Aseem Kishore

Abortion, women's rights, and the role of men

just posted that I’m going to write about engineering leadership and management on this blog. In the wake of yesterday’s news, it feels disingenuous to truck ahead on that topic when so many are so impacted. I value being authentic, and I feel compelled to speak.

(I’m also inspired by leaders like Linda Kim who’ve courageously spoken up here even when they know it’d be far safer not to.)

I know abortion is a divisive topic. I try hard to understand others’ perspectives, and this topic is no exception. I view the divide between pro-life and pro-choice as mainly a difference in our shared values — the things we give more weight to than others. (I can’t wait to write about values and decision-making in the context of work.) I don’t pretend that I can change others’ values, and I don’t like to project or impose my own values onto others.

And yet, I’d like to speak, because I believe I have something helpful to contribute. I’d specifically like to talk about a point which I don’t see discussed. It might not change anyone’s values, but I hope it builds empathy and helps bridge a gap.

I read a post years ago that I can’t find now, but really wish I could. I’d like to give credit to the author (a woman), so if this rings a bell, please let me know.

The post made a simple point:

Every unwanted pregnancy is caused, at least in part, by a man. Pregnancy requires sperm, and men provide that sperm.

Contraception not used? The man could have used a condom, or pulled out sooner, but didn’t.

Believe two consenting adults shouldn’t have sex if they’re not ready to have kids? The man could have abstained, but chose not to.

And of course, there’s rape.

(As with all generalities, there’s nuance here. I’m focusing on the general point.)

What a simple and obvious point, but (at least to me) so profound and powerful.

So much of the conversation on the topic of abortion centers around women’s role and responsibilities. Use contraception; don’t have sex if you’re not ready for kids; don’t drink more than you can handle; don’t dress provocatively if you don’t want the attention.

We tell women to be responsible for the consequences of their actions — but it’s not just their actions.

When we focus only on women and ignore the role of men, we villainize women and absolve men. That isn’t fair or right.

The point here isn’t to blame men or argue that we should punish them, too.

The point is to give women more support and empathy than we currently do. They don’t become pregnant on their own, but their bodies certainly experience pregnancy on their own.

I can’t begin to fathom or truly empathize with the physical, mental, or emotional experience of being pregnant. But I can empathize with — and would be horrified at — having to go through that experience when I neither wanted nor caused it on my own.

There are a host of reasons why I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and I acknowledge I value things differently than those who don’t. I found this point particularly powerful, though, and hope it helps bridge our gaps at least a little.