When I was 19, I got a friend pregnant.
In the summer, a friend and I had spent an evening together. A few weeks later she told me she was pregnant, and it was mine.
I “wasn’t ready for a baby.” I had hopes and dreams ahead of me, and having a child seemed like the end of all those dreams.
Neither of us expected it, and neither of us felt ready to raise a child together. We were not in love and thought it would be better to go our separate ways with a clean slate.
So we aborted our child.
We gathered $400 from a friend and went to a clinic that prescribed us a pill. We drove to someone’s empty home where we would spend the night. I got her a glass of water to take the pill. I held her hand while she cramped and cried. I was there as we ended the life of our unborn child.
When our procedure was over, I felt relief. I felt free to begin life again and make smarter choices. I could get a fresh start, and in many ways I did.
But some choices leave scars. Ultimately, our abortion was one of those choices. In the years since our decision, I’ve often reflected on what happened that summer. It has changed me.
I had been part of creating a life.
And then I had been part of ending that life.
There was a heartbeat and I stopped it. There was life and I ended it. That reality was inescapable. I tried to ignore it, but there was nowhere to hide. My telltale heart beat louder and louder.
I had loved my life so much that I had been willing to kill my own child to protect my happiness.
I never got to hear their laughter. Never got to lock eyes for the first time. Never saw their smile or cheered for their first steps or understood their first words. I never heard them read for the first time or endure their endless questions about why the world is the way it is. I missed all that, and so did they because I took my child’s life.
My child would be 21 today.
We would be on the cusp of a college graduation. I would be giving my final parental pep talk about working hard and looking for the right kind of spouse.
But none of that is happening.
My experience has given me more compassion toward those who face the fear of an unplanned pregnancy.
God has brought healing and shown forgiveness that I do not deserve. My experience with the abortion is one reason I often speak about the issue—even when I’m asked to stop speaking about it.
It Is Her Body
In the years since, I have had conversations with several women who have challenged me to remain silent about abortion. I’ve been told, “it is a woman’s body, she has the right to choose what to do with it” and “you’re a man, you have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body.”
I am sensitive to their request. A woman’s body is given to her as a gift from God. It should never be touched in ways she does not permit. A man does not have the right to force her to use her body against her will. Her body is hers and that must be respected.
No man can truly understand the joys of pregnancy or the fears of an unexpected pregnancy. Men have their own related hopes and sorrows, but there is a unique way a woman hopes for her womb to be filled with life. There is also a unique sorrow women know when that life ends through miscarriage or the choice of abortion. As an old proverb says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”
It’s Not Just Her Body
But the fact that it is a woman’s body does not capture the whole truth.
When a woman becomes pregnant, her body is not just hers any longer. It now also belongs to her child. In the miracle of motherhood a living human being is conceived within her body and then attaches to the wall of her womb. It is within her, yet distinct from her. It is in her body, but it is not her body.
What is growing within her is not merely a tumor or clump of cells that has the potential to be a baby. It is a baby. Some may push back on this, but it is scientifically dishonest to do so. The child in the womb has unique DNA, unique blood type, and every quality that makes us distinctly human. What is in her is a unique, living human being. The child has a detectable heartbeat between five to six weeks.
It’s Not Just Her Baby
This is where a father’s responsibility must be highlighted. While the woman’s body is her body, it is not just her baby. It is their baby.
Regardless of whether they planned to have a child together or not, it is their baby. Regardless of whether the father desires to be responsible for his choices or not, it is their baby. This is true of every pregnancy, including the one I chose to take part in ending. When we had our abortion, it wasn’t my body, but it was my baby.
Please hold back any desire to roll your eyes here. There are few things more precious than a father’s love. This is one of the reasons the world has fallen in love with Jack and Randall from the hit show “This Is Us.” There’s something in us that wants fathers like Jack and Randall—or if we are fathers, we want to be like them.
The importance of fathers resonates within us all. Those who had wonderful fathers celebrate them and those who did not know the ache that is left behind.
Abortion is not just about a mother’s choice. It is also about a father’s responsibility. Perpetuating the lie that men need to stay out of the discussion about abortion—because it is a woman’s body—is not only untrue, it is catastrophic for generations to come.
What we need is a generation of young men who honor ladies by helping them protect the precious gift of their sexuality as it was intended to be.
We need a generation of young men who will not treat women like objects, but honor them with decency and respect.
We need a generation of young men who will not walk away when they get a woman pregnant or pressure a woman to end their child’s life.
We need a generation of men who will love their unborn children and go the utmost lengths to encourage the mother to have their baby. They must be willing to help raise the child or place it for adoption.
We also need a generation of women who will encourage men to take responsibility and show the sacrificial love and empathy that ought to mark men, not push them out of the conversation about abortion.
Though abortion uniquely affects women, it is not only about women. It is also about the child in her womb, and the child’s father.
Because in the end, it is her body, but it is their baby.
A previous version of this article was published by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.