Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Man's Place in the Abortion Debate?

[Today's guest post is by across-the-pond SPL supporter Peter Hardy.]

I’m frequently berated with the comment that as a man I’m not allowed to have an opinion on abortion. Occasionally this same sentiment is expressed as a polite suggestion, and we should sympathise where women are worried that this is an attitude that wives should be under their husband's control. But the overall impression I get is men are dismissed on the basis of their sex as an anti-intellectual manoeuvre to try to shut down critical enquiry on this ideologically-charged topic.

Abortion Is A Mens' Issue Too 
Abortion is absolutely not a woman-only issue. It affects men because every child has a father, it affects men because half of children are male, and it affects men because many of the people involved in abortions, such as doctors are men. There has been a scandal recently about sex-selective abortions, terminations carried out because the parents would rather not have a child of that sex. Some left wing publications (that would normally only have positive things to say about so-called reproductive rights) have come out to condemn it.

While we normally associate this practice with with the Eastern world, countries like China and India where women are sadly viewed as inferior to men, this does also go on, under the radar, in the West. And because women are more highly regarded here, the motivation for a sex-selective abortion becomes one of 'completing the set' of having the number of boys and girls you desired, perhaps even in a certain order, rather than to avoid having a girl. And thus while there is only anecdotal evidence for it, I don't doubt that fetuses are being killed in this country because they are male. And what could be more of an issue for men than that?

One left wing publication, Red Pepper, broaches the issue in its most recent issue. Here, Kate Smurthwaite (who you might know from a very popular clip on YouTube called 'atheist bitchslap') says that this is being used by what she calls “The 'moderate' end of the anti-choice movement,” to derail the agenda from by shifting the focus to the fetus, excluding the mother from any place of importance.

And this is an important point for us men to note, because although appeal to the fetus is sufficient to show that abortion is wrong, we err when our discourse ignores mothers and their situations. A pro-life movement that ignores real women may still say the right things, but it says them in the wrong way, making us look sexist and out of touch. Smurthwaite doesn't concede that this is also the case for the pro-choice movement's exclusion of fathers, but at least she does recognise that the pro-life movement's focus on gender and disability is no more derailing than the pro-choice's movement's focus on cases of rape and incest (I would argue that it is much less so, considering the minute proportion of abortions carried out because of rape or incest).

Treating men as irrelevant to the equation also has significant drawbacks for women's well-being. As feminist campaigner Catherine McKinnon put it, "abortion facilitates women's heterosexual availability" and "frees male sexual aggression." Abortion supporters aren't doing women any favors by treating abortion as purely a "women's issue" and ignoring the reality of predatory pro-choice men.

Going back then, the first response when you are challenged for being a pro-life man, is to explain how much of a man's issue it is.

One's Sex Is Irrelevant to One's Reasons 

Even if abortion were just a women's issue, that wouldn't mean that men shouldn't express an opinion on it. To argue that they should not is an ad hominem argument. It is irrelevant to attack the person making an argumentin this case an argument against abortionrather than the argument itself. This is because there’s no logical relationship between the individual who happens to be articulating an argument and the soundness of that argument.

As an illustration, on a course on ethics, if two exam scripts make exactly the same points the teacher has no right to give lower marks to one person on the basis of their sex, even if that one was talking about the other sex.

Moreover, it is inconsistent for those people who take this line to appreciate the support that men such as myself give for the advancement of education and other rights for women. And ironically, I've encountered many women who approve of men sayingas they often dothat us men can't have an opinion on abortion, which is clearly incoherent. So the second response when you are challenged for being a pro-life man is that the challenge is essentially sexist because it has no basic in logic.


Ultimately, standing up for the voicelessfor animals, the environment, the disabled, the elderly and the very youngshould cross all social divisions, not least of all sex. A man's place in the abortion debate to act as a father by protecting children. Not just his own, but everyone's. The very least he should do is talk openly about abortion, and I hope I have given you some reassurance as to why you shouldn't be afraid of doing so.


Jameson Graber said...

"...because although appeal to the fetus is sufficient to show that abortion is wrong..."

I'm afraid I have to dispute this. One of the important debates that has taken place on this blog, and for which I'm very thankful, is the debate over bodily integrity and abortion. The basic idea is that, even given that the fetus really is a human being, the question remains how much the fetus is entitled to their mother's body. It's a crucial question that weighs one individual's rights claims against another's. While I'm persuaded that abortion isn't justified except under special circumstances, I don't think my position is justified solely by considerations of the humanity of the unborn.

So while I agree that abortion isn't *solely* a women's issue, and while I also agree men have the right (and the moral responsibility) to speak out against abortion, I also think it's important to acknowledge the unequal relationship of men and women to abortion. Except in movies, men simply don't get pregnant. That means in this debate there's a certain rights consideration--bodily integrity--that applies only to women and not to men.

Anton said...

By all means, men should be able to ignore and objectify women too, and pretend that calling a zygote a "baby" makes a difference.

Pro-life is an inclusive hate group!

Charlotte Pollock said...

And naming a human being a parasite as justification for killing it makes pro-choicers a love filled bunch does it?

I've also noticed pro-choicers very rarely berate pro-choice men for their interference in a women's issue

Rachel Anne Enders said...

