Thursday, November 8, 2012

Should Men Stay Out of the Abortion Issue?

[Today's post is by SPL member Clinton Wilcox.]

Does this sound familiar? “Seventy percent of pro-lifers are men, and 100% will never be pregnant!" How about this? “Pro-lifers are nothing but old white men who want to send women back to the dark ages where they are pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, breastfeeding twins!”

These types of argument commit a logical fallacy known as the ad hominem attack, which means you attack “the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument.” [1] This article was inspired by another article on a blog making the argument that all men in the abortion issue should be silenced. [2]

The seventy percent statistic, unsurprisingly, is simply made up. [3] The next time you hear that, ask them to justify their statement. There are many pro-life women who make the same arguments that pro-life men do. But even if we did fall under the pro-choice stereotype of pro-life people, how does that negate our arguments? Even if we were all misogynistic old men, how would that suddenly make killing innocent unborn human beings moral? Remember that arguments don’t have gender, people do.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Roe v. Wade was decided on by nine men. If men must stay out of the abortion issue, we must keep them out of the issue on both sides. So we would have to overturn Roe v. Wade. But that’s not all. If your contention is that men must stay out because they have never been pregnant so they can’t understand what it’s like, would you say that women who have never been pregnant should stay out, too? “Well,” you might say, “women can at least get pregnant. Men should stay out because they can never get pregnant.” Then would you also say that women who are incapable of becoming pregnant should also stay out of the abortion issue?

Should white people who have never owned slaves, never had the means to own slaves, or were never slaves themselves, have stayed out of the slavery issue? Were non-Jews wrong for opposing the Holocaust? Abortion is a human rights issue, just like slavery and the Holocaust were.

Standing against injustice is right for everyone, not simply someone of a particular gender, race, religion, and so on. Trying to quiet one gender from speaking out is, itself, a sexist position. As Martin Luther King Jr. has famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” [4]

[3] According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, 46% of pro-life people are men, and 44% are women. By contrast, pro-choice people are pretty evenly split -- 50% are women, and 49% are men (it’s unclear where the missing 1% is, perhaps people who forgot or neglected to fill out the “gender” portion of the survey).
[4] Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.


Patrick Ptomey said...

Nicely written.

Clinton Wilcox said...


Diane said...

Interesting and thought-provoking post.

Also reminded me of the following: Yes, 100% of men will never be pregnant. However, 100% of non-medically assisted pregnancies are CAUSED BY men ejaculating into the INSIDE of women's bodies.

(The inside. Not the outside. The inside of women's bodies.)

If we really want men to stay out of women's bodies and health choices... well then... ? If a woman becomes pregnant, a man has most likely already ventured into the inside of her body and made a "choice", Men are directly related to the instigation of 100% of non medically-assisted pregnancy, by placing a part of their body into the INSIDE of a female's body.

Of course, we can't neatly divide men into categories of "those who respect women's bodies and health" and "those who do not". But I will say this: in the past, when I used to be on the dating scene, and involved with pro-choice identifying men, I had all too many experiences where the man would say something along the lines of "Oh don't be so worried, you should relax. You could always have an abortion, it's not the end of the world".

Is THAT sort of thinking respectful of women's health and bodies? Or is that the result of those guys merely wanting "in" (minimizing the real consequences to female health, as a way to potentially increase their own personal bodily pleasure)? How many men identify as pro-choice, not because they respect women's bodies and health, but because it supports more of what they want for themselves, and minimizes the consequences to themselves?

This is definitely not true for all pro-choice identifying men. I'm not claiming that it is. Only SOME. Yet even if "some" equals only a small percentage, it still deserves some observation and discussion, in my opinion.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thank you for reading, Diane.

I have no doubt that many men are pro-choice simply because they can have sex with a girl/woman and not have to worry about the consequences of pregnancy. This is why the original feminists were pro-life. They viewed abortion as the ultimate exploitation of women (to say nothing of the fact that abortions kill unborn females, as well).

Mark Goodman said...

It drives me crazy when pro-life politicians fail to articulately address the question of abortion after rape. The answer is simple and cannot be taken as harsh (though the practical implications are extremely difficult). They should say, “I oppose abortion in all cases because I have looked at all of the evidence in terms of when human life begins and believe that it begins at conception; therefore, if I believe that abortion is acceptable in the case of rape or incest I am making
a decision on the value of one human life as opposed to another.” Saying that I believe this but that I cannot impose this view on others through governmental
limitations is very much like a German in 1938 saying, "I believe that Jews are just as human as Aryans, but I will not impose this belief on those who believe they are inferior.” (Now that last sentence is my logical follow up
on the value of human life, but should not be used by politicians since it can be considered inflammatory; however I do believe the analogy stands.)

Diane said...

Thank YOU for reading, Clinton (for reading my long comment). And oh that's right - the original feminists were pro-life. That's a fact that's often forgotten and overlooked.

Also, I second what Patrick said, below. Your post is nicely written.

Jordan said...

Nice riposte to a lame canard.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thanks, Jordan.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thank you, Diane. I read, and try my best to respond to, every comment I receive. I appreciate you taking the time to read my article and give a thoughtful reply, so it's the least I can do.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Mark, thank you reading, though your comment seems a little off-topic. But I do agree that politicians need to be better educated on the topic of rape. Some of my friends in the pro-life movement are brainstorming how to better educate pro-life politicians on the matter.

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TooManyJens said...

I have never once encountered someone who says "men don't have the right to have an opinion about abortion because they can't get pregnant!" who was actually open to hearing anything negative about abortion from a woman. I'm sure some exist, but I'm just saying.

