In my first post about abortion and responsibility I discussed some of the profound inequities that arise when fathers are allowed no input into the decision over whether or not to have an baby. Women cannot be forced to face the consequences of their actions by being required to care for a baby, but men are routinely forced to financially support children they never wanted or were tricked into conceiving. Women can abort or put a baby up for adoption and men are essentially powerless to either protect their child or to absolve themselves of responsibility. Despite our culture's dogmatic support of women's "choice", men have none.
Along these same lines, Cathy Young has an excellent article about a man's right to choose and how men and fathers should fit into the abortion controversy.
Advocates of "choice for men" have a point when they charge that there is a certain hypocrisy in these declarations [that it's biology's fault that women have the upper hand], now that the link between sex and procreation has ceased to be binding for women. "We are no longer being truthful when we chide the male defendant: 'It took two to make the baby,'" writes Fred Hayward. "It might have taken two to conceive an embryo, but thanks to legalized abortion, only one person controlled whether or not the baby was made."
Some maverick feminists agree with this view. Karen DeCrow, an attorney who served as president of the National Organization for Women from 1974 to 1977, has written that "if a woman makes a unilateral decision to bring pregnancy to term, and the biological father does not, and cannot, share in this decision, he should not be liable for 21 years of support ... autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice."
Yet, by and large, feminists and pro-choice activists have not been sympathetic to calls for men's reproductive freedom. "If there is a birth, the man has an obligation to support the child," says Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "The distinction with respect to abortion is the physical toll that it takes on a woman to carry a fetus to term, which doesn't have any translation for men. Once the child is born, neither can walk away from the obligations of parenthood." (Actually, a woman can give up the child for adoption, often without the father's consent, and be free of any further obligation.)
Indeed, on the issue of choice for men, staunch supporters of abortion rights can sound like an eerie echo of the other side: "They have a choice -- use condoms, get sterilized or keep their pants on." "They should think about the consequences before they have sex." (The irony is not lost on men's choice advocates or pro-lifers.)
Unlike Cathy Young I'm opposed to the vast majority of abortions anyway, and the gross unfairness of the status quo as she describes it merely underscores the moral vacuity required to justify legalized abortions of convenience. I hope that this unfairness will ultimately be resolved by the outlawing of most abortions, and I think Miss Young identifies one way in which technology might help bring about that cultural shift.
Some day, perhaps in our lifetime, science will add a new wrinkle to these issues. Reproductive technology will have advanced to the point where the fetus can be taken from the womb early in the pregnancy, with no more medical risk than an abortion, and incubated until it becomes viable. Will the law then allow the man to petition for custody of the unborn child if the woman doesn't want it? Will he be able to sue her for child support afterward? Will many feminists argue that it's an intolerable violation of a woman's reproductive freedom that her child should be brought into the world without her consent, let alone that she should be stuck with the bill?
It's just too bad that so many people have to die in the meantime.