1 Jun, 14 | by Iain Brassington
There’s a nice little piece by Martin Robbins in this week’s Guardian in which he talks about the fact that women seem to be less supportive of abortion than men. That does seem counterintuitive, given that… well, given the obvious physiological facts and the relative burden of risks related to pregnancy. So there’s an interesting little anthropological puzzle here; and he suggests a number of factors that might explain the phenomenon. For example, there’s some research that finds that women are more likely than men to agree that life begins at conception – though, as he points out, while that might help explain the different views of termination, we’d still need to know why more women think that to begin with. Another potential explanation is that men like the idea of not having to do the right thing by their pregnant partners by paying child-support or, if you’re reading this in the 1950s, marrying them: abortion gives a way out of that. But – and Robbins doesn’t mention this – that again presupposes keeping the baby as the default position to which people are looking for an alternative. We could also talk about social pressure, and the way that women are still expected to be mothers, and how that feeds into attitudes. In fact, we could talk about a lot of things:
So which is it? Internalised sexism, men’s liberation, fundamentally different ideas about the point at which life begins, or something else entirely? I doubt only one factor is at work, but it seems that we lack a definitive answer. And that’s a shame, because in the ongoing battle of ideas it seems like a very important question to ask.
I suspect some will deride his “we need to do more research” conclusion, but it seems eminently sensible to say that, faced with a quirk of attitudes, a full explanation would be at least aesthetically satisfying, even if not especially urgent. He also provides lots of useful links.