Abortion is not simply a women’s rights issue – what about fathers?

Londonderry GP Dr Ann McCloskey
Londonderry GP Dr Ann McCloskey
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The notion that the removal of the protection for the right to life of unborn children is purely a “woman’s issue” makes no sense.

This is one of the most pernicious distortions which underpinned the debate around the introduction of abortion-on-demand in the 26 counties.

A protest in June 2016 outside Belfast's High Court by demonstrators in favour of liberalising abortion law

A protest in June 2016 outside Belfast's High Court by demonstrators in favour of liberalising abortion law

Half of the population were told that the deliberate ending of their children’s lives was none of their business.

Abortion, by definition kills the unborn child, and robust studies now show that it can cause real and lasting harm to women also.

But it also affects fathers, extended families and wider society.

If the child in the womb is just a part of the woman’s body, then what is a father? The very concept of fatherhood, with all that it entails, is reduced to mere sperm donation.

Instead of acknowledging the biological reality that we are each created by a 50:50 mix of DNA from both of our parents, and inherit physical and mental characteristics going back generations from both families, we are fed the lie that the next generation are merely part of the woman’s body, mere tissue, waste, “products of conception”. As were we all.

When their child’s life is ended by induced abortion, men are often left bereaved and traumatised by a decision they have no control over, and in my experience often suffer the same grieving process as they would following a natural miscarriage or death of a child.

I don’t know of any research in this field, but in seems likely that at least some of the excess mental health problems we see among males are related to this loss of role as fathers, and equal partners in parenthood.

The narrative that the unborn child is not a new life created by both parents, but merely part of the woman’s body and subject to her autonomy alone is one which many men do not accept, and with good reason.

For other men, abortion absolves them from responsibility for the outcomes of sexual activity.

I haven’t come across a pregnancy yet that didn’t have male input. Men surely have a duty not to put the women they claim to care for at risk of unplanned pregnancy.

What about “compassion” and “respect” at this earlier stage? Where is the acknowledgement of her bodily autonomy?

“Lads” offer their women abortion. Real men cherish and care for them. Abortion offers men what James Joyce called “copulation without procreation” – the opportunity to use women as mere objects of gratification, without regards for the consequences.

Recent high profile court cases on both sides of the Atlantic demonstrate how many “lads” hold deeply misogynistic ideas about women and their value in society.

The cover of “choice” is also a useful tool to hide abuse, violence, exploitation, trafficking and other crimes against women and children.

For the vast majority of our people, fathers are their friends, mentors and role models, a central and irreplaceable part of their lives.

Similarly, for most, our partners are equal collaborators in life’s journey. They are the co-creators of our children, and share responsibility for their health and wellbeing.

Men need to consider carefully before allowing the distorted narrative of militant feminism to describe their lives. They should cherish and promote their role as fathers, and work to preserve the lives of their children and those of unborn generations of our people.

With the growing recognition that the politicians of this island, north and south no longer speak for many of our people, many are looking for a new voice to represent them.

In the south, civil war factionalism and the slavish following of cultural Marxism and the cult of ”choice” as the only morality has left many people truly horrified.

A government that prioritises the killing of the unborn over helping the tens of thousands on hospital waiting lists, families dependant on food banks and the children sleeping on the streets is not a government worth the name.

In the north, outdated ideologies, futile sectarianism, stalemate in Stormont, and the headlong rush to a chaotic no-deal Brexit, against the wishes and interests of the people leaves many despairing for the future.

As a woman who hitherto would have described myself as a republican, a feminist, and a socialist, I now find that these words have acquired meanings I no longer recognise, or can espouse.

I work as a doctor in an area where there is 60% child poverty, where many households live on the edge, struggling to meet their basic needs.

They have not the luxury of “choice”, for most aspects of their existence.

It is clear that we need a new way forward, where all the people are recognised as valuable, where human dignity in its varied manifestations is celebrated and where all are cherished equally. Across Ireland, a new political movement is growing, led by Peadar Tobin, trying to unite Protestant, Catholic, dissenter (and everyone else) in the common cause of respect for life, social justice, and a more equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation.

We believe that many in the north, who share our beliefs, may find that the old divisions and slogans no longer serve their interests, and could find a new way forward with us.

• Dr Anne Mc Closkey MB is a GP in Londonderry and an ex-member of Sinn Fein, having left in 2003. In 2016, she stood as an independent MLA candidate in Foyle, winning 3,410 first-preference votes (about 200 more than SF’s Raymond McCartney, who pipped her to a seat thanks to vote transfers). She is a founder of republican pro-life campaign group Cherish all the Children Equally