Abortion Rights Empower Men, Not Women

October 15, 2009

I read an absolutely fascinating article a couple months ago, and I have been meaning to post relevant portions of it.  The article in the August issue of First Things explains how the abortion “option” is far better for men than for women.

First, the article notes:

One investigator, Vincent M. Rue, reported in the Medical Science Monitor, that 64 percent of American women who abort feel pressed to do so by others. Another, Frederica Mathewes-Green in her book Real Choices, discovered that American women almost always abort to satisfy the desires of people who do not want to care for their children.

Even worse, while abortion is proclaimed as a “choice” matter, women are far from free to make a decision in accordance with conscience:

[P]erhaps paradoxically, the option of abortion actually makes sympathy and solidarity—and thus women’s empowerment—less likely.

When birth was the result of passion and bad luck, some people could sympathize with a young woman who was going to need help with her baby, though the stigma of bastardry was genuine. If money or a larger place to live were going to be necessary for her to stay in school, a sense of solidarity would likely lead friends and family to offer assistance. The father would feel strong pressure as well, for he was as responsible as she for the child. He might offer to get a second job or otherwise shoulder some of the burdens of parenting.

But once continuing a pregnancy to birth is the result neither of passion nor of luck but only of her deliberate choice, sympathy weakens. After all, the pregnant woman can avoid all her problems by choosing abortion. So if she decides to take those difficulties on, she must think she can handle them.

Birth itself may be followed by blame rather than support. Since only the mother has the right to decide whether to let the child be born, the father may easily conclude that she bears sole responsibility for caring for the child. The baby is her fault. . . .

Prior to the legalization of abortion in the United States, it was commonly understood that a man should offer a woman marriage in case of pregnancy, and many did so. But with the legalization of abortion, men started to feel that they were not responsible for the birth of children and consequently not under any obligation to marry. In gaining the option of abortion, many women have lost the option of marriage. Liberal abortion laws have thus considerably increased the number of families headed by a single mother, resulting in what some economists call the “feminization of poverty.”

The mother is even worse off if, during pregnancy, tests show that the child will have a disability. . . . If she does not abort, after all, she will be causally responsible for the costs and the alleged burdens that the child brings. Even her friends and neighbors may make her feel ashamed for not choosing to abort her child. . . .

Throughout human history, children have been the consequence of natural sexual relations between men and women. Both sexes knew they were equally responsible for their children, and society had somehow to facilitate their upbringing. Even the advent of birth control did not fundamentally change this dynamic, for all forms of contraception are fallible.

Elective abortion changes everything. Abortion absolutely prevents the birth of a child. A woman’s choice for or against abortion breaks the causal link between conception and birth. It matters little what or who caused conception or whether the male insisted on having unprotected intercourse. It is she alone who finally decides whether the child comes into the world. She is the responsible one. For the first time in history, the father and the doctor and the health-insurance actuary can point a finger at her as the person who allowed an inconvenient human being to come into the world.

The deepest tragedy may be that there is no way out. By granting to the pregnant woman an unrestrained choice over who will be born, we make her alone to blame for how she exercises her power. Nothing can alter the solidarity-shattering impact of the abortion option.

“Feminization of poverty” and “blame” don’t exactly seem to be what the feminists had in mind.

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