Women undergoing abortion procedures can experience a range of emotions for years after, including spouts of depression and seas of “what ifs.” With the rate of abortions in the United States, the procedure must become both a discussion for the wider public and a continuous private conversation between couples. In 2008, 1.21 million women in the United States had an abortion, creating the likelihood of one-third of American women having an abortion by age 45. Biologically, women always will carry the physical load. However, the procedure is relatively quick; what lingers is the emotional burden and often, trauma of terminating a pregnancy.
As I watched Markai Durham’s journey to abortion on MTV’s “No Easy Decision” Special, I personally felt elated to see her experience shared on a mainstream platform. Why? Primarily, I enjoyed the conversations between she and her boyfriend, James. For one, I liked how they weighed their options and his emotional investment in the decision. He also played a strong supportive role in taking her to the clinic and catering to her physical recovery after the procedure. Although they already had one child, he recognized that simply writing a check and sending Markai to the clinic alone or with a girlfriend should not be an option. If it takes two to tango, men hold some responsibility in sharing the burden of the experience. A four hundred dollar check does not suffice for your presence in addition to physical and emotional support.
In simple terms, there are three main abortion procedures that women undergo.
The Abortion Pill – this medication causes the woman’s uterus to break down and empty. Women up to 9 weeks pregnant can use this method.
Vacuum Aspiration – this is an in-clinic procedure that involves a licensed abortion practitioner sticking a speculum into a woman’s vagina and then using a vacuum to empty the uterus. Women are offered medication for pain and sedation to help them relax. Vacuum aspiration is the most popular abortion procedure and women up to 16 weeks pregnant can choose it.
Dilation and Evacuation – this in-clinic procedure is similar to Vacuum Aspiration; however, it calls for more preparation of the womb prior to the actual procedure, including a possible abdomen shot to make sure there is a fetus demise before the procedure begins. After preparation, a licensed abortion practitioner uses medical instruments and a suction machine to empty the woman’s uterus. Women more than 16 weeks pregnant can choose this procedure.
Clearly, the descriptions of abortion procedures alone are enough to intimidate and scare many women. Now accompany that with the acute awareness that a potential child is growing inside of you. Then, imagine having to make the final decision of whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. I’ve watched friends go to clinics for abortion procedures without the men that “assisted” in getting them pregnant. Worse, I’ve witnessed friends go home after the procedure and not hear from these men for weeks. Often, men just write the check to cover the procedure and feel that “contribution” is adequate to cover their share in the emotional responsibility. Too many men adopt the attitude of “forgetting” and “letting go” of the experience while encouraging their female partners to do the same. It’s not that women want to recount and hold on to the experience, but the emotional impact isn’t easily erased for most.
To be fair, there also are women that undergo abortion procedures without consulting their male partners or truly weighing their desire for the outcome of the pregnancy. I do believe that the ultimate decision lies with the woman; however, abortion also can be emotionally stressful for men that perhaps want to have the child. Emotional support shouldn’t be one sided. Women also ought to be sensitive that men can be invested in early stage pregnancies. However, it is a woman’s right to choose and men ought to support their female partners unconditionally despite the final decision.
In the words of Markai, “No one ever wants to have an abortion. No one is pro-abortion…But you have to do what’s right.”
We can debate the “morality” of abortion all day but what’s right is couples supporting each other during the experience. Abortion isn’t just a female issue; it’s a shared issue between sexes. It’s about time that all men own up to their responsibility to support some of the difficult outcomes of their sexual actions. Women shouldn’t have to do it alone.