Let me show you a little example of how men in the pro-choice movement use and abuse women. There are going to be misogynists in every group, but considering the pro-life movement is inherently pro-woman, you can't make that sort of generalization.

Anton said...

So the pro-life tactic goes like this:

1. Call a zygote, blastocyst, or fetus a "baby."

2. Call abortion "baby-killing."

3. Call a woman a "baby-killer" if she chooses to have an abortion.

4. Deny that you're anti-woman.

Michelle Ewing said...

Men often have two reaction to an unplanned pregnancy. One is bro- choice the " I want you to have an abortion." "go and have the baby, but it's not my problem." "It's me or your baby" The other is passive, "i'll support you in any decision you make." This come off as the father not caring about the baby to most women, but most just want to influence her in any way because a father showing support for a woman to chose life is taboo and seen as manipulative. There are study's showing that a mans feelings about the pregnancy greatly influences a woman. Unsupportive fathers do lead many women to abortion. We in to stop this form of sexual coercion and help men step up to the plate. I'm all for helping women, and it does not include harmful abortions. I am also in support of ending the stigma of "dead beat dads". I do believe that being a "dead beat" starts in the womb, but can be easily changed with the right support.

Rachel Anne Enders said...

When have you seen anyone on secular pro-life call a woman a baby-killer? Baby is a term of endearment for a young human, so it's not inaccurate to call the unborn babies. It would be inaccurate to call the unborn infants, but that's not really what we're doing.

Kelsey said...

It's living, it's human, and abortion ends it's Life. Give it any name you wish but Pro-Lifers are just calling it like it is.

LN said... you even know what a strawman is?

argent said...

I have some qualms with this post; or perhaps it's just that my perspective on men in the abortion debate is very different.

Well, firstly, I have a close friend who is a pro-life trans* man, so my first response to the idea that "men don't have a place in the abortion debate because they can't get pregnant!" is mostly laughter.

But my second response is that there's truth to the idea that those not in the discriminated-against group should sit back and take their cues from those who are. In a perfect world, people would change their point of view if another was more logical, but that is far from reality, and the fact is that it's much better to err on the side of letting the victimized group speak for themselves.

.... All of which applies if you believe that abortion restrictions are due to misogyny and constitute discrimination against women. This is the belief of the typical pro-choicer. Speaking from experience, I think it's more likely that a belief that abortion restrictions are misogynistic tends to precede the belief that killing a fetus is ethically acceptable, rather than the other way round, not least of all because the former has much more of a basis in reality.

For we pro-lifers, on the other hand, while I don't see this articulated quite as often, I'm sure most of us would agree that abortion is discrimination against the unborn, resulting from long-standing prejudice and their inability to defend themselves. The victims of abortion--with a few exceptions like Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen--are dead, that's why we're here, and they can't speak for themselves. So we should prioritize the voices of people like Ohden and Jessen, and the rest of us should, as a recent SPL article put it, "check our born privilege".

The point of all this is that the question of who
"shouldn't have a place in the abortion debate" depends mostly on who you consider to be the primary victims of abortion, which is of course determined by where you stand on the issue itself. So I understand to a certain extent the instinct behind "men shouldn't have a place in the abortion debate" while maintaining that for a pro-choicer to say that to a pro-lifer constitutes a misunderstanding (sometimes willful) of our position. I do think it's ultimately an intellectually dishonest maneuver most of the time.

Lastly, I want to reiterate that more women than men believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, at least here in America, so I'm not terribly worried about men being shut out of the debate (especially if it means that the misogyny that pervades the abortion industry is finally addressed). So maybe one way to fight the pro-aborts on this is not to fight it. Show them "bro-choicers". Show them the hundreds of women murdered for refusing to abort their children. Tell them that if they want to address misogyny in the abortion debate, they already have a long way to go themselves.

Coyote said...

The problems with this pro-abortion choice argument are:

1. This would mean that infertile females cannot have an opinion on abortion.
2. This ignores the possibility that a currently biological male and/or an infertile female will be able to become pregnant (in the case of the currently biological male, this can occur with the help of better sex change technology than we have today) in the future.
3. This would mean that currently biological males and infertile females cannot have an opinion either for or against abortion, considering that if an issue doesn't affect someone, why exactly should he or she be able to say that this issue is morally justifiable but not that it is not morally justifiable, or vice versa? (And yet, amazingly enough, I never hear pro-abortion choicers telling the males on their side, as well as infertile females, that they can't have an opinion on abortion).
4. Abortion does affect males in certain ways--it depends whether or not they are forced to pay child support later on, whether they are the fathers of a live offspring/child or of a dead one, the rate of population growth/decline and all of its consequences (which affects the entire population, including males, in certain ways), et cetera.
5. As you said, this is an example of the argumentum ad hominem fallacy.

Peter Hardy said...

Really excellent comment. I (the author of the original piece) agree with everything you say. On the trans point, I have in the past asked angry pro-choicers how they know I'm not trans. And it's the case in the UK too that a higher proportion of women are pro-life than men.

Janet Susan said...

Even pro-choicers will call the unborn human a "baby" if it's *wanted*. Seems they prefer other terms (zygote, blastocyst, or fetus) if it's *not wanted. Maybe we can just all agree it's an "unborn human"? That covers the little entity at all stages before birth, which then illustrates that this is really *human rights* issue. said...

We still don't care about your opinion.