion a foregone conclusion...I'm just trying to describe what I think men's place is in the decision process, not the result. (I'm pro-choice, fwiw.)

The other decision space is the relationship/family (2). The main factors here are decision power (a), disclosure power (b), and relationship impact (c).

2a: The pregnant person owns this completely.
2b: The pregnant person owns this completely.
2c: Everyone in the relationship/family has the right to determine how events that they are aware of affects them and the relationship.

Under 2c it makes sense to communicate about abortion and understand how partners feel about it. It makes sense to take their feelings into account. It may be deeply unwise to avoid disclosure - it could represent or lead to a breakdown of trust and intimacy. But the decision about what to do, and who to tell, should still lie with the pregnant person.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Very impressive; A) arguments B) organization & 4. Overall post quality! [Smile]
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
While I think that's a good idea, I think it's still sort of beside the point for the question I'm posing here.

Can you restate it please?

BTW, for those who do not kno, my wife is permanently disabled BECAUSE of childbirth. Yet another reason why the choice MUST stay with she who's body it is.

What is the role of men in abortion decisions?

Your point is well taken in a larger sense, but my question pre-supposes that whatever precautions were discussed or acted upon have failed in some sense and there's a pregnancy a woman wants wants to terminate.

At that point, what role should the man play? And perhaps regardless of what has been decided in the relationship or unilaterally by the woman, what is MORALLY right or wrong in this situation? I don't think anyone is arguing for a legal protection for men to really have any role or power here at all. But is there a moral obligation?

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Under 2c it makes sense to communicate about abortion and understand how partners feel about it. It makes sense to take their feelings into account. It may be deeply unwise to avoid disclosure - it could represent or lead to a breakdown of trust and intimacy. But the decision about what to do, and who to tell, should still lie with the pregnant person.

Legally I agree, we absolutely should not be legally compelling women to do anything regarding who they tell or consult in their decision making.

But I wonder if the moral question is as clear. I do think there is a moral obligation - when her safety is not endangered - to discuss the situation with the father. While actually having the baby or not necessarily puts her body in the cross-hares, it's not, actually, all about her. If we're arguing that the act of sex alone does not imply a shared consent to have or not have a baby on the part of either party, then his life is about to be immeasurably changed as well, and deserves, if nothing else, knowledge of the situation and a voice in the outcome; just not a controlling voice.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Morality is not absolute, it is dependent on the situation, and, as such, I'm sticking w/ my first answer...moraly the role of the man in any abortion situation is that which their woman allows them.

There's a lot of wiggle room that way... especially when picking your bedmates.

IF this is important TO YOU, find a girl who feels the same or at least empathizes enough to agree BEFOREHAND to not abort your child unless medically necessary.

And just hope they don't change their mind, bc, if they do, they do. Their body, their choices. No if, and, or buts. Moraly, physically, and in all other ways.

"The credit belongs to the WOman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;"

She puts her one and only life/health on the line: she gets all the votes. Full stop.

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Lyrhawn
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I agree with all of that so far as where the power lies.

I disagree there isn't a moral obligation to inform and discuss. That moral obligation just doesn't extend to the actual decision making process or result.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I'm glad we ironed out where we fall in the Ven diagram...mostly the same, lots of overlap.

I can imagine situations where it would be moraly wrong for the women to not disclose/discuss, but as a hard and fast rule, yea, she who bears it, gets ALL the rights

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Lyrhawn
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And I can imagine situations where it would not be morally wrong for a woman not to disclose, for instance if her safety was in question.

You know, for centuries, women weren't respected as human beings let alone members of society or equals. In child bearing, women were no more than property purchased to function as baby making machines. Pay father for machine, insert sperm here, wait 9 months, offspring produced. We developed a new, modern, correct morality that gave women the rights and control they deserved that were so long denied: the right to make their own decisions about their role in procreation, and it is now universally (well, maybe not universally, but mostly) agreed upon that women are more than living baby production machines. They have agency, but beyond that, they deserve agency, because the act of having a child changes their lives and risks their lives in fundamental ways.

If that's a compelling moral argument for why women can never be vetoed in their control over their body (which I 99% agree with with very few exceptions regarding viability of the fetus)(and of course that isn't the only or even the best argument, ultimately it's about being able to control her own body, a far more fundamental moral right and argument), then I think it's fair to argue that men should be more than sperm donors and bank accounts. Far too often the discussion is about what men did to cause a pregnancy and what they must do after the baby is born: namely, offer up some sperm and then offer up child support. But if it's morally wrong for us to make a similar argument about women, I think it's morally wrong to make that same argument with men.

Certainly, it's far harder to reconcile such an attitude when paired with a society that's grappling with the changing role of fatherhood. We expect (and SHOULD expect) more active roles from men. It's righting a centuries old imbalance in how much men have participated, physically and emotionally, in the rearing of their own children. But that seems difficult to reckon with while also telling men they're just sperm donors and bank accounts during that early phase.

And given the gravity of the situation, I don't think asking for an FYI and a chance to fill out a comment card is a particularly burdensome and egregious thing.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Let's assume that A. The pregnancy is created thru a positive, stable relationship and B. The mother's health isn't an issue...

Then it does seem like a selfish decision to not inform/collaborate...but is it WRONG?

Not categorically, at least, not by my view.

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Heisenberg
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So selfishness for the sake of selfishness isn't wrong?
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Stone_Wolf_
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Maybe she's cheating on him and not sure if it's his, maybe she's just not ready to be a mom, maybe she was raped, maybe it's none of anyone's business.

A man can father a child into his 90s.

Morality is not absolute, it shifts w/ circumstances and intents.

