Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Women Want It Both Ways On "Choice"

Grim makes a good point on the Alito nomination:

The nomination of Alito has been a good thing for the country, if only so we could have this debate. The question is, "We've come to something of a settlement on a woman's rights. Now, what rights does a father deserve, and how do we balance the two?" The de facto answer is that we don't: the father's sole reproductive right is to keep his pants on. After that, the woman alone has the choices.

Silly man. Abortion is a women's issue - did anyone ask him for his opinion?

The casting of abortion, or stare decisis as it is euphemistically referred to on Capitol Hill, as "pro-choice" could not be more misleading, for in this debate only one of the three parties concerned (man, woman, and child) has the slightest semblance of a choice. Only slightly more honest is the strident call of abortion advocates who swear to defend a woman's right to choose to the death. Pro-choice lobbyists strain our credulity by beating beleaguered district attorneys over the head with it when they try to prosecute sexual predators who prey on ten and eleven year-old girls. No "woman" chose to have sex with those monsters, or to end the tragic new life that began and ended shortly thereafter as a result of that crime; but so jealous are these activists of their "privacy rights" that they'd rather see criminals go free than allow the courts access to records of abortion clinics that practice illegal late-term abortions. After all, we're talking about the woman's right to choose here. It's in the Constitution.

As we are constantly reminded, the abortion debate is all about something called reproductive choice. Of what does this reproductive choice consist? If a man and a woman, married or unmarried, conceive a child together, both are on the hook financially to support that child until he or she is grown. But there are rules. If the woman decides to rid herself of a fetus that she does not want, but the man does, she may kill it and this is perfectly legal. If the man decides to rid herself of a fetus that he does not want (perhaps by slipping her an abortifact that does not otherwise harm her), but the woman does, this is murder and he will go to jail.

Thus, two utterly contradictory things occur at the moment of conception:

Legally, from the point of view of a woman: the fetus is a lump of tissue which may be excised at will if she subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes no obligation or legal duty unless she chooses to accept it.

Legally, from the point of view of the man: the fetus is a human being which must be allowed to live, even if he subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes an absolute and irrevocable legal duty, regardless of his wishes in the matter.

In other words, if you have a y chromosome you have no reproductive choice. Except, of course, to pay at least a half-share of whatever "choices" your sexual partner may make, whether you are married or single - it makes no difference. When one considers that women can have multiple orgasms (and that ours generally last longer), something tells me men are getting the short end of the stick.

The following story makes that crystal clear:

...a lesbian couple wished to have children. An understanding and liberal-minded male friend agreed to donate his sperm, and three children were born to one of the two women between 1992 and 1996. But then relations between the two women deteriorated, and they split up.

The mother of the children found herself alone and in difficult straits. Who would support her, in her—and her children’s—time of need? Her former lover was unwilling, because—after all—she was no relation of the children. The sperm donor had made it clear from the first that he had no wish to be a father in any but the most literal biological sense; he thought he was merely doing the couple a favor. He therefore felt no moral obligation to support the children, and his conscience was clear.

You can probably guess where this is going:

Nevertheless, the government’s department of social security—the potential surrogate parent of every child—sued to force the sperm donor to pay. After a case lasting four years, he found himself obliged henceforth to support the mother and children financially.

The president of the Swedish Federation for Sexual Equality declared the legal decision an outrage. “It is scandalous,” he said. “The man has been condemned to be a father even though he did not take the decision to have the children. Above all, one of the women who took part in that decision has been absolved of all responsibility. If one desires equality of rights for lesbians, it is anomalous that it should not be she who was obliged to support the children financially.”

This is an interesting case for many reasons. The knee-jerk reaction is to say, "Well of course: the poor man did nothing but deposit his sperm into a cup. Why should he pay?"

