Men’s thoughts about their partners’ unintended pregnancies aren’t often a major part of public conversation. There’s a good reason for that — these thoughts currently have no legal standing. That said, how men feel about pregnancy can impact not just their lives, but those of their partners and future children, so it’s worth finding out what they think. And a new series of interviews with men sheds light on how men actually feel when their partners get unintentionally pregnant.
Amanda Jayne Miller, a professor of social sciences at the University of Indianapolis, interviewed 61 working- and middle-class Ohio men who lived with their female partners but weren’t married. She asked them a number of questions about how they’d feel if their partner accidentally became pregnant — some men had experienced a partner’s unintended pregnancy, so she was able to ask them how they actually felt. Their views varied widely, and the following were just a few:
“I mean I’ve always said that abortion’s okay, it’s fine. But I think when it comes down to, when it’s your baby, it’s different.” — Kevin, 27, plant manager
“…like 2,3 years ago there’s NO way we could have taken care of a child…I definitely would have said like, ‘Yeah, an abortion would be a good idea’ but these days I don’t think that’s a good excuse. I think I am mature enough that I could handle it.” — James, 26, health food store manager
“Like I told her. ‘I don’t believe in abortion. If that would have been one of your options, then you would have been on your own. I wouldn’t have given you any money for it. I would [prefer to] have kept it before I let somebody kill it or adoption.” — Tyrone, 23, part-time dock worker
“…she’s got control over her own body. I mean what do I do? Go file some order that she’s not allowed to have [an abortion]? I wouldn’t even know what to do to stop it… I was pissed off that she was doing it.” — Ron, 33, mortgage processor
“I think she actually [said], ‘What do you think about abortion?’ and I looked at her crazy and she started telling me a little about school and finances…I thought about it and I was like ‘We ain’t getting an abortion.” — Terrell [age and occupation not listed]
“I feel that if you stop somebody’s heart from beating, you’re killing them, regardless if, you know, they’re out of somebody’s womb or not. I feel that abortion is murder, or legalized murder.” — Eugene, 22, telemarketer and stock clerk
“…ultimately I realize that neither of us is in a position to have a kid and that having an abortion would be the best option financially or otherwise for us both.” — Josh, 22, part-time library clerk
“I need to put myself first. I couldn’t [put] my kid [first]. I know I would resent it too much and that’s not a good environment for a kid at all…I’m just not mature enough of a person yet.” — Mitch, 25, chef
“it wasn’t that I was telling her ‘this is what would have to happen’ or anything but I thought probably the best thing for everybody would probably be if she had an abortion.” — Brad, 29, grad student
Left it up to the woman
“I really think that it’s the woman’s right to choose. I don’t think that should ever change. It doesn’t matter whether it’s rape or by choice. It’s their body and they can do what they want with it.” — Matthew, 30, architect
“I don’t think it was a matter of discussion like where she was considering having the kid. It was just like she told me, ‘My mom’s taking me to get an abortion.’ That was it.” — Sean, 22, art installer
“I supported my ex-girlfriend, I said, ‘I’ll do whatever it is you want to do.’ And at the time she decided to get an abortion. I went with her to the clinic, I was there, I did as much as I could and supported her and I would have either way.” — Jonathan, 28, author
“It wasn’t like there was a set specific plan because I think we were both being honest about the fact that when it finally comes down to it you won’t know until it’s a real decision, the corollary being then is that you never know how you’re going to act in war until it happens.” — Mason, 26, construction worker
Broadly, Miller was able to draw a few conclusions. First, she found that even though most men said they’d like to have input in their partner’s decision about whether to terminate or carry a pregnancy to term, most weren’t upset when they didn’t. Only one man, she told BuzzFeed Shift, actually tried hard to convince his partner not to have an abortion (she had an ectopic pregnancy and ultimately had to abort).
She also found that working-class men were much less likely to feel ready for fatherhood. They were more likely than their middle-class counterparts, she said, to favor abortion, perhaps because they were having a harder time establishing careers in a post-recessionary world in which jobs in fields like construction or manufacturing are disappearing. “They’re having a harder time launching into what they feel is adulthood,” she explained.
Even if men weren’t upset by their partners’ making their own decisions, there may be arguments for getting them involved. Miller notes in her study that men who were happy about their partners’ pregnancies are more likely to pay child support and see their children regularly, even if they aren’t with their partners anymore. So being on the same page about pregnancy may be beneficial to any children that result — she writes that men who “feel that their voices are heard” in the decision process, even if their partners end up making a different choice, may end up being more involved dads if children are born.
Miller recommends that relationship education classes, many of which are federally funded through marriage-promotion initiatives, include strategies for discussing what they’d do if the woman got pregnant. Pregnancy becomes more likely when people move in together, she said, but couples have a tendency not to make a lot of pre-cohabiting plans: “people don’t talk about who’s going to do the dishes, let alone what happens if you have an unintended pregnancy.” She says they should at least discuss how they’d go about making those decisions, even if they’re not sure what they’d ultimately decide.
Of course, there’s one way men can make sure they have a say in whether they have kids — using contraception. Condoms are a good start, but they aren’t perfect — Miller says a reliable male birth control pill would be extremely beneficial to men. One man she talked to went further — he was so upset over his partner’s abortion that he had a vasectomy. He told Miller, “I never wanted to have to make a decision like that again.”