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On "Male Reproductive Freedom"

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I agree that it is not necessarily equal or fair for women to be able to "choose" after conception if men are just forced to live with their decision. But I would argue that, no matter what, there will be lots of unfair outcomes in these sort of circumstances. Here are the possible outcomes now, presuming abortion is legal in the situation:

1) Man and woman want the kid. The kid gets born and there is no disagreement.
2) Man and woman don't want the kid. An abortion is arranged and there is no disagreement. Alternatively, an adoption is arranged.
3) Woman wants the kid and the man doesn't. The man has to support a child that he did not want.
4) Woman does not want the kid and man does. Abortion happens and man is disappointed, but didn't do anything that he considers immoral.

In a world where men can "opt-out" of supporting a child during pregnancy, you only replace situation #3 with a world where a woman must choose to have an abortion, give a child up for adoption, or raise a child with no legal claim whatsoever to a father's support. I think that's much more unfair than #3.

I don't want to argue that men should be "punished" for sex by raising a child. I do want to argue that the world is better off enforcing a male obligation to support a child than forcing a woman to make a very difficult choice.

This is a very messy situation and there aren't any fair answers. All that I can say about this is the following:

1) It is best to be responsible about sex so that crap like this doesn't come up. No moralizing necessary: all situations above except #1 are not good at all.

2) This is not an argument for or against the morality of abortion. Pro-choice and pro-life people alike can agree that abortion is not ever an ideal circumstance. Given the reality that women carry children within them, it's not acceptable for a man to be able to make that choice. It's not equal, but circumstances aren't either. No matter what happens, there can't be equality, so we may as well concede the fact and try to do what's best.

3) Even where people aren't morally concerned with abortion, there is a lot of social and internal guilt surrounding the practice. It's best that nobody has to feel that, so let's all be responsible, OK?

I sympathize with men that want the same choice that women have, but it's intrinsically impossible for them to make that choice without forcing an abortion on a woman. Assuming nobody favors that, I have to stand against "male reproductive freedom".

33 Responses to “On "Male Reproductive Freedom"”

  1. Anonymous annegb 

    It's not about punishment, it's about accepting responsibility.

    I met a guy on this cruise I just took, he was after my 27 year old daughter (he was 53, ewwww.)who told me during dinner that his fiance had committed suicide. Then he said something about a baby and my ears perked up. He said they'd had amnio and the baby had Down's Syndrome and she'd had an abortion because they didn't feel they could handle it.

    I wondered it HE couldn't handle it.

  2. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Totally agreed. I think it's pretty obvious that a man's reproductive freedom ends immediately after the act (which is another reason that the man's role can so easily enter the domain of violence). He may have financial obligations...even moral obligations...but these are very abstract compared to the woman's physical committment.

    I vote for a woman's right to choose, before, during, and after conception. The man may seek to influence but it is not his right...it is not his choice...it is not his body.

  3. Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve 

    When it comes down to it, it's not her body either. It's the BABY's body that is being most affected by all this "reproductive freedom" nonsense. You have two freedoms: You can choose to have sex or you can choose not to. If you choose to have sex then you had better be willing to deal with the consequences. How is it better for the mother to turn her despair against herself and her child than for an unwilling father to force an abortion or worse, cause a miscarriage through a beating? It's all pain and anger and in all cases, there's a dead baby. Because it's "her body" and "her choice" doesn't make it a good choice. My college friend "chose" to cut her body to deal with her problems. She was given psychiatric care. Why are women with unwanted pregnancies not given something similar? No one should have to live knowing that they were willing to sacrifice an innocent life to maintian their "normality" or convenience.

  4. Anonymous Arwyn 

    I agree, annegb. It's about responsibility. If a woman gets pregnant as a result of a choice to have sex (leaving incest and rape exceptions to D-Train's other post on that subject), she has to deal with the consequences of her actions. She has a choice of how to deal with it: having the baby, or having an abortion. But she can't just wash her hands of it. Even if she opts with the later, that choice will remain with her always.

    A guy, on the other hand -- well, after the "thank you ma'am" bit, there's nothing that subjects him to consequence except the law.

  5. Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve 

    Arwyn brings up a good point that I forgot in my zeal. Not all women are given the choice to have sex or not. However, I still think it's wrong to punish the other innocent who has been wronged just as much as its mother.

  6. Anonymous Tom 

    I agree with PDoE that the body that matters is the baby's body. I have never been persuaded by the "It's my body"/right to privacy arguments. A fetus is obviously not part of a woman's body. It develops within an invagination of her body, and it interfaces with her body, but it is not an integral part thereof.