In truth, several social institutions are shown to be foundering here. Marriage itself, so fervently desired by the lesbian community, as well as child-rearing, does not come off well. Four years? Hardly a serious commitment to making a relationship work. My sons both dated their girlfriends longer than that - they have shown more maturity in their teens and early twenties than either of these women. Not that the heterosexual world is doing a bang-up job at marriage either (mind you) these days. But two people stood up, presumably, and promised to love and honor each other "'til death do us part"... or until they tired of it, whichever came first.

The concept of family as an unseverable bond is another. Divorce happens, but children are forever. Only one half of this "couple" walked away from that. When she took wedding vows and decided to take on the responsibility of having three children in four years, that responsibility did not end when she tired of the relationship.

But what is in danger of getting lost here is the role of the sperm donor. On the one hand, I completely agree that his responsibility should be by far the least of any party involved in this. But there is still something unseemly in the Swedish President's use of "condemned to support the children", for without his intentional act those children would never have come to be. Did he never give a thought, when he deposited his sperm in that cup, that living, breathing human beings would one day walk the earth?

That they might, one day, wonder who their father was? That they might need him? Theodore Dalrymple comments:

If women have a “right” to children, in the sense that not having them if they want them is an infringement of their rights, then of course lesbian women can no longer accept childlessness as the natural consequence of their condition. Let it not be said that new medical technology is responsible for this change in attitude, incidentally: the kind of artificial insemination offered in a domestic setting by the sperm donor has been possible for a very long time. No, the culprit here is the idea that the fulfilment of our desires, no matter what our condition, is a right. As for the well-being of the children in this case—beyond the provision of sufficient financial support for them—that seems to have entered into no one’s thnking.

And that is the whole problem with the abortion debate: everything is cast in terms of the woman's rights.

Has a man no reproductive rights? Why don't we ever ask that question?

Yes, gestation takes place solely within the woman's body, but it could never take place without the man's unique and special contribution, and while not all men care about their progeny, some men do want, and love, and very much desire to protect and nurture, the children they conceive. In a rather caustically-worded excerpt at Protein Wisdom, Jill from Feministe said:

Alito distanced himself from previous Supreme Court views on undue burden, writing that “an undue burden may not be established simply by showing that a law will have a heavy impact on a few women but that instead a broader inhibiting effect must be shown.” So if a particular requirement which infringes on the right to privacy — husband notification for abortion, for example — only has a detrimental effect on some women, that isn’t a good enough reason to disallow it.

Hmmm... since she disagrees with Judge Alito's dissent, if abortion without the consent of a woman's partner only has a detrimental effect on some men, isn't that a good enough reason to disallow it?

Grim comments:

...feminists insist that abortion be seen as a medical procedure that is the woman's business and no one else's. The child has no rights that ought to bind her, because the advocates for the woman's position in our law insist on that point. The masculine understanding, however, holds that the man's rights are overwhelmed by his responsibility for the child. The men who have ruled the discussion, men like me, feel that fathering a child is an awesome duty and one that ought to bind you. The compromise position gives both sides what they want: the leading thinkers of the women's position have demanded freedom for women; the leading thinkers among men have demanded responsibility for men.

The feminist position on "reproductive choice" closely resembles the Rad-feminista position on many other issues of the day: so-called "equal pay for equal work", Mommy-friendly workplaces, flex-time, and cries of gender discrimination in math and the sciences: they want freedom without tiresome responsibility. It is a childish and petulant stance, unbecoming to 'liberated' women. There is enough genuine discrimination in the working world to combat without tilting at strawmen.

If we ever hope to be equal with men then we must, with our "equal rights", accept equal responsibilities. It is, truly, that simple. And if women ever, by and large, come to do so and quit the silly whining that occupies so much of the airwaves, they will very likely find that a great deal, though by no means all, of the 'discrimination' they experience will vanish into the ether like a bad dream. Life is never going to be a level playing field for women, but then it's not a level playing field for anyone. We all bring different talents, different strengths, and if we are honest, different aspirations to the table. The one inescapable fact of life however, is that there are always tradeoffs.

