The Right to Choose... for You

I read James Taranto's attack on Dr. Shari Motro's recommendation that we establish procedures to force men to pay women for pregnancies resulting from sex with said women.  Taranto raises some good points about the function of incentives, and it's a fairly thoughtful reply.

I'd like to raise a less thoughtful response to this particular suggestion:
One of the potential ramifications is that men might be called upon to help support their pregnant lovers before birth, even if the pregnancy is ultimately terminated or ends in miscarriage. They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes, to help to cover the loss of income that often comes with pregnancy, or to contribute to the cost of an abortion.
Emphasis added.

I'm willing to accept that a man who gets a woman pregnant ought to take responsibility for providing for her needs during pregnancy.  That all makes sense to me, although Taranto's objections regarding incentives do seem like relevant concerns.

But there can be no accommodation on the question of forcing a man to pay for the abortion of his own child.  It's hard enough that we require a man to endure the killing of a child he may want, if the woman carrying the child decides that she prefers it dead.  There can be no moral argument for forcing him to pay for the poisoning of his own flesh and blood.


Texan99 said...

Here again -- it's an approach that makes perfect sense to people who do not view the fetus as a child, but rather as a potentially undesirable medical condition in the woman's body.

Anyway, it's sad, isn't it, that people can be sexually involved and yet so coolly estranged that they need external rules to settle issues like these. An odd kind of impersonal sex it must be, from my own perspective. Even in my free-love youth, I was promiscuously attached to, rather than brutally disengaged from, a series of partners. That's not because I have always been easily engaged emotionally -- far from it -- but it seems to be an inborn instinct for me. Perhaps a female thing? For women, the trick is to find a man who's that way as well (which, in my experience, most weren't, but of course the keepers are).

Grim said...

The argument doesn't make the same kind of sense even given that principle. An important part of the pro-choice argument goes as follows: "Opinions differ about whether or not a fetus is a person, a child, a human being, or just some tissue that can be disposed of without consequence. Since this is essentially unknowable, it is a matter of faith; and as a matter of faith, it is wrong to legislate your religious opinion about it. Thus, the woman should be free to decide for herself."

If you accept that argument, though, the man should also be free to decide for himself -- on religious or other grounds. You might not give him a veto on the question of the abortion (certainly SCOTUS seems disinclined to entertain any limit at all on abortion); but it seems reasonable at least not to require him to materially support one if he is of the opinion that it entails killing his child.

In other words, it's the very acceptance of the principle that people might differ on the point that entails the limit on what we can reasonably force him to do. It's only if you abandon that principle for an alternative principle -- "Fetuses are not human beings" -- that you can legislate his compliance. But if you adopt the stance that we can legislate a final answer that applies to everyone, then we can legislate either answer; and there's no longer a freedom of conscience issue protecting abortion.

It is sad that sex has lost so much of its emotional content. I'm not sure what to make of it. I never had a promiscuous youth, but I was certainly always prepared to love the women I considered as potential mates. Of course, I was always looking for the woman I would marry, not for a partner for the evening; but I don't think it ever even occurred to me that I might want to have sex with a woman without some emotional attachment. I'm pretty sure that I didn't want that. I wanted someone to love me.

I always took that to be the more important need. I'm guessing evolutionary psychology would disagree with me, but that was always my experience. What I really wanted was love.

Cass said...

I don't think it ever even occurred to me that I might want to have sex with a woman without some emotional attachment. I'm pretty sure that I didn't want that. I wanted someone to love me.

There are a lot more men who think that way than the evo psych types want to admit.

I dated a lot from a very early age, and the vast majority of guys I dated were the same way. I had no trouble finding guys who took relationships