[Today's guest post is by attorney Sean Cahill. She says: "Because it changes the way my voice is heard when it comes to life issues, I feel compelled to state that I'm a woman, despite what my name suggests."]
Often regarding the issue of abortion, from the pro-choice side, I hear rallying cries along the lines of “but we would never do this to men and their bodies!” Often these claims are reinforced by satirical suggestions to regulate men’s erectile dysfunction medication, choices to undergo vasectomies or countless other aspects of male reproductive health. (A couple examples are here and here.) I understand the point they are trying to make and these would be persuasive if Viagra or vasectomies were at all comparable to pregnancy. In actuality, these comparisons, while clever, fall short of being persuasive and devalue our (biologically female) anatomy and the potential our reproductive systems hold.
They attempt to compare the incomparable. Women get pregnant and men don’t! There is absolutely no way, no matter how hard one tries, to force the female experience of pregnancy into the mold of the wombless male default. No aspect of a biologically male’s existence comes close to the experience of carrying and sustaining another human life. Instead of claiming this as an asset or even accepting it as a distinct difference, pro-choice feminists continue to try to speak in male terms, as if female existence is only valid, in the ways it can be analogized to the male experience.
A choice such as whether to undergo a vasectomy is obviously incapable of comparison to a woman’s decision whether to continue her pregnancy and to make the comparison devalues what pregnancy is and the work of pregnant women. A vasectomy involves a man’s decision whether to reproduce. When we’re talking about a pregnancy, reproduction has already occurred, a human life exists. While there may be a philosophical debate about when that life becomes valuable, a human being is present. Therefore, the difference between a vasectomy and an abortion is apparent: one ends a life and the other doesn’t. (Not to mention, women are free to take advantage of female-oriented sex aids and tubal ligation, the actual female counterparts to Viagra and vasectomy.)
I would passionately defend a woman's reproductive rights but in fact abortion does not concern a woman's right to reproduce or not to reproduce (rights all women should have), abortion concerns a mother's rights once she already has reproduced and a new human being has come into existence. To continually downplay what pregnancy is, by comparing it to Viagra or a vasectomy, belittles our biology and the way our bodies work. This just makes a vicious cycle. Because pregnancy will never be truly appreciated as long as people view it as a mere “reproductive” choice, equivalent to Viagra or a vasectomy, instead of the sustenance of a new human being, women will continue to "need" abortion since their pregnancies are not appreciated and seen as inconveniences to be terminated. As long as abortion is "no big deal", the work of pregnant women will also be "no big deal." Men are not the benchmark, and we do not and should not need to define our existence on male terms to be taken seriously. Whether pro-choice or pro-life, we need to be clear about this: Pregnancy is distinct and different from anything a man experiences and we must refuse to devalue and re-define what pregnancy is, in order to deal in male terms.