    There's no case to be made that things as they currently stand are fair. Men don't have the same "reproductive freedom" as women have. But the answer isn't to let men off the hook, it's to put women back on the hook by criminalizing the destruction of fetuses.

  7. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    It's never so black and white a relationship as y'all are suggesting. The baby is a part of the mother's body and only becomes increasingly less a part as time goes on.

  8. Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve 

    Biologically speaking, you're wrong. The only part of a baby that could be considered part of the mother's body is the egg before fertilization. After fertilization it is a seperate organism performing its own biological functions. It is dependant upon her body for much but it is not a part of her body.

  9. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    This is a semantical distinction. Each living cell and other more complex organisms within the human body are also separate but dependant. What you're really arguing is that this particular organism is different from all other part of the human body--from the moment of conception. This is an argument from faith which I respect but do not agree with...

  10. Anonymous Tom 

    Watt, your #7 has it backwards. At the moment of conception the embryo is less integrated with the mother's body than it ever will be. At this point there isn't even an interface with the mother. It is in the milieu of the womb, but it is no more a part of the mother's body than are the bacteria in her colon. When the interface forms (mother's blood stream-->placenta-->umbillical chord-->baby's blood stream) the fetus becomes what might be considered more integrated, although calling it an integral part of the mother's body is quite a stretch. It would be analagous to a parasitic worm that interfaces with a woman's blood stream. Your assertion that the fetus becomes less a part of the mother's body as time goes on has no basis in fact. It becomes less dependent in the sense that it becomes more likely to survive outside of the womb, but becomes no less integrated.

    I don't see the "argument from faith" that you see in PDoE's comments or in mine up until now. She said nothing of the special nature of the fetus, only of its separateness. I do believe the fetus has a special stature relative to other separate-but-dependent organisms that interface with a woman's body. To me, killing the former is a far more serious matter than killing the latter. I think even many pro-choicers would agree. Is that based on faith? If it is based on faith it's the same faith that gives newborn babies special status relative to other organisms, which is a faith that most religious and irreligious share. When you get down to it, what makes it wrong to kill an unwanted newborn baby and not wrong to kill an unwanted puppy? It is only the baby's status as a human that gives it a special stature in most people's eyes. So one doesn't need to invoke religion to afford the fetus more rights and/or protection than a parasite. It's speciesism, but most people are speciesists.

  11. Anonymous annegb 

    Thanks to you guys, I am now solidly pro choice. The sad part of that is I have to keep it a secret or be shunned. I'm pretty sure my own husband would shun me.

    There are men who do take responsibility; for instance, my crazy stepson, who I thought would be in jail for life by now, is the father of four. He's been married and divorced from this woman twice, two of the children were actually fathered by other men.

    Jared gets all four kids twice a month, pays child support for three of them (the oldest's father does pay support, but he had to go to jail first). His name is listed as father on my grandson's birth certificate, although he didn't begin dating the mom till the little guy was 2 months old. The kids all call him dad. He takes them fishing, teaches them manners and to pray, despite his rejection of the church as a kid. I'm proud of him.

    Not all guys shirk their responsibility. Just a lot.

  12. Anonymous Tom 

    Crap, annegb, I hope I haven't helped turn you pro-choice. If my arguments have that effect I might as well go crawl into a hole. ;-)

  13. Anonymous Tom 

    Oh, and in my #10 I should've said that the faith upon which almost everybody, the religious and irreligious alike, base our valuing unwanted newborn babies above unwanted puppies is the same kind of faith as that upon which many of us base our valuing of fetuses above other separate-but-dependent organisms within the mother, such as parasites. It is not the exact same faith. Otherwise everyone who came to one conclusion would also come to the other, and I'm willing to believe that honest people come to one without coming to the other. My point is basically to say that we can't dismiss the claim that fetuses have more value than parasites, that they have rights, or that deserve protection by labeling it as being "based on faith."

  14. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Tom, to me at least...your argument in #10 seems rather...argumentative. In order to prove your point about the "baby" (and let's be honest. the use of the word "baby" when refering to what will only later become what can truly by recognized as a baby is tenuous at best) you want to arbitrarily control the definition of what is/is not a part of the mother's body...just to prove your argument that the mother has no rights with regard to her own body.

    I don't buy it. My point from the beginning was to say that the mother and deveolping fetus are of one flesh....and this to demonstrate that the rights of the mother are inextricably tied to the all life within her. My point is, again, that you can't see it as such a black and white issue, such as to lead to your statement in #6:

    "I agree with PDoE that the body that matters is the baby's body."

