In the summer of 1998, a friend and I spent an evening together. A few weeks later, she told me she was pregnant and the baby was mine. Neither of us expected it or felt ready to raise a child together. We weren’t in love, and we thought it would be better to go our separate ways with a clean slate.
We gathered $400 from a friend and went to an abortion clinic that prescribed 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. We ended the life of our unborn child.
Some choices leave scars; our abortion is certainly one of them. In the years since, our decision has given me more compassion toward those who face the fear of an unplanned pregnancy. And God has brought forgiveness and healing I don’t deserve.
It Is Her Body
Several women over the years have challenged me to remain silent about abortion, saying, “It’s a woman’s body; she has the right to choose what to do with it” or “You’re a man; you have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body.”
I’m sensitive to these requests. A woman’s body is a gift from God and should never be touched in ways she doesn’t permit. Men don’t have the right to force her to use her body against her will. Her body is hers and must be respected.
Moreover, no man can truly understand the joys of pregnancy or the fears of an unexpected one. Men have their own related hopes and sorrows, but there’s a unique way a woman hopes for her womb to be filled with life. There’s also a unique sorrow women know when that life ends through miscarriage or the choice of abortion. As the old proverb says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (Prov. 14:10, NIV).
No man can truly understand the joys of pregnancy or the fears of an unexpected one.
It’s Not Just Her Body
But “it’s a woman’s body” doesn’t capture the whole truth. When a woman becomes pregnant, her body ceases to be only hers; it also belongs to her child. The child is within her, yet distinct from her. It is in her body, but it is not her body.
What’s growing within is not a tumor or clump of cells that has the potential to be a baby. It is a baby—with unique DNA, a unique blood type, and a detectable heartbeat after five or six weeks. What lives in the mother is a unique human being. If we found on Mars what we find in a mother’s womb, we’d certainly say we found life. And 100 percent of the time, nothing other than a human comes out during birth. At the moment of conception, a living human takes up residency inside his or her mother.
God’s wonderful design is for unborn children to be united to their mothers, receiving protective housing as they grow and nourishment as they develop. This sacrificial love is part of what it means to be a mom. Anyone reading these words has known this divinely designed care, regardless of your birth circumstances. Your mother’s body was her body, but it wasn’t just hers. Her body became a temporary home to you.
It’s Not Just Her Baby
While the woman’s body is her body, it’s not only her baby within. It’s their baby—mother and father.
Whether they planned to have a child together or not, the baby is theirs. Whether the father desires to be responsible for his choices or not, the baby is theirs. This is true of every pregnancy—including the one I helped end. When we had our abortion, it wasn’t my body, but it was my baby.
When we had our abortion, it wasn’t my body, but it was my baby.
Wait before you dismiss this. Few things are more precious than a father’s love. That’s one of the reasons the world fell in love with Jack and Randall from the hit show This Is Us. Something in us wants fathers like Jack and Randall. If we are fathers, we want to be like them. The internet celebrated the dad who charged at a doctor for sexually assaulting his three daughters. A father’s importance resonates. Those who had wonderful dads celebrate them; those who didn’t have them know the ache left behind.
Abortion isn’t just about a mother’s choice. It’s also about a father’s responsibility. Perpetuating the lie that men need to stay out of the abortion debate isn’t just untrue—it’s catastrophic for the generations to come.
We need a generation of young men who honor women by protecting 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 women pregnant, nor pressure them to end their children’s lives. We need a generation of men who will take responsibility for—will love—their unborn children. They must be willing to either help raise the children or make plans for their adoption.
We also need a generation of women who will encourage men to take responsibility, rather than push them out of the abortion conversation. Though abortion uniquely affects women, it’s not only about women.
Because in the end it’s her body, but it’s their baby.
A version of this article originally appeared on Garrett Kell’s website.