Abortion: a dad's story
FORTY years have passed since abortion was legalised in England, and fathers-to-be still have no legal right to have a say. How does it feel for a man when their partner decides to have an abortion?
FORTY years have passed since abortion was legalised in England, and fathers-to-be still have no legal right to have a day. ELLA PICKOVER reports on how it felt for an Ipswich man whose girlfriend decided to have an abortion.
DELIGHT flooded through Ben Wilson from Ipswich found out that his girlfriend was pregnant, but that emotions quickly turned to dismay when he found out she wanted an abortion.
He said: “It was two years ago but it still cuts me up. Every time I think about it I always wonder what the child would be doing if they were still alive.
“I couldn't tell anyone because they'd be so upset - I couldn't face telling my mum that my girlfriend stopped her being a grandma.”
Ben and his girlfriend broke up a short while after the abortion because of the strain it put on their relationship.
“I was there for her every step of the way,” said Ben, 30. “Once she made up her mind I didn't say anything - it's her body after all.
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Ben feels as though more could have been done for him and was surprised at the routine feel of the procedure.
He added: “It took about ten days after the original appointment with the doctor.
“The whole thing seemed so regimented and clinical - no feelings were involved at all.
“I waited outside in the corridor while she was having the operation and wanted to thump every person I saw.”
UK law on abortion says the biological father has no right to be told about any abortions which take place. In some circumstances the father wants the child to be aborted but the mother doesn't. If this is the case the father is still legally obliged to have responsibility for the child.
In the UK and USA men who legally tried to stop their partners from having terminations, failed but in China new legislation in 2002 put a man's say about abortion on equal footing with his partner.
A study in the US in 2004 found that 72 per cent of people were in favour of notifying spouses.
The abortion debate is also mirrored in television soap operas to reflect society's opinions. In one recent episode of Eastenders, Max Branning made his wife Tanya keep their child as he did not want the pregnancy to be terminated.
Most decisions to abort are reached by both partners together - in as many as 90 per cent of cases according to some estimates.
In a study, published in 1984 ('Men and Abortion, Lessons, Losses and Love'), Shostak and McLouth found that only five per cent of the 1000 men they surveyed felt they had been forced into the decision about abortion.
A massive 84 per cent felt the decision was 'a joint resolution of the matter', so most of the time couples can reach joint decisions that they are both happy to live with.
Most men are not overly perturbed by the decision to end an unwanted pregnancy in this way. Few resort to the law to stop their partners having an abortion.
Ben is now 30 and has some fear that he won't ever get the chance to have children. After the breakdown of his relationship he gained a lot of weight.
“I went from six-foot hunk to a six-foot trunk,” he said. “Only recently I've started pulling myself together and started to get fit again - I think I just comfort ate my way through the hard times.
“Just think, I could be a dad right now I could be looking forward to teaching my kid how to ride a bike.”
The interviewee's name was changed to protect his privacy.
Do you think abortions should be banned? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
People have abortions for many different reasons, broadly falling into three categories; health, societal and social issues.
Abortions take place for the sake of the well-being of the mother and child including if there is any risk to the mother's physical or mental health, when pregnancy is a result of a crime (including rape, incest and child abuse) and when the unborn foetus would have a 'poor quality of life' such as physical handicaps, genetic problems and mental defects.
Social reasons are more frowned upon by opponents of abortion. These include a mother feeling she would be unable to cope with a child (or more children), poverty or a mother feeling they would be too young to give reasonable care to a baby.
Societal reasons for abortion are normally brought about due to governmental policy.
In the People's Republic of China women are using selective abortion to control population size. The government developed the 'one child policy' and couples are required to pay a 'social compensation fee' if they have more than one child.
There is also an issue of sex-selective abortion in India where 'female foeticide' is performed because there is a clear preference for male children.