The sad thing about the abortion debate is that by simply exercising a tiny amount of responsibility before conception, grown women could easily avoid a situation where they inflict the results of their own negligence on their partners, while depriving them of the "reproductive choice" they so ardently defend for themselves.


At 7:42 AM, Blogger camojack said...

Damn, you're good...

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Cassandra said...

You are very kind. I'm just long-winded.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

That was one of the best posts I've read on the abortion debate.

Thank you.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I appreciate the kind words.

It's a difficult and emotional issue. I think it's the specter of the government "forcing" women to carry children to term that horrifies so many people, and rightly so. But the problem with this view, and I still have not come to terms with this myself, is that if you allow a woman to rid herself of an unwanted child merely because she has decided, after failing to prevent a pregnancy, that she no longer wishes to be a mother, what you are doing is once again shifting the burden of her bad decision (failure to be responsible and use birth control) onto two innocent parties (a man who may very well be willing to raise and care for the child, and a child who has done nothing wrong and must pay with its life). And what really stinks about this is that now feminists are saying, in effect, "as soon as conception takes place, a man becomes a father but a woman most emphatically does *not* become a mother unless she *chooses* to".

Reproductive choice, indeed. Ppppppthhh.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I think what I am saying is that the feminist view ultimately views women as infants who must be protected at all costs from the consequences of their own actions, while men deserve no such protection.

What a bizarre twist for a movement that is shrilly demanding "equality". But then most civil rights movements enshrine some form of infantilizing victimology at some point and the irony is lost on their followers so long as they continue to reap the benefits.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

I've always had a problem with that portion of the abortion debate myself. I quoted part of your post and linked you for my readers because I think this is very important.

I truly believe the key to this is preventing the unwanted pregnancies in the first place. If we are going to expect men to be responsible no matter our decision then they should be included in the decision. But how? The alternative would be as you stated at times "forcing" women to have a child they did not want but that the father did.

It seems the only reasonable alternative is to do a much better job in preventing unwanted/unplanned pregnancies. It is the only way to create equality or at least attempt to when it comes to this issue. I also agree it is a very hard one to discuss for some because it becomes so emotional, there are so many other side issues that the whole abortion debate includes. You did an excellent job concentrating on the main points.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

Pppppphhhhttt is right. We're not talking about people who don't understand where babies come from, here.

My harsh opinion? Never have sex with someone for whom you would neither die nor kill, nor face gyrating adventures beyond your control (like having kids) for all the foreseeable years of your future. Otherwise, all bets are off and you can live with what life throws your way like the rest of us, including bringing a baby to term and putting it up for adoption, thus no woman is ever forced to parent children for whom she is responsible but doesn't want to be.

But then I'm crazy that way.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Masked Menace© said...

Come off it, all of you know that giving men control of women's reproductive rights is oppressive, but giving women control of men's reproductive rights is just sane policy.

After all, the uterus is where all moral authority comes from anyway.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Menace has been Sleeping with the Enemy again....

Heh. The old uterus-as-conscience will getcha every time.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Seriously tee bee, I'm a bit more forgiving on the having sex thing. I'm not going to throw any stones there, being of the living-in-a-glass-house type, myself. People do all sorts of things, and even in a marriage things happen and then things fall apart and all of a sudden there you are. I've had friends whose marriages fell apart through no fault of their own and they were with a shattered life, and often trying to hold together a broken family and a very troubled child as well. I honestly understand why a woman would consider abortion in those circumstances. I do. I'm not saying it's right, but I can understand.

However, I have no sympathy when it comes to whining if you're irresponsible and the consequences bite you in the butt. Life is full of hard choices, and I guess I think we always want to push ours off on someone else if we can.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger a former european said...

Wow, dead on Cass! I have been making this argument for years, but you are far more eloquent than I. I should have read this post first, before commenting on the drunk-girl-at-frat-party post. You totally stole my thunder.


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