Hot on the heels of Byard Duncan's "abortion party" article inquiring about the proper role of men in abortion, Conor Friedersdorf responds that if women want men to help with child-rearing, they should let them help decide about abortion too.
In a sublimely passive-aggressive piece on Andrew Sullivan's blog he writes,
Without taking any position on abortion itself, I want to interrogate the appropriate role of males, and suggest that progressives especially face some thorny questions. As I understand it, the most common position on the left is that how a woman deals with an unwanted pregnancy is a choice to be made by her alone. At the same time, the progressives I know subscribe to a partnership ideal in relationships, wherein major life decisions between couples are made via a process of mutually supportive dialogue, stripped of archaic gender norms whenever possible.
Oh, those progressives with their heads in the clouds! But what happens when their kooky ideas run up against harsh reality? This:
A societal norm that elevates the woman's choice above all else can certainly safeguard widespread access to abortions. But I suspect that the same norm inevitably leads some men to ask — wrongly in my view, but understandably — if you think that abortion is ethically unproblematic, and whether to have one or not is your choice, why should I have to pay child support for 18 years if you decide against having one?"
I've neither revealed my own views on abortion here, nor made an overall judgment about the social norms we ought to be inculcating. The narrow assertion I want to make is that the social norms we are inculcating are working to safeguard reproductive choices for women, and to undermine men's investment in pregnancies and child-rearing.
Transation: See ladies? If you insist on making your own decisions about abortion, that's fine, but don't expect a man to be around later on when you need help with pregnancy or child-rearing. Because men aren't going to be willing to have a "mutually supportive dialogue" with you unless they get a say in every single decision you make, including the one that has to do with your autonomy over your own body. It's all or nothing, girls! Oh and also, this isn't totally my opinion, it's just something other people might think, and it's up to you to decide, although I did just write an op-ed about it.
Patrick Appel, also guesting on Sullivan's blog, posts a variety of reader responses to Friedersdorf's piece, including this:
With some regret, the conclusion I reached was that whilst (of course) in the ideal liberal world you describe any decision like this should be taken by a couple together, enforcing any sort of formal role for a father would be both impractical and unwise. This is because any decision taken affecting the welfare of a fetus also affects the body of the mother. Anything medically done to the mother without her consent is an assault.
The final -choice- is hers alone, but that doesn't preclude dialogue, or even argument, tantrums, graphs, etc.
It's unfair, but heterosexual relations are unfair, and a man's responsibility should always be up front: "If you ever get pregnant, I will stand up and meet my responsibilities, period."
Yes, the decision of whether to continue a pregnancy affects the father too, and yes, in an ideal relationship, both partners would discuss the decision (ideally, before it ever becomes a decision — i.e. "what would happen if I got unintentionally pregnant?"). But Friedersdorf's threat that men might withdraw their support in other areas if we deny them a role in abortion reads a little like Lindsey Graham's complaint that Sonia Sotomayor gets to say things he can't say. Men got to make all the decisions, about relationships and everything else, for a very long time. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that when they are locked out of just one — a choice that involves a woman's autonomy over her own body, no less — they get mad.
I don't believe that all anti-abortion advocates are acting in bad faith, or that they all want to control women. I do believe that many of them have genuine religious objections to abortion, and that these objections don't necessarily make them misogynists. But I also believe that on both sides of the debate are men who don't really get what it's like when something is not their decision to make. It's time for them to learn.