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The Human Cost: ‘Because of the stigma of abortion, men don’t want to talk about it’: Roe v. Wade reversal has life-changing effects on male partners

In late June, with the reversal of Roe v. Wade leaving the future of abortion access in Tennessee uncertain, Daniel A. Collier faced a dilemma. 

The 42-year-old assistant professor of higher education at the University of Memphis and his wife were on a journey with their third pregnancy. But it wasn’t easy — his wife had previously had two miscarriages. 

With Tennessee poised to ban most abortions, the Colliers worried they might not be able to access needed care if their third pregnancy ended in miscarriage. About a week later, the Colliers would learn they had lost the pregnancy at six weeks.

“It’s a different kind of hurt,” Collier said. “There’s nothing you can really do for her, except for, ‘Can I get you something? Can I hold your hand? What can I do for you physically to make you feel better?’ … Because you can’t take that pain away.”

Miscarriage management can involve the same procedures used for some abortions. A dilation and curettage (D&C), which removes tissue from the uterus, is used to prevent hemorrhaging and infection for a miscarriage, but has also been banned in some hospitals located in states where abortion is no longer legal. 

“Young men whose partners had an abortion had both higher academic achievement and socioeconomic status compared to their peers who became teenage fathers.”

Brian Nguyen, a University of Southern California professor of obstetrics and gynecology who specializes in the relationship between men and their partners’ reproductive health, said more men had become interested in male contraception following the ruling. 

Men and women are often on the same page when it comes to the reasons for going ahead with an abortion, Nguyen said. Whether they are white-collar or blue-collar workers, their reasons typically include career, finances and timing: Either they already have a family, or they are not ready to start one.

“There are multiple cases where people talked about how their abortion was critical to their career, and they would not be where they are without it,” Nguyen said.

Scholars have pointed out that very few cisgender men openly share their experiences with abortion, let alone how their abortion experiences might have affected them or changed the trajectory of their lives. Nguyen said he hoped there could be an equivalent space and movement for men to share the abortion experiences of their partners in a positive light. 

“Because of the stigma of abortion, men don’t want to talk about it,” Nguyen said. “And so what we end up with is a biased account of men’s experiences with abortion.”

For Collier, deciding to move states would seriously impact his career. “It is a super competitive career field, being a tenure-track professor. It’s hard to get these jobs,” he said. “It’s hard to get tenure, and it’s hard to maintain productive research.”

Fortunately, the Colliers live a few hours away from the border of Illinois, where abortion is legal. But if they were to face a situation where moving is imminent, Collier said he would have fewer places to apply. “But,” he adds, “my wife’s health matters more than my career.”

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