Some thoughts on women’s right to choose, and other related matters

I was visiting with a (female) friend the other day who was commenting on how few stories we are seeing from men, speaking on their personal experiences around the issue of abortion and an individual’s right (no matter their sex or other characteristics) to control what happens with and inside their/our own bodies. Seemed a fair critique, so, here’s some of my stories. Names withheld to respect everyone’s privacy.

I’ve had several experiences with pregnancy, abortion and miscarriage, on different sides of the equation. One time, a former girlfriend with whom I had recently reconnected told me we had gotten her pregnant, and she wanted to have the child. She and I had had a complicated but in many ways beautiful relationship, and I had long loved her young child from a prior marriage. She took the most generous position possible—pledging to happily raise the child no matter how or even whether I chose to participate—and, welcoming my participation heartily, too. Still, I was profoundly unsure about any real longer-term prospects for she and I, and felt equally strongly that if I was to bring a kid into the world, I did not want to be a part-time or absentee father (having been on the business end of that approach and finding it not to my liking). At the same time, I had what I think many people have when facing an unplanned pregnancy: a fear that this might disturb the trajectory of our lives in a way that might have negative impact. How many relatively powerful or privileged men have “made a problem go away” by encouraging their lovers—in some cases “mistresses” or other unauthorized lovers—to have abortions, whether the woman wanted to or not? I’d wager perfectly good bitcoin that a majority of our publicly pious elected officials have done just this. More than once. Hypocrisy is as hypocrisy does.

In this situation—with a pregnant girlfriend, uncertain what to do—for the first time, I felt deeply conflicted. Ultimately, my FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) felt stronger than any optimism I could muster that this was a good idea–for any of us, frankly. But honestly, for me as much or more than whatever I could even envision as right for the collective.

To this day, I am not certain that was the “right” decision—nor that my strong doubt in any way deserved to trump my sweet and kind lover’s own feelings and instincts. I did not, and could not, “force” her hand or decision, but I sure didn’t make it easier for her to choose the new life I know she would have held and honored and cared for deeply.  In the end, she agreed with me enough to have an abortion, even though it ran against so much of her own heart. To me, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. So that is the way I leaned. To this day, I have very conflicted emotions and resonance with the ongoing impact of that experience, for us all. And I have a soft place within me for that old lover/friend, and her no-longer young son. If we—if I—had chosen differently, I’d have a 20-something daughter or son right now. And given everything I have witnessed with my friends and family having children, I might be experiencing that as among the deepest blessings of my life, at this moment.
Much more could be said on this one experience. But there were others.
Years ago, I ran into a woman thousands of miles from home who had briefly been a lover long before, maybe 15-20 years prior, and I hadn’t seen her in forever. During our spontaneous visit, she informed me that she had gotten pregnant during one of our first evenings together, had gotten an abortion and never told me about it. That was a lot to process, decades later. How could she have kept that secret at the time, not involved me in the experience at all? Yet I could not feel upset with her—she did what she felt was best. And again, as a man who was kept from the responsibilities that come with parenthood, even if unknowingly, in some way my own life trajectory remained intact, enabling me to continue leading the untethered peripatetic life, one which I can hardly imagine being different than it has been. Again: complicated.
One final story, also briefer than it deserves to be told. In my late 20s, I found myself deeply in love with a woman: 10+ years older than me, refined, principled, heartfelt, a yogi. It was complicated as we wooed over a year or two, before she finally agreed to overcome her concern over our age difference and partner with me. We had a little bump in the road just around the time we decided to really try being together; though she had done nothing “wrong” still in the end I was unable to move beyond what my nervous system registered as an unexpected intimacy breach. This was way before I had come across any socially non-normative ideas of consensual non-monogamy or a broader sense of how we humans can practice love, intimacy and connection than the one I inherited from late-stage capitalist America. I was ill-equipped for the moment, I guess, and I couldn’t get over myself. As can sometimes happen for me, my vulnerability suddenly felt like it was a liability not an asset, and after a long time of trying to evolve through the experience, I lost the thread a bit, became less certain where our destinies lay. Even as we drifted towards a looming separation a couple years later, we became pregnant. Almost 40, it felt like her last chance. After much meditation and conversation, we decided together to have the child. We faced deep uncertainty—maybe we always do. But we leaned in, and we went for it. The moment was not without its challenges, but we were in. Several months in, she had a miscarriage. We broke up shortly thereafter; she never had a child after that, and neither have I.
There are more stories. Later, I had a serious partnership with a woman with a younger child, and I loved her with a sweetness I am grateful to have known. Another time, I came very close to donating my sperm to an old friend so she and her same-sex partner could begin their own family—in the end, I wasn’t sure I could handle the inability to be more closely involved than they were inviting me to be with the child they were dreaming in. They are still together, with their gorgeous child now growing into a beautiful young human, in whose hands we place our fragile future.
Life is complicated, and fairytales have bumpy chapters.
Now almost 55 and with no children of my own (that I know of), it’s not clear if I will have another chance to be a father—though the world is large and mysterious, love is always possible and anything could still happen. In each case above, the women I was involved with were kind, honorable, generous and beautiful humans. Each of us strove to make the best decisions we could comprehend at the time. It is possible we all may feel our own mix of regret and relief, as we look back at the choices we have made.
I pray for forgiveness for the ways my own unconscious or unkind behavior has negatively impacted those whom I have loved.
Let me speak it clearly here: I support the right of every human to make our own choices about what happens in and to our own bodies. I am appalled to see, again and again, legislative bodies–often comprised largely or exclusively of white men, of all ridiculous things—make decisions that punish or criminalize the inherent sovereignty and choices of women. The fact that many if not all of these privileged white men in whose hands we have placed our representative governance have at some time in their own lives paid for the abortions created from their own illicit affairs or inconvenient truths only underscores the self-serving hypocrisy in play here. Wealthy people always get the abortions or other services they need. Non-wealthy, non-white, non-males, not so much. This unsupportable hypocrisy must end. Equal rights for all, now. Equal pay for equal work, now. We men have collectively had our hands on the tiller for thousands of years—and look at the mess the world is now in. Our lives will ALL be better when we move beyond a clearly broken system of control, extraction/consumption and power-over, and balance the scales, inviting/allowing/entreating the women of the world, and the indigenous wisdom keepers of the world—ALL people of the world—to take their proper place in full power, harmony and voice, where they belong. Where we all belong. It is time. <3