Madman in the Marketplace’s most excellent diary has alerted me to the recent stirrings amongst the “Man’s Right to Choose” crowd. This deeply creepy movement has now found expression in one Dalton Conley. Unfortunately — or fortunately — his opinion is hidden behind “the wall” at the New York Times, but it’s stench is now wafting through the blogosphere. Says Conley: “If you play, you must pay. But if you pay, you should get some say.” In fairness to Conley, his call for equality does not go nearly as far as other proponents of “reproductive rights for men” I’ve encountered. For these “feminist” men, the message seems to be: Feminism is great. Equality and all that. Shaking off the shackles of thousands of years of oppression. Good for you! Now what’s in it for me?

The argument over a man’s inability to “choose” falls into two categories: 1) Men should be able to demand an abortion or be absolved from all responsibilities that ensue from the woman’s choice to carry to term, and 2) Men should be able to stop an abortion if they want to be fathers and are willing to assume the responsibility for child-rearing.
So, let’s look at the first supposition. I’m paraphrasing: If a woman wants to continue a disputed pregnancy, she should take responsibility for that choice and assume all of the risks and costs. Men should not be pursued for child-support to support children they do not want. To say otherwise,  the argument goes, is anti-feminist, because women are fully capable beings and should not need to depend on men. Child-support laws favor women because they put men on the hook for fiscal support of a child they did not have a voice in keeping or aborting.

Wow! There is so much wrong with that, it’s hard to know where to begin. But here are my talking points:

  1. Child support laws do not favor women. They favor children. Their purpose is not to punish men for their mistakes or reward women for theirs, but to protect children from the mistakes of both.
  2. Feminist aspirations aside, women do not have the earning power of men, and mothers have the least earning power of all. This is what the Chicago Times recently called the “Mommy Wage Gap.” I wrote a whole diary on this.
  3. Both pregnancy and abortion exposes women to physical pain, damage, and risks for which there is no male equivalent. While legal, clinical abortion procedures minimize those risks, they still exist. Complications can result in infertility and even death.
  4. A woman can have a maximum of 2 surgical abortions before seriously risking her ability to carry a pregnancy to term in the future. Men can have an infinite number of their “products of conception” aborted with absolutely no risk to their health or virility.
  5. There is no legal barrier, nor should there be, to a man reappearing after years of physical and financial absence. He can simply change his mind and step into his child’s life. Many men actually come and go throughout their children’s lives, on their own terms. Is that fair?
  6. Abortion can absolve irresponsible men of the consequences of their indiscretions. For women, from the moment of conception, it’s ALL consequences. Going through abortion is a consequence. It ain’t like gettin’ a manicure!
  7. There is nothing fair or equitable in a man saying, “Hey, I want no part of this, so abort or you’re on your own.” It’s coercion. It’s a man using financial and emotional blackmail to control a woman’s reproductive choice, at a time when she is most vulnerable.

So to all those men out there who feel they got the shaft by not being able to choose abortion, I say, take it up with God, or nature, or whomever put the bulk of the procreative hardware in female bodies. If it were in my power to give you the right to have your insides sucked out with a vacuum tube, to cramp, to bleed, to risk infertility, for a shared error in judgment, when it came to sex, I would. Gladly. I would be delighted to heap upon you all the bliss of morning sickness. I would love to give you the hemorrhoids and the swollen, painful breasts. I would share it all in a abundance. But I’m afraid I don’t have that much power. You can say that nature has been either generous or unkind to women, but the bottom line is we don’t have a fraction of the options men do when it comes to pregnancy. So you can whine all you want to about how deprived you are by not having to face the same brutal, life-altering, fertility risking procedure, but some things can’t be equalized. Until you face the same emotional, medical, financial risks a woman does when faced with this glorious “choice,” your whining just sounds an awful lot like sexism. “Oh I can stay or go, pay medical bills or not, observe a woman’s pain or not, according to my whim, but she gets the right the choose abortion. Lucky bitch.” Such a strange notion of fairness these men have.

Now, to the second supposition, or what I like to call “womb envy.” As it takes two to create new life, should it not take two to decide whether or not to terminate that life? What right does a pro-choice woman have to terminate the pregnancy a pro-life man helped create? If a man is willing to assume the responsibility for the life he’s helped create, with or without her post-natal participation, should he not have the right to his own child?

  1. Women are not incubators with legs.
  2. Can we please avoid the slippery slope to the dystopian realization of “The Handmaid’s Tale?”
  3. Last I heard the world was full of women who desire committed partnership and children, many of them frustrated by the over abundance of commitment-phobic men. Why not find one and PLAN a pregnancy?
  4. Here is a partial list of things men are at NO risk of experiencing as a result of women carrying their children: morning sickness, breast pain, hemorrhoids, painful leg swelling, back pain, rib-cage/skeletal distortion, gestational diabetes, obstetric cholestasis, preeclampsia, vaginal tearing, hypovolemic shock, death in childbirth, postpartum depression…

Dalton Conley tells us:

Judge Alito’s thinking about the role of men in reproductive decision-making is in keeping with how legal thinking needs to evolve in this age of readily available DNA testing. Nor is his position contrary to national sentiment: a majority of Americans feel that the husband should be notified about an abortion.

His only problem was not going far enough, relying only on the marriage contract to legitimate men’s claims to a role in the reproductive decision-making process.

No body of law can make equal what nature has made so disproportionate. From the point of conception, a man should not have equal say, because he does not face equal risks or consequences. With the Supreme Court in transition and Roe v. Wade hanging by a thread, now is a good time to really consider the meaning of “reproductive rights.” Such rights, at their best, can only ever grant us the  decision making power over our own reproductive equipment, and their reproductive capability. They should grant us the right to use our reproductive equipment in a manner consistent with our choices. They should should protect us from being forcibly sterilized, but grant us the right to employ whatever birth control methods are medically safe. They should not grant us the right to exert control over anyone else’s reproductive equipment. And, cannot give us the right to escape the financial consequences of said use.

I will not and cannot speak to what people in the privacy of their relationships “should” do, or to the painful emotional realities for both men and women in the event of unplanned pregnancies. Certainly, it would be nice if all men and women could communicate openly, in the event of a pregnancy, and find some level of agreement. For that matter, in an ideal world men and women would not have sex with each other without knowing they are on the same page when it comes to such life altering decisions. But such things cannot be legislated in a pluralistic state.

Also flying on My Left Wing.

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