    Nice try at obfuscating the issue, though.

  15. Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve 

    I'll tell you what I don't buy. I don't buy this "woman's right to choose" bull. I'll tell you what "semantics" is. "Semantics" is trying to define a fetus as somehow "other," not-human, and therefore not worth protecting. Incidentally, the same arguments used to promote slavery. Blacks, like fetuses, were not legal persons and therefore the law had no duty to them. I appreciate the situation that annegb has put forth but under the laws of the land at the time, this step-daughter-in-law had the choice to abort and she didn't. If you're truly pro-choice, you won't use someone else's pro-life choice to "prove" why these children, who have evidently opened a young man's heart and helped him to become a productive member of society, should have been killed before they ever had a chance to draw breath.

    How fortunate for us that there were no pro-abortion laws 2,000 years ago when a young, unmarried woman found herself unexpectedly pregnant. Because that pregnancy proceeded, we have all been saved through Jesus. Don't you get it? God changes the world through His children... who must be born as babies. What future are we cutting short as we play at being God and declare that we know who should be born where and why?

  16. Anonymous Tom 

    I apologize for interchanging the words "baby" and "fetus." It happens sometimes when I'm not being careful. It's not a conscious rhetorical trick. I'm not intentionally obfuscating any issue. And if my tone is argumentative and gets in the way of clear communication, I apologize. I'm trying to honestly express my views on the matter.

    Unwritten in my statement from #6 is an implied "to me". So to make it explicit and to use the technically appropriate word I'll rewrite it: to me, the body that matters is the body of the fetus. This only partially reflects my views, though. I also think the body of the mother matters to some extent. For example, I think a woman should be allowed to destroy a fetus if it will save her life.

    My claims as to the separateness of the fetus and the mother are not arbitrary. I have made analogies between the embryo/fetus and other separate biological entities within the woman's body. Nobody would argue that the bacteria in a mother's colon are an integral part of the mother's body just because they reside within her body. So how can we argue that a newly fertilized embryo is an integral part of the mother's body? Or that the newly fertilized embryo and the mother are "of one flesh?" A somewhat stonger case for "one flesh" could be made once the fetus interfaces with the woman, but even then an analogy to a blood-sucking, separate-but-dependent parasite illustrates that interfacing doesn't denote unity. This part of my comment is a cold, rational analysis of the status of the embryo/fetus relative to a woman's body. It may not be unassailable. If it isn't, then assail away.

    Even if it is objectively true that the fetus and woman are separate entities as I believe they are, that doesn't prove that a woman has no right to destroy the fetus. If we want to afford a woman the right to destroy a fetus that is separate and distinct from her body then we can. We allow women to kill other separate biological entities within her body all the time.

    So the most important, fundamental questions pertain the nature of the fetus. Is the fetus special relative to other biological entities within the mother's body? Or, if you want to call the fetus a part of the woman's body, is it special relative to other parts of the woman's body? Should it be protected? Should we afford it rights? Whether the fetus is a part of the woman's body or not, these questions still need answered. My answers are: yes, I believe the fetus is special relative to other biological entites within the mother; yes, I believe the fetus should, therefore, be protected; and yes, I believe we should afford it rights. My answers are absolutely, unassailably right--I believe what I believe. Other people answer the opposite, and they are absolutely right--they believe what they believe. Their belief is no more and no less valid than mine.

    Is there an issue that is still obfuscated? I'm sincerely interested in a clear understanding of other people's views and in clearly and honestly expressing my own views. I would also like to be persuasive, but that's secondary to clear, honest expression.

  17. Anonymous D-Train 

    Daughter of Eve,

    I respect your opinions (and agree with a few), but pro-abortion laws at the time of the Savior presumably would not have caused Mary to have an abortion. From all that we know about her, the woman chosen to bear the Son of God would not have chosen to abort him.

    I think this is a common misconception in the abortion debate. There aren't many people that actually support abortion or think that having one is a good idea. There are lots of people that think that under certain circumstances, for certain people, it might be the best of a lot of crappy options.

  18. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Tom & PDofE,

    You are abundantly clear in expressing your passion and ideas. What's not clear is how you arrived at your current position, if not by faith. It's hard for me to understand and agree with the comparisons you draw. To compare a zygote, or fetus, or whatever with the slavery issue...tht seems a little wacked to me...but that's just me.

  19. Anonymous Tom 

    Which position?

    1) That the fetus is separate from the mother? I've tried to make it clear how I arrive at this conclusion. No faith is invoked in my explanation. It's a cold, rational analysis.

