Abortion rights have been contentious for probably the better part of two centuries now, owing to patriarchal control of bodies and the advancement of science. Abortion is a particularly contentious topic in the US. It has remained so, even after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in the 1970s.
More recently, lawmakers in the US have tried rolling back these rights, which has sparked mass outcry and protests. There are various reasons for these attempts (most of which aren’t based in religion).
In September 2021, Texas finally pushed forward what’s known as a “heartbeat bill,” legislation that effectively outlaws abortion after six weeks. (That timeline is another kettle of fish.)
A little later, a federal judge issued a ruling saying that Texas lawmakers knew that their law was unconstitutional. Pushing the bill forward was flagrant ignorance of constitutional rights. The fact still stands, though, that the existence of the law suggests lawmakers are challenging those rights. And they want to push the case all the way up to the Supreme Court, to have the most conservative bench in the last 75 years rule on the subject.
Now, why does any of this concern me? I’m Canadian, after all. (It should matter a lot, actually, for quite a few reasons.)
Perhaps most important, though, is that I’m an mpreg writer. As such, I find myself mired in the ongoing debate about abortion.
Mpreg Is Predicated on a Male Character Getting Knocked Up
Let’s start with that idea: I write mpreg, or male pregnancy. In our “real world,” we often think of that as some sort of outlandish thing that can’t happen. It seems like the domain of science fiction or fantasy. (It’s not.)
As a result of this “fantastical” element, many mpreg plots involve a male character not knowing they can get pregnant. There are, of course, exceptions, such as ABO fiction. Omegas are often highly aware they can get pregnant. The “secret omega” trope subverts it, since even the omega character isn’t aware.
Sometimes, mpreg happens because of a curse or a magic spell. Sometimes, the character is unaware of special genetics that make them capable of getting pregnant—such as being an alien or a hybrid of some fantasy creature. Even in ABO, as mentioned, a character is sometimes not aware they’re an omega, so they’re not aware they can get pregnant until it happens.
The long and short of this is that a lot of mpreg functions on the “accidental pregnancy” trope.
The Inexplicable Decision to See It Through
Almost every male character who finds himself knocked up decides to keep his baby. Yes, even those characters who weren’t initially aware they could get pregnant decide to keep their babies.
We can chalk this up to conceit of the genre. After all, it’s called mpreg for a reason: it involves a male character being pregnant.
Realistically, a male character who suddenly found himself pregnant is going to flip out. And, more often than not, that is likely going to end with abortion.
Yet very few mpreg stories show us that, because that’s not what the reader is there for. So we see the male character reconcile himself to having the baby. Sometimes he gets there with little issue; in other cases, there’s more angst.
As a writer, I’d love to have more space to explore a character deciding to get an abortion, but that would almost certainly subvert the genre. A minor character could decide; a major character might have had past abortions happen “off page.” But rarely are we going to see it happen within the story, on the page.
That’s partly because I don’t want to write a 600-page tome. (Or, okay, I do, but I’m not sure you folks want me to do that). The abortion arc would need to be structured in a particular way and then wrap back around into an mpreg arc.
Mpreg Can Veer into Anti-Abortion
It’s relatively easy for mpreg to begin to look like it’s anti-abortion. The male character is shocked or surprised; perhaps he’s even quite upset, to the point of being hysterical. Abortion might be brought up in passing, but he inevitably reconciles himself to having the baby.
We, as writers, have to be cautious with this. Yes, this is conceit of the genre, but if we’re not careful, it looks like we’re arguing against abortion rights. We’re subtly suggesting that every pregnant person can or should reconcile themselves to having the baby.
And that is a serious problem, because it suggests that abortion is never the right answer. If you just give the pregnant person long enough, they’ll come around. It may even suggest, subtly, that people who do have abortions will likely regret it.
That’s not true at all. Every pregnant person must make a decision for themselves. In some cases, the pregnancy is a result of rape; in other cases, the fetus isn’t viable. Perhaps the mother’s life is threatened. Some people are financially unequipped to become parents; others are emotionally unequipped. And some people just do not want to undergo the strain and stress of pregnancy; they are uncomfortable with what it entails.
So there are a whole host of reasons why someone may want to have an abortion, from concerns about their own health to the baby’s to finances to preparedness and beyond.
Yet, in almost every mpreg I write and every mpreg I read, characters inevitably move from one position (“I can’t have a baby,” “I don’t want a baby”) to being over the moon they’re pregnant. And, as I said, we need to be on the lookout for that, because it becomes a subtle suggestion that abortion is never the right answer—when it so very often is.
Giving Characters a Choice in Mpreg
Having a male character carry out the pregnancy is usually the point of an mpreg story. So it’s difficult to clearly paint a portrait of pro-abortion stances within the genre. How do you showcase pro-choice characters and that abortion is a-okay when all of your stories end with the unsuspecting character accepting their accidental pregnancy?
