If Men Could Get Pregnant
by Rachel MacNair
We’ve recently had the idea of what would happen with abortion if men could get pregnant come up twice. In last week’s blog, Mary Liepold said:
“I still agree with blessed, angry Florynce Kennedy, may she rest in peace, that if men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament. That’s consistent with the history of patriarchy in the church and the world.”
But Mary Krane Derr was quoted in the Quotation of the Week for Peace and Life Connections just a few weeks ago:
“It’s been said that if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. On the contrary: if men got pregnant, pregnancy would be treated as the sacrament; abortion would be considered blasphemy against their sacred bodies and lives and those of their children; and pregnant humans would finally, finally receive the alternatives they deserve instead of what one social activist calls, from bitter experience, the ‘choice’ between ‘abortion or else.’”
(“Pro-Every Life, Pro-Nonviolent Choice”; ProLife Feminism: Yesterday and Today, second edition, p. 375)
I’ll say what my first thought was about the if-men-could-get-pregnant question: of course abortion would then be a sacrament. Men treat war as a sacrament. In days of yore, human sacrifice was literally treated as a sacrament. The perversion of applying sacredness to killing has long been one of the ways such violence has been sustained.
Then, of course, there’s the obvious point that if men could get pregnant, they would be women and not men anymore. The ability to get pregnant is a major part of the definition of what makes each gender each. This has been part of the dynamic of male domination throughout history.
Indeed, men have been regarding women’s abortions as part of men’s own privilege for a long time. Rodney Stark in his book Discovering God discusses the Roman Empire in the first three centuries of the Christian era:
“Once married, pagan girls had a substantially lower life expectancy, much of the difference being due to the great prevalence of abortion, which involved barbaric methods in an age without soap, let alone antibiotics. Given the very significant threat to life and the agony of the procedure, one might wonder why pagan women took such risks. They didn’t do so voluntarily. It was men – husbands, lovers, and fathers – who made the decision to abort. It isn’t surprising that a world that gave husbands the right to demand that infant girls be done away with would also give men the right to order their wives, mistresses, or daughters to abort.” (HarperCollins, 2007, p. 321)
An Entirely Different Tack
Yet all of these views take male domination as a starting point. They don’t consider the vision of a world where such domineering is no longer prevalent.
One of the strong links among the many life/peace issues is that domination of any group by any other should cease. We should treat each other as equals. We need to be sensitive to one another. In this case, we must move beyond male domination, and recognize where it’s already fading.
My own son is the soul of gentleness. And check out the tenderness in the photo of my father with me as a baby:
Then multiply that by the millions.
So here I want to make an entirely different answer to the point:
Men do “get” pregnant.
Biologically, the part they do is to help get the pregnancy started. Their contribution there is indispensable, and you can’t get more important than indispensable. And while they’re physically capable of running off and abandoning the pregnancy, and many do, they’re still a psychological hook there. The best men know the value of this.
I had a friend once who, in referring to himself and his wife, talked about the time when “we” were pregnant. My first thought was to be bemused. She was clearly doing all the biological part, everything connected with having the child inside her body. But as I thought more about it, I decided it made perfect sense. He was fully participating.
Some men have had sympathetic physical symptoms. Men have certainly been intimately involved in all kinds of aspects of nurturing and nourishing. While women are capable of doing a pregnancy alone and men aren’t, when the two of them do their pregnancy together, beauty results.
I think this positive vision is the best of all the answers to the “if-men-were-pregnant” idea.
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For more on men and abortion, see: