“The ideological, political, and ethical debate (as well as the empirical research) on abortion have been characterized by a constant omission concerning the role of males as actors and co-participants.” (Guevara, 2000).
One of the research perspectives that have acquired increasing attention and importance in the field of sexuality and reproduction is the “relational” dimension, emphasizing the various interaction processes and mechanisms among the diverse actors and social agents that participate in these fields. As part of this dimension, the literature produced in the region over the past several years confirms interest in inquiring into the male role in these processes. The aim is to break with the universalistic bias of centering analysis and interventions exclusively on women, and therefore on an individual logic guiding the decision-making process and the practices.
Although the theme of male participation within sexuality and reproductive health has emerged more strongly in recent years in academic spaces as well as in civil society programs and to a lesser extent in public programs, empirical studies remain insufficient with regard to the male presence, participation, or involvement in the experience of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. This situation is unanimously established in the literature currently available on this issue. This is due, as set forth in earlier chapters, to the limitations and complexities of the diverse dimensions, processes, actors, and social and institutional ambits, to the circumstances and specific realities that intervene, and to the difficulties in obtaining information in contexts characterized by having restrictive abortion laws.
Research findings coincide in affirming that the woman is the principal protagonist with respect to the effects of abortion; it is women who become pregnant and who abort, who confront and bear the burden of the physical, material, emotional, and familial consequences of interrupting a pregnancy, and who are the nearly exclusive recipients of the sanctions stipulated by existing legislation. It is women who die or suffer the physical and mental consequences of having had an abortion in inadequately hygienic conditions, who are stigmatized by society, and who, in the majority of cases, do not have the right to decide freely on their own reproduction or to exercise their sexuality in a risk-free manner. Finally, it is women who find themselves in conditions of greater social vulnerability, as well as being more exposed to moral sanctions. Nonetheless, some studies point out that the male, the “significant other half”, in addition to being the person that impregnates a woman, often participates in and is responsible for decision-making regarding the practice of abortion, whether it be at the individual, familial, or societal level. It is males from the public arena who are most frequently involved. These males are the legislators and those responsible for administering justice, those who dictate the laws and establish the conditions and regulations under which abortion may or may not be practiced. They are the physicians who determine abortion-associated health criteria and norms, in addition to being those who perform the abortions. Males are the representatives of the religions that dictate the moral and spiritual sanctions, or more rarely the approval, of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. Within private confines, women’s spouses, partners, boyfriends, or fathers, either hamper or support the performance of abortion. Even if males are absent or indifferent, they indirectly influence a woman’s decisions regarding her pregnancy.
This chapter documents academic reflections concerning the problem of abortion from the male perspective. It also presents the findings of empirical research projects on the role played by males in the abortion experience, from the point of view of women as well as men. The overview presented, while partial and exploratory, demonstrates the need to prioritize and proceed in the analysis of this theme on the basis of research focusing on the males and on the couple. This is because abortion is not ―nor should it be considered― a circumscribed and isolated event for woman. Partner participation plays a crucial role in it, not only in terms of whether the practice is resorted to, but also in determining its consequences for both partners., although most often the consequences affect the woman more intensely and unfavorably.
Various pertinent questions have been raised on this theme, mainly in critical studies from the feminist perspective. Paraphrasing the title of the work by Ortiz-Ortega: “Si los hombres se embarazaran, ¿el aborto sería legal?”(If it were men who became pregnant, would abortion be legal?”) (2001) and in considering what has been expressed by Figueroa and Sánchez (2000) in this regard, we might ask: If legislators, jurists, physicians, fathers, and men in general were those who become pregnant, would abortion be authorized at their request, respecting and guaranteeing their rights? Would it be socially and morally penalized and stigmatized in the same fashion? If males were involved in their partners’ abortion experiences, would the consequences for women be the same? Would abortion be a shared responsibility? At the same time, these questions relate directly to what Salcedo holds (1999) concerning the impossibility of males experiencing pregnancy and abortion in their own bodies, it not only leads to the male’s inadequate participation in this experience, but also affects his valuation of and attitude toward it.