A few weeks ago my friend posted a status update on Facebook highlighting a plea for help from a forum populated mainly by men. A poster’s girlfriend had found herself unexpectedly pregnant and the young man simply didn’t know what to do.
He was a mature student. His girlfriend was slightly older than him, had a well-paid secure job and a child from a previous marriage. On discovering she was pregnant, her initial reaction was one of delight; she assumed that they would be having the baby and set about telling all her friends and family.
Though the young man shared some of his girlfriend’s excitement, he was at the same time daunted and understandably so. Although he loved his girlfriend, he took the responsibilities of fatherhood seriously and wasn’t sure whether or not now was the right time to take their relationship to the next level.
The news that she was expecting sent the woman into what seems to be a frenzy of nesting. Immediately she made a series of demands upon him which involved him making a series of unnecessary and excessive sacrifices. He would need to abandon his plans for a PhD in a specialist scientific discipline, take up extra shifts on his minimum wage job and move in with her. He’d also not be allowed to take any of his pets into her home and neither would he be allowed any space of his own to study. He’d have to make do with the family’s kitchen table.
Furthermore the baby’s arrival date was causing him some concern, coinciding with his finals. He had therefore had a major panic, feeling that she was bouncing him into a baby that he wasn’t ready for. While he wasn’t averse to the idea of a baby, he just couldn’t see how things were going to work out.
Friendly – and some unfriendly – advice
The replies to his request for advice made for uncomfortable and depressing reading. They ranged from the uncharitable to the downright misogynist. The general consensus was that nobody with an ounce of intelligence ever became accidentally pregnant. His girlfriend had obviously done it deliberately to trap him, and he’d be best off getting rid of the pair of them. The mother of the baby was put on trial, her contraceptive arrangements were analysed in minute detail with all the blame for the mishap laid at her door.
Under the use of the pseudonym — for obvious reasons — I weighed in with friendly impartial advice. I pointed out that his girlfriend would likely be feeling physically dreadful as well as emotionally vulnerable. The effects of progesterone, in particular, should not be underestimated. It was understandable that she might go into an “everything needs to be instantaneously perfect” tailspin, but she also needed to understand that everything would be fine in due course, and not to fret or sweat the small stuff right now.
The issues about the kitchen table, workspace and so on could all be sorted in due course. Likewise, while she would need his support when the baby was born, the university should be able to be flexible in terms of timing of exams and that actually, a newborn baby is not as time-consuming as he might be imagining. While he would need to be on hand, that would be more to help his girlfriend, rather than be responsible for all of the care of the baby. Newborns tend to sleep for the first few weeks or months of their lives and most men don’t tend to take huge amounts of maternity leave. Being there for his girlfriend didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be able to have a few hours to himself every day to catch up on study or revise for exams. The woman’s daughter would be at school, so he might have to help with school runs, but it wouldn’t be an unmitigated logistical nightmare. All relationships involve an element of compromise and sacrifice.
I also pointed out to the assembled posters, that contraception can and does fail. We shouldn’t automatically assume the worst of people, especially when the British Pregnancy Advisory Service says that over 60 percent of those presenting for an abortion claim to have been using some form of birth control. Some of the posters had been suggesting BPAS counselling – I pointed out in a matter of fact way that I hadn’t found abortion clinic counsellors either impartial or helpful and that there was the tiny matter of vested financial interests.
Having given him some food for thought, he countered that he had thought about it and he really did want to have the baby.
No second chance
But by then it was too late. Thanks to his wobble, his girlfriend had decided that he was too immature and too unstable to be a father and booked in for an abortion. He then began to message me and then text me privately to ask what he should do. His girlfriend claimed that any normal man would have been overjoyed at her news and gone straight round her house with a bunch of flowers to celebrate.
The guy doesn’t deny he messed up; his prevarication had cost him dearly. She was terrified at the prospect of becoming a single mother of two children; she believed that all the work would fall on her shoulders and was unprepared to take the risk. What could he do, he begged me, to convince her how serious he was about her?
Err, get married, I suggested tentatively. Funnily enough, he said, he had planned to propose to her early next year when it was their anniversary and they had a country hotel booked for a friend’s wedding. He had even asked one of her female friends to scope out a ring. Tell her that, I urged. He did. It was not enough.
Start making concrete plans to show how serious you are, was the next suggestion. He did. He already had a savings account set up which he had designated for the baby. Just keep talking to her was my advice, tell her not to rush things. But no, she repeatedly told him that she needed to be “realistic”; she couldn’t trust him and she would only bring him down.
He was going out of his mind with anxiety, texting me to tell me that he thought she might have mental health issues because since deciding to abort she had gone sick from work and was hiding away from the world.
He spoke to her parents, who already knew and were in agreement with him. They felt she had been unreasonable and unrealistic in her demands, but understood that following the collapse of her previous relationship she was feeling vulnerable. They also did not want her to abort the baby.
The young man was worried about the effect of abortion on his girlfriend’s physical and mental health as well. He didn’t identify as “pro life” but he could not see a good reason for her to abort the baby.
He desperately wanted to be a father to his little boy or girl. He sent her a series of impassioned and harrowing texts begging her not to take the life of his baby, telling her what a great mother she was, how he wanted to be a proper family with her and her child, how the child would love a sibling. Please, he said, talk to me, cancel the appointment, please don’t kill our innocent baby, please give him, her a chance. He said that he would take custody if she was so adamant that she did not want the child.
I informed a Facebook pro-life group who, together with a monastic community, were storming heaven. The guy had no idea where the abortion was going to take place, or at what time. His girlfriend had shut him down. She wasn’t responding to his texts, apart from to say, “If you love me then you’ll support and respect my decision.” To which all he could say was that loving someone doesn’t mean validating their destructive actions.
All day my phone was pinging. He hadn’t heard from her; perhaps, he said, our baby is being killed right now. I kept trying to hold out hope for him that she may have had a change of heart, although counselling him that he had done all he could. If she was dead set on the idea, then there was very little he could do to stop her. She didn’t deny it was a baby, but this was all about doing what she believed was right for her. Her last text to him was “you need to stop this.”
At about 6pm he discovered that she had gone ahead and had the abortion that morning. She had spent most of the day groggy in hospital, but he was angry because she also appeared to have spent much of the afternoon on Facebook, instead of telling him. I told him not to be angry – she was obviously feeling defensive and wanting distraction.
Where ‘choice’ rules, there are no winners
The point of all this? Anecdote is not the plural of data, but here is the story of one baby who died by abortion this year. A baby who was much wanted by the father and grandparents and initially by the mother. Sharing stories and personal experiences help us to make sense of the world. I wanted to write this down and share it, by way of a memorial to just one of the unborn children who will have lost their lives today. Rest in peace little one. Know that many of us prayed for you. We have the consolation of knowing that you have gone to the Lord.
My thoughts are pretty simple. This is just another demonstration for me of what a wicked and insidious development abortion-on-demand is. There is no happy ending here. A baby has lost its life and a man is at home beside himself with grief. He says he hasn’t been able to sleep or eat properly for weeks or concentrate on work. A formerly loving relationship is in tatters, with both parties harbouring feelings of anger and resentment. A mother has to deal with the repercussions of her decision while at the same time, caring for her living child.
Not once in this man’s decision was there an element of patriarchy — wanting to control her uterus or chain her to the kitchen sink. This guy realised that he loved his unborn baby and wanted them to live. The reality of abortion means that every single pregnancy becomes a lifestyle choice and children are given a specious right – to be meticulously planned and born into “perfect” circumstances which supersedes their basic right to life. Had abortion not been an option, he wouldn’t have had his damaging wobble and would have stepped up to the plate sooner. But we are all now conditioned to think not of new life, not of a baby, but of choice.
The abortion clinic which carried this out has neglected the duty of care and potentially broken the law. If there were mental health issues necessitating abortion – and they only appeared to manifest once the decision had been taken — these needed to be further investigated and treated. But if the mother gave the reason as being that she had trust issues with her boyfriend, this case wouldn’t seem to neatly fall within section C of the Abortion Act.
There’s also a lesson in this about commitment: committing to have a baby with someone is a different thing from enjoying a long term sexual relationship with them. The greatest commitment one can give to another is to be open to the possibility of having a baby with them. Stripping sex of a procreative element, inherently strips it of an element of commitment. But that’s for another time.
I think the guy has been foolish, but I don’t blame him for it; he is no different to most men in contemporary society. The feminists who would shout about their abortions would no doubt lynch both him and me for being manipulative, but I see no winners, no victory, no progress and certainly no joy in this woman having exercised her “reproductive right”.
Caroline Farrow, mother of five, is a columnist for the Catholic Universe & Media/Public Speaker for Catholic Voices in the UK. This article is republished, with permission, from her blog.