Is it PAINFUL to a man to find out that his child was aborted w/o his knowledge or concent...I can't even imagine...yes, horrible pain.

Tbc

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Stone_Wolf_
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So the short answer is, there is no moral default, each situation must be looked at individually.

That being said, the long story is that men can't stop (nor should they, nor is anyone here saying they should) a woman from getting an abortion, perhaps in secret, perhaps not. But regardless, she has all the agency, so participation by the father is literally at her discretion by definition...so my answer previously is just a matter of practicality and not one of morality, expect on a case by case basis...bc morality is situational

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Lyrhawn
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But you can conceive of a situation where it would be a moral absolute?

And not as some crazy, wild-eyed hypothetical, but as a pretty benign, normal situation.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I'm sure I could come up w/ something...but why? I don't get the point
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Lyrhawn
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Because I think you're over complicating it. Maybe you just really believe there's really just no role for a man there and his opinion doesn't matter and should be disregarded. I disagree but it's a fair opinion.

But I feel like you're actually tying yourself into knots a bit to make it sound like you'd even have to think much to come up with a benign, normative situation where that moral imperative would apply.

Of course there are exceptions where it wouldn't apply. But are you proposing that the normative, default position for ANY woman in that situation is fearing for her safety from her partner?

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Stone_Wolf_
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My default is that the man's role is determined by each woman.
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Stone_Wolf_
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And by extension, by the couple themselves, as they get to voluntarily pick their partners and discuss priorities before mating
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PSI Teleport
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Saying that the man's role is determined by the woman is the same as saying that a man has no inherent rights, only privileges that are granted to him. I'm not attacking the position, just clarifying.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Yup
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Heisenberg
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Is it just miscommunication?

Lyrhawn is not and has not said that men should have a say in whether their partner has an abortion. What he has said is that a man who knows that his potential child has been aborted might get very upset, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That that potential emotional trauma should be recognized and the man shouldn't be looked down upon for that.

I couldn't agree more.

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Stone_Wolf_
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There is no miscommunication...we simply disagree about the role of men in abortions
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
There is no miscommunication...we simply disagree about the role of men in abortions

Yes we do.

Fair enough.

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kmbboots
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I think a father has every right to try to persuade a woman not to have an abortion and to be heartbroken and even angry if that fails as long as that persuasion, heartbreak, and anger doesn't become coercion, force, or violence. If a woman doesn't trust the man to refrain from those, she is justified in not telling him. However, she should probably not be in a relationship with him.
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:
Saying that the man's role is determined by the woman is the same as saying that a man has no inherent rights, only privileges that are granted to him. I'm not attacking the position, just clarifying.

Except by pre arrangement.
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The Black Pearl
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They have the same role than anyone other than the specific woman has. They can take a position but thats it. They're just "allowed" to more motivated. And woman might be more inclined to listen, men could even reasonably expect that to be the case. Men can feel hurt if they were never told. But there's no intrinsic difference to me between his role and role of the would be grandmother.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Long long story short, men, if you care about potential offspring, use your mouth BEFORE your penis.

Also good advice for coitus

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just_me
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I think a father has every right to try to persuade a woman not to have an abortion and to be heartbroken and even angry if that fails as long as that persuasion, heartbreak, and anger doesn't become coercion, force, or violence. If a woman doesn't trust the man to refrain from those, she is justified in not telling him. However, she should probably not be in a relationship with him.

Logged in for the first time in forever just to say I agree with this 1000%.

Now, back to lurking...

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
Long long story short, men, if you care about potential offspring, use your mouth BEFORE your penis.

Also good advice for coitus

You say this like it solves everything.

What if you have the conversation and she...completely disregards it when the event actually happens and does something on her own? Your advice might weed out potential partners who don't at least pay lip service to an agreement, but doesn't really protect a man beyond that.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by just_me:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I think a father has every right to try to persuade a woman not to have an abortion and to be heartbroken and even angry if that fails as long as that persuasion, heartbreak, and anger doesn't become coercion, force, or violence. If a woman doesn't trust the man to refrain from those, she is justified in not telling him. However, she should probably not be in a relationship with him.

Logged in for the first time in forever just to say I agree with this 1000%.

Now, back to lurking...

I agree with this as well.
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Heisenberg
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None of what you're saying really has much to do what's being discussed.

Nobody is saying that a man gets to choose what a woman does. What is being said is that a "man's place" is not to meekly shut up and accept whatever she does, which is a viewpoint that one can often find amongst the more extreme pro choice crowd.

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Rakeesh
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I agree that there isn't much protection for a man in the scenarios you're describing, Lyrhawn. Protection from the emotional impact inflicted if the decision is to abort if the man doesn't want to.

Having said that, though, I feel like it's possibly implicit in your phrasing that you feel there should be some protection? Correct me if I'm wrong on that. Anyway, yes, there is no protection for the man's emotions in that case. But I'll admit that this is, to me, balanced out by the difference in choices as well. The woman is locked by biology and later not locked so much as really hemmed in by the much stronger expectations of society into some binary choices: abort or carry to term, raise or give up for adoption. She has no option to evade these choices. Whereas the man has some binary choices also, but in addition to that a whole slew of other options as well: stay with her, be a father; don't stay with her, be a father; stay with her, be a crappy/indifferent father (eventually the woman will have a similar choice, but biology makes it harder for her to take this path, and not as soon); don't stay with her, be a crappy father but at least maintain financial responsibilities; don't stay with her and don't even do that much, or evade them whenever you can.

So, without saying you would disagree with this, there is some protection-imbalance for the man and the woman in the specific question of emotional damage done by a decision that goes contrary to his wishes. You appear to be seeking after a remedy for this imbalance, but I'm not sure there is one, and I am fairly sure there shouldn't be.

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