Men, too, have a story to tell on the abortion debate

In Kenya, the question of abortion is largely evaluated from the moral compass and religious compass as opposed to women’s rights and medical science.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Dennis Galava’s deeply personal essay, published in the Daily Nation on July 12, 2022 titled It’s time men, fathers broke the silence on abortion, may be the answer to this question of men’s involvement.
  • Dr Galava, who, at the beginning of the article, admits that in the late 1990s, he and his girlfriend decided to terminate a nine-week pregnancy, is an exception to the norm.

As someone who fervently believes in a woman’s right to abortion, I’ve been following the global and national conversations on the topic with growing interest.

I must admit that the abortion debate will always catch hell from people on both sides of the battle line. It’s an impossible issue fraught with land mines of emotions, so this will not be an attempt to convert anybody to my side of the camp.

As I followed the conversations on abortion, it struck me that the positions of men in relation to abortion are rarely discussed. Case in point, a dipstick survey I did on my WhatsApp status where I asked: “Men, what do you think about abortion?”

This elicited strong responses from women in my contacts. One quipped: “Only if they have a uterus should they be allowed to “think”. Otherwise only uterus holders have a say. Thanks.”

In my inbox were confessions of men who had helped their girlfriends procure abortions and were proud of it, of others eaten up by guilt of “ending a life before it even began”, and of extortion from women who claimed to be pregnant and wanted an abortion but all they wanted was money. The moralists, too, came for me.

It was clear that men, too, have a story to tell but hardly ever do so. Sadly, we have normalised this. Their reactions also underscored the ambiguity of the abortion issue.

Dennis Galava’s deeply personal essay, published in the Daily Nation on July 12, 2022 titled It’s time men, fathers broke the silence on abortion, may be the answer to this question of men’s involvement.

He wrote: “Matters of girls’ sexual and reproductive health have for too long been treated as women’s affair in which men are involved only as participants in—and often originators of—the circumstances that create the crises.”

Dr Galava, who, at the beginning of the article, admits that in the late 1990s, he and his girlfriend decided to terminate a nine-week pregnancy, is an exception to the norm.

In a bilateral conversation with him later, he told me that he had received tonnes of positive feedback about his story. This is indicative of how important it is to have men speak up in the abortion debate. And how much we need them to stand up for women.

I have written here before that I don’t believe women’s bodies should be policed by anybody and I still stand by this, lest I be accused of changing my stand.

Men’s involvement in the abortion debate should not be confused for an invitation or permission to police women’s bodies, but rather an opportunity to participate in a healthy, productive conversation about abortion.

As it’s a topic that’s often confused for a moral one, it’s prudent to state that it’s a health and wellbeing question, not a moral one. And yes, it is also a legal, religious and political question too, which are three areas that are dominated by men.

So, it makes perfect sense that men should also be at the forefront of fighting for women’s abortion rights. And there are many details worth fighting over.

Politician Esther Passaris recently waded into this debate when the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) disclosed that it recorded 5,589 rape survivors in the last year, of whom 52 were infected with HIV, while 104 became pregnant.

She asked religious leaders to be more understanding and accommodative regarding abortion and contraceptives for teens. The volcano of responses that followed her plea tells us we still have a long way to go.

As much as abortion debate is not a black and white affair, what can’t be gainsaid is that no matter which side of the debate you fall on, men have a say on the matter.

For those of us who believe in the power of choice, we are confident that men can help clear the field for women to exercise their rights over their bodies.

Miss Oneya comments on social and cultural topics. [email protected]; @FaithOneya

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