Blogger: How Abortion Rights Make Bad Boyfriends

Illustration for article titled Blogger: How Abortion Rights Make Bad Boyfriends

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

And this:

The final -choice- is hers alone, but that doesn't preclude dialogue, or even argument, tantrums, graphs, etc.

Advertisement

And this:

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."

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

The Abortion Debate: What's The Role Of Men? [Daily Dish]
The Abortion Debate: What's The Role Of Men?, Ctd [Daily Dish]

Advertisement

Earlier: Dude Makes Abortion Party All About Dudes

DISCUSSION

moderndemagogue2-old
ModernDemagogue2

This has nothing to do with abortion. This has to do with sex and sexual relationships. Simply, in our culture in this day and age, people engage in sexual relationships without any intent of having children. The above conflict only comes into play because of society's misunderstanding of the ideas and emotions at play.

Firstly, abortion is a loaded word. It implicitly connotes an intention behind the action. IE you abort a launch, because you intended to launch, but something went wrong, so you stop it. I do not know of many people who abort pregnancies they intend to have, those are only health related occurrences. Termination is more appropriate, and more common. The oops, we had sex and now I'm pregnant. I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would carry to term a child they did not actively want to have. It is an archaic predisposition leftover from a society which depended upon sheer numbers and the reproductive might of its believers to cement its role in shifting power structures.

There are immutable elements to this problem; such as if someone is pregnant, then the knowledge of a lack of a present father is likely to induce a disposition toward termination, and thats unfairly influencing the woman's freedom over her own body. However, I think this problem only arises because the default is "keeping it" and there is a stigma against termination.

If one does not intend to have a child, one should not have one — and I believe we as a society need to simply realize this. Having sex, does not mean a man consents to his sperm being used to create a child, and furthermore, it does not mean a woman consents to her eggs being fertilized, yet there is some form hesitancy to admit to this. If both parties simply enter the relationship with this understanding then there is no expectation and any change from the status quo is subject to agreement from both parties. Not only is it harmful to both parties who had sex, but it is morally unjust to bring a child into this world who will not be loved and cared for. I don't care how much you don't want to risk the termination procedure or how scared you are of pissing off God.

If it were the natural thing to do to terminate it, this would in fact leave the woman much broader choice. She could keep it if she wanted to, independent of any influence of a man, and this might in fact make for better boyfriends who stand up for their impressive women who make a noble choice, and who implicitly in expressing their active desire to keep the child, show their confidence in themselves, and their mate. If its so easy to not do something, actively doing it says something, and might encourage an otherwise deadbeat dad to step up.

A man who does not want a child is never going to be there for the unwanted child, court ordered alimony or not. All our current society fosters, is the creation of embattled women who have to make difficult choices, men who feel like pariahs through no intended fault of their own, and children who feel unwanted because of society's stereotypes about what a family unit must be. A restructuring of beliefs can mitigate all three, while also economically benefiting society in terms of more sustainable population numbers, and happier, more loved children.