There are ways around it. As noted, a minor character can become the proxy, or the main character could have a prior abortion that happens off-screen. Having characters wrestle with their pregnancy and subsequent parenthood is also a good option.
Perhaps the best option I’ve found thus far is ensuring characters are given a choice. Putting abortion on the table and making it very clear this is an option available suggests that, if nothing else, characters can make choices. Simply acknowledging the existence of abortion, including discussion of it, is important in mpreg then.
It’s one of the reasons I usually ensure my characters discuss abortion. The dialogue isn’t always explicit; for example, Marty, Orrin, and Jasper briefly discuss aborting their children after Marty becomes (unexpectedly and unwantedly) pregnant in Main Squeeze.
The discussion of abortion is more explicit in Lions Will Tame Leopards. In this case, we’re looking at an argument for “emergency access” to abortion.
The point is, however, that these characters are being given options. Even if they opt not to have an abortion at the end of all things, the option is still available to them.
Boardroom Explores “I Don’t Want To”
Perhaps the most explicit discussion of abortion I’ve incorporated into an mpreg story is Boardroom Omega. Perce is aware he is an omega and that he can get pregnant. He even takes steps to avoid getting pregnant. (He mentions both birth control and emergency contraception.) Yet he still ends up dealing with an accidental pregnancy.
Perce has pretty much zero reason to avoid having children, other than he prefers to focus on his career. Perce, as an omega, sees no reason why he shouldn’t occupy the upper echelons of the corporate world. He also sees no reason for omegas not to focus on their careers, if that’s what they want.
Yet, when Perce is faced with the classic mpreg “accidental pregnancy” dilemma, he ends up rejecting the abortion route.
This is a tricky tightrope. Perce is very adamant that he should not have a baby. His reasoning isn’t related to illness; neither he nor the baby are in danger. Nor is his argument economic; financially, he’s all set. This certainly isn’t the product of rape or abuse.
Perce’s argument is simply that he doesn’t want to have a baby. A baby doesn’t fit into his life plan, where he sees himself or where he wants to go in life.
Critiquing Capitalism through Acceptance of Motherhood
The book is somewhat critical of capitalism and patriarchy, so this is what Perce’s reversal of opinion hinges on. Under capitalism, childrearing and housekeeping are denigrated. Yet these tasks are often the foundation of “a good life.” Having a place to live (and keeping it clean and updated), preparing food to eat (and even enjoying it with others), and caring for each other are far more important than a lot of the “work” we do under capitalism.
That’s why so many of us feel so burnt out, so dissatisfied with our jobs. The work we’re doing is busy work made up by capitalism. It is pointless, because it has relatively little to do with survival.
Perce is also expected to conform to what we’d recognize as “patriarchy.” Since he can bear children, he should stay home and engage in childrearing and housekeeping.
Jake, the alpha love interest, offers a different way forward. Much the way that Lunex and their space lander is meant to suggest a “rewriting” of economics and capitalism, Jake invites Perce to reimagine and rewrite the patriarchal family. Perce, the omega, is allowed to go back to the office, to his career—in an even higher position. Jake, the alpha, becomes the stay-at-home parent. This suggestion works for them, because it suits each partner’s preferences and desires.
Role Reversal and a Different Way Forward
It’s only when Perce is presented with that alternate way forward that he can begin to envision himself as a parent. He realizes that he doesn’t want children because he exists in an unnatural system, one that fails to allow for individuals. Instead, the system suggests that the combination of sex chromosomes one has dictates one’s desires in life. For Perce, that is categorically untrue. He doesn’t want children or to be a stay-at-home parent. That doesn’t necessarily shutter him out of parenthood entirely; Jake presents an alternate way forward where Perce can “have it all.”
Of course, as I said, this is a high-wire balancing act. In relation to genre, Perce can only decide to have the baby. However, this extended dialogue, as much as it puts choice on the table, might easily be read as undermining pro-choice arguments.
The point here is that every individual needs to be free to choose what is right for them. That’s why, nearer to the end of the story, Perce definitely asserts that he is “for his rights.” Choosing to go through the pregnancy is as much an exercise of those rights as deciding to end it would be.
The long and short of all of this is that Boardroom is meant to be, in part, a rebuttal of laws like that introduced in Texas. As much as it ends with the main character choosing not to undergo abortion, it is still a choice that he has and makes.
This can be difficult to squeeze into a genre that basically mandates “babies ever after” endings for their stories, but I think it’s something that mpreg writers need to keep in mind. I believe that everyone should have a choice, and so my characters are always going to explicitly discuss the issues around choice.