That said, men can say some pretty clueless, insensitive, and sometimes outright false things about pregnancy and abortion if they haven't listened to women and educated themselves about women's experiences. Don't be Todd Akin, you know?

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thank you for reading, Jen.

I agree that there are insensitive people, but there are insensitive people on both sides of the equation. People on all sides could stand to be more educated on the issue. I've heard a lot of pro-choice women give clearly incorrect information about fetal development, so it really does go both ways.

Kara Baylog said...

well put!

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thanks, Kara!

156 said...

"Does this sound familiar?"


"How about this?"

Again, no. I agree with your ultimate conclusions, but you appear to be making a straw man argument.

"This article was inspired by another article on a blog making the argument that all men in the abortion issue should be silenced."

I think that article was making an argument about strategy to her fellow abortion defenders, not an argument for the morality of abortion. She was focusing on two mistakes that the pro-life side tends to make.

First, right-to-lifers tend to reject female leadership. Note the following sentences from that article: "The major voices from the government for the anti-choice camp are...all MEN! The main anti-choice voices for the U.S. are also all men." Because elected female pro-choicers outnumber elected female right-to-lifers, they win if the battle is reduced just to elected females.

The other mistake that the pro-life side tends to make that she was focusing on was that right-to-lifers favor anti-abortion policies that disproportionately affect women. Both a man and a woman are needed to create an unintended pregnancy, but many right-to-lifers seem to only support anti-abortion policies that act by forcing the woman to complete the pregnancy or bear some other burden. Those pro-lifers oppose, or at least disregard, policies that force the man to face consequences, as well.

"So we would have to overturn Roe v. Wade."

Good point.

156 said...

Note what Matt Dillahunty says about 32 minutes into this video.

Laura Nicholson said...

I'm surprised those phrases don't sound familiar to you. I've heard/read them many, many times.

Laura Nicholson said...

Yes. Many pro-choicers recognize the validity of men's opinions in the abortion debate. But many say things like what Clinton is talking about here, too.

156 said...

"I'm surprised those phrases don't sound familiar to you. I've heard/read them many, many times."

Laura, can you gave examples of the use of those phrases from the internet?

Laura Nicholson said...

Diane said...

I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Guest said...

Great post. I think it makes more sense to question whether non-Germans have a right to oppose the Holocaust than whether non-Jews do. This would be a closer analogy.

The Michael Moore version of this argument seems to be more common than the Abortion Gang one (that is, men can take a stance on the abortion issue iff they agree with mine), an argument that the current president is not above using.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thank you very much. I am actually working on a two-part article to post in the near future.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thank you for reading!

I do understand your point about non-Germans vs. non-Jews. My reason for using the Jews in this analogy is because people commonly say that since men will never know what it's like to be pregnant, they should be quiet regarding abortion. Similarly, non-Jews (and those who did not belong to certain other persecuted people groups) did not know what it was like to be systematically hunted down, tortured, killed, and put through cruel experiments, yet it was not wrong for people outside of those people groups to oppose the Holocaust. That was my reasoning behind saying non-Jews (though it is admittedly still a simplification, since Jews were not the only people persecuted during the Holocaust).

I am actually not familiar with the Michael Moore version. The Abortion Gang article was one I just happened across which researching pro-choice blogs. It seems, though, that Moore is guilty of special pleading. If you remove men from one side of the argument, you must remove them from both.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Those arguments are used very frequently. The one about how pro-lifers are just old men who want women barefoot in the kitchen was inspired by something that Roseanne said publicly about pro-life men, but many pro-choice people still use them. I'm actually reading through a book right now of pro-life and pro-choice articles, and just about every pro-choice article makes the same tired argument about the pro-life movement, that we're all men who want to oppress women. It's really a common argument.

The first statement is also quite common. Also, while I read about and discuss abortion quite a bit on-line, I tend to avoid the internet because it's very hard to find people genuinely open to discussion, and who can actually reason well. This is also why most of my references come from books and not from the internet.

Also keep in mind that I said the article was *inspired by* the Abortion Gang article. This was not a direct critique of the article. I really just wanted to address this particular ad hominem attack that pops up frequently.

Jonathan Quarg said...

How about this concept? Why don't we allow women with help from their doctors decide whether or not she should have an abortion, and keep the state, the church, public opinion, and you out of the doctor's office. Abortion is a personal choice and I personally don't understand why you need to get involved with a woman's privacy with her doctor.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Hi, Guest:

The thing is that a human rights violation is everyone's business. Your argument could also be used to support child abuse (e.g. Why don't you stay out of the bedroom and allow parents to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own home?).

Abortions kill an innocent human child, and as such it is not a moral choice, and it should be illegal. Slavery was also a personal choice.

Coyote said...

Great post, Clinton. Also, if men can't have an opinion on abortion, then women can't have an opinion on forcing men to pay child support, since currently legally women are unable to be held responsible for the decisions of men (but not vice versa).

Coyote said...

To be honest I think that federal politicians should simply say where they favor or oppose Roe v. Wade and refuse to elaborate (since they are federal politicians and they, if they are anti-Roe, want to make abortion a state issue again).

Coyote said...

I agree with Clinton. Also, the same argument is actually used by one of my friends in favor of letting parents and their doctor(s) decide whether or not to painlessly euthanize their infants or not.

Clinton Wilcox said...

Thanks for reading, Coyote! Exactly. I recently heard someone use the example of circumcision. If men can't have an opinion on abortion, then women can't have an opinion on whether or not circumcising young boys is acceptable behavior or not.