    2) That the fetus is special and should be protected? I come to this conclusion in the same way that I come to the conclusion that newborn babies are special and worthy of protection, whether they're wanted or not. The act of destroying a fetus is barbaric and disgusting to me. When deciding what I want the law to be I don't think or wonder about how God feels about it. What matters is how I feel about it. What is the basis of these feelings? I don't know. What is the basis of anybody's moral sensibilities? Most atheists have them, so it's obviously not always religious faith. Some things just seem wrong.

    Do you find it objectionable for a woman to kill her newborn baby? Would you impose a more severe sentence on a woman if she killed her newborn baby than if she killed her puppy? If so, how did you arrive at this position?

    To be clear, I'm not saying that if you answer yes to the first two questions in my last paragraph, then you must also object to the destruction of fetuses. I just wonder if you can do a better job of explaining the basis of your sensibilities better than I can mine.

  20. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    And PDofE, no one in this tread has said that "other" means not worth protecting. The primary point, from my perspective, is that there is much to be protected and valued in this debate...on both sides. As D-Train said, there's a common misperception that valuing one side of the debate must mean that you have no regard for the other. This is not the case, at least in my experience...which goes back to my original point; that it's not a black and white issue. The mother and the life within her are inextricably joined. We must consider the entire spectrum of human life...which makes for tough and far from clearly defined decisions indeed.

  21. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Tom. you rentire approach in this discussion seems bent on driving a wedge between the two sides. Let's focus on what we have in common rather than seeking to make the other side out as barbarians.

    Would you agree that the life of the mother and that of the zygote/fetus/unborn child are inextricably joined?

  22. Anonymous Tom 

    Watt, I understand that my describing the destruction of a fetus as "barbaric and disgusting" would make someone who thinks it's OK to destroy a fetus feel like I'm calling them disgusting barbarians. I've made it clear on another thread here that I don't feel that way about pro-choicers. I realize that good, non-barbaric people have moral sensibilities different from my own. But in order to explain why I think abortion should be illegal in most cases, I need to say how I feel about it. Afterall, since there is no fact-based way to answer the question of whether fetuses should be protected, all we have is our feelings and moral sensibilities, combined with our opinions as to the extent to which the law should reflect our feelings and moral sensibilities on the issue.

    As for the "driving a wedge" issue, I don't want to argue about this argument. It seems kind of pointless to try and ascertain other people's motivations and mindset. I've been defending the validity and reasonability of my position and have not said a word about another person. If you have substantive objections to things I've said, then fire away. Please.

    So, on to the substance. I think I am getting at what we have in common by asking you what might make you impose a stronger penalty on a woman if she killed her newborn baby than if she killed her puppy. Whatever it is that would make you and/or the overwhelming majority of people take this position is the same kind of thing that makes me see a fetus as something special that should not be destroyed. Is that thing faith? Does it matter?

    As to your question: "Would you agree that the life of the mother and that of the zygote/fetus/unborn child are inextricably joined?" This is an imprecise question. It can mean a lot of things to say that the life of the fetus and the life of the mother are inextricably joined. So I'll answer some more precise, related questions that might give you what you want to know. If they don't give you what you're getting at, then shoot me some other, more precise questions and I'll answer them if you answer mine from #19. (Please believe that I'm not being evasive here. I can't rightly answer "yes" or "no" to your question without understanding what you mean by it.)

    Does the life of the fetus depend entirely on the life of the mother? Yes.

    Is the life/well-being of the mother significantly affected by the life of the newborn? Yes.

    Do the mother and the fetus constitute one life? No.

    Do the mother and the fetus constitute one entity? No.

  23. Anonymous Tom 

    Sorry, the second question should read "life of the fetus," not "newborn."

  24. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Thanks for the precise answers. You obvioulsy know what I meant despite the "imprecise" question.

    As for your question in 19: I find it highly leading.This discussion is not about women killing babies...though you seem to insist on framing it that way...which is an example of what I mean when I say you're drving a wedge.

    The post ask the quesiton of a woman's rights vis a vis a man. In the context of this post I answer that the woman has rights via the relationship with her body, where the man has only obligations of morality and law.

    You apparently disagree based upon the belief that the woman doesn't even have rights because the zygote/fetus/unborn child are not part of her. i understand this. I disagree. No need to assume that I therefore must not value the rights of the unborn child.

    Please try not to confuse the issues. I understand that you have been posting on another thread, but that thread is not the context of this one.

  25. Anonymous Tom 

    Whenever I have referred to abortion I have used the words "destruction of a fetus," not "killing babies." I have tried to be very precise and dispassionate. I did not bring up the woman killing a newborn scenario to relate the destruction of a fetus to killing babies. I only brought it up to illustrate that the basis of a lot of, if not all of everybody's moral sensibilities is similar in nature, even if we all have different moral sensiblities. It was not a question about the rightness or wrongness of killing babies. It was a response to your charge that my opposition to abortion was based on faith (although it wouldn't matter if it was based on faith). I tried to make it clear in my #19 that I wasn't asking the question to prove that destruction of fetuses is wrong. I realize now that it would've been more sensitive of me to use a different hypothetical scenario to illustrate my point.

    Basically, the point is that my opposition to abortion is no more based on faith than is most people's opposition to things they find morally ojectionable (killing newborns is a near-universal example). It's based on my moral sensibilities which are derived from my experience in this life, just like everyone else's moral sensibilities.

    You are right that I disagree with your belief that a woman should have the right to destroy the fetus within her. You're only partially right that I disagree based on my belief that the fetus is not part of her body (as I say in #16, that's not enough). I also disagree because I see the fetus as a special entity that nobody should be allowed to destroy except in exceptional circumstances.

    I have said nothing about you or how I think you feel about the fetus or its rights. I have not assumed anything about you. And I am not trying to confuse the issues. I have responded to your objections to my comments as well as I could.

    We definitely agree that a father should not be allowed to opt out of his obligations to his children.

  26. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Please forgive me too. I was under the impression that the content of your comments was to be taken seriously as indicative of your beliefs and as a contextual reference to what you thought I personally needed to hear. I'll try not to make such an assumption in the future.

  27. Anonymous Tom 

    In one sense, this online communication thing is cool because you can take a while to gather your thoughts and compose somewhat coherent, dispassionate arguments. Believe it or not, I'm even less articulate in person. But on the other hand, it's easy to get on a wrong track. In a real life conversation you could've immediately called me on the killing babies thing and it would've been cleared up quickly.

    Anyways, I do my best to express honestly what my views are, to defend them or explain them as necessary, and to be genial while doing it. If my comments read as trying to be clever, trying to label people, trying to drive wedges, trying to trick people into agreeing with me, etc. then it's a weakness in communication on my part.

  28. Anonymous annegb 

    Crap, Tom, somebody turned me pro choice :)! No, I thought it out on my own, you guys stimulated my thought process. I've always been reluctant to condemn abortion as murder. Something hasn't added up.

    I am solidly pro choice now, but I'll probably keep my mouth shut about it. Probably. Right. Like uh, whoever it was, I'm also anti abortion. I'm also anti smoking, anti fornication, anti a lot of things.

    I dare also to say that abortion (except in those late term savagerys, however you spell it) isn't the same as oh, say, what Ted Bundy did. Or OJ did. It's not the same. I do not buy the murder rhetoric. If it were the same, we would not allow exceptions, which wasn't that the point in the first place of this post?

    I don't think abortion is the answer in most cases, but I've decided that if a woman chooses (yup, that word, choice) to have one, it's her bad. It's between her and God. These spirits will come into the world, God won't permit them to be deterred.

    The challenge as I see it is to remain Christian in the face of an agonizingly polarizing issue. I would condemn these right to life groups, which seem to feed off hate and frenzy, just as quickly as I would condemn the Hollywood starlet going in for her 6th abortion in five years.

    Which is to say I'm keeping my mouth shut and letting God smack them. As shut as I possibly can, anyway.

  29. Anonymous Tom 

    Oh, c'mon annegb, I know you don't have your own thoughts. You pick the person with the coolest name (D-train) and agree with them. ;-)

    I agree that abortion is not the same thing as murder. And I can understand how one can be personally anti-abortion but still not want to make it illegal.

    Sounds like you're pro-choice and anti-abortion in a different way than I am. I'm pro-choice in that I don't believe a woman should be forced to bear a child that she didn't choose to conceive. But I believe that once she has made the choice to have sex she has made her choice to bear a child. So the difference is when the choice can be made. I say at conception, others say anytime before birth. If making the choice during pregnancy not to bear a child didn't involve destruction of a fetus, I'd be OK with it. We should develop an ex utero incubation system that would allow unwanted fetuses to be extracted and develop and "be born" independent of the mother. I'll get working on that. I could get so rich! Think of how much money women would pay to avoid pregnancy and childbirth!

    By the way, D-train, you should take my comment about you having the coolest name as a sarcastic jab. Everyone knows that Tom is the coolest name (or maybe Arwyn).

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