Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (44), April 4, 1986

Abortion as Male Chauvinism

My View

(invitational column)

(John Rankin, his wife Nancy, and three sons live in Rockport. He is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton. Formerly youth pastor at Pigeon Cove Chapel, he has for two years served as executive director of the New England Christian Action Council)

Last spring I conducted an open forum at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, addressing the subject of abortion to an audience that was mostly “pro-choice.” In the presentation of my thesis, I argued at one point that abortion in an act, in a majority of cases, that reflects male chauvinism.

One perturbed male student stood up and argued that it was a woman’s right, pure and simple. He went on to say, that in an age of sexual liberation, a woman should have the right to abort. He would have saved face if ha had stopped at that point. But he continued to say that he has the freedom sleep around as much as he wants, and if his partner happens to get pregnant, she has the freedom to get an abortion. I then mentioned how convenient that must be for him, for he can trot along his merry way, leaving the woman the hard dilemma of either carrying the child to term and facing single motherhood, or having an abortion. All scenarios violate human life, especially the final one.

This student was at a loss for words, as about 75 women were looking his way intently. He mumbled a few words, got up and left the auditorium, and so did several other men. No women left.

In my thesis opposing abortion, which I have presented at colleges all over New England, I make the following statement:

Definition of abortion as the ultimate male chauvinism: A man often flees responsibility by leaving a woman whom he has impregnated. She is alone and often sees no choice but abortion. But in so doing, she merely passes on the chauvinism by treating her child as a piece of disposable property, much as the man treated her. She is twice traumatized; once a victim, one a victimizer. And the man trots along his merry way.

Dr. Landrum Shettles, once an advocate of abortion, puts it this way: “When I declared that a woman had ‘a right to her own body’ when it came to abortion, I was conveniently excusing the considerable role the male might play in a pregnant woman’s predicament. When I proclaimed that the abortion decision should be a woman’s alone, I neatly exchanged for ‘gallantry’ whatever guilt I might have dimly have perceived. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, ‘The devil, depend on it, can sometimes do a very gentlemanly thing.’ Looking back, I’m rather certain that more than a few pregnant women, abruptly confronted by the ‘gallant’ absence of the male during the abortion, must have secretly harbored some secret doubts concerning the new chivalry.”

Or as pro-abortion historian James C. Mohr says: “Abortion was not a purposeful female conspiracy, but an undesirable necessity forced by thoughtless men.” Nineteenth century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton described abortion as the “degradation of women,” as she labored for women’s rights in the face of male chauvinism. With 81.1 percent of all abortions occurring outside of marriage (1983 CDC statistics), and most of the remaining 18.9 percent occurring under marital stress, it is little wonder to see why the Playboy Foundation has for years been one of the largest financial supporters of legalized abortion. It serves the hedonistic male quite nicely.

I have counseled many women who have been through abortion. Their testimony of the motivation and circumstance for their abortions hits this theme repeatedly. Not in all cases of course, but in most of them. Is this freedom for women? I have done my homework on abortion, both factually and pastorally. Not only is human life taken, but women are violated terribly in the process. Contrary to how man feminists seek to stereotype “pro-lifers,” I am one who is motivated out of compassion for women, out of respect for their dignity and identity as created by God. The message of the Gospel in this context is one of hope, for men, women and children. It is not one of hysteria and appeals to fear. It is a message of forgiveness to those who wish it, men who have forced women into abortion, women who have aborted for whatever reason, and the rest of us who stand on the sidelines and do nothing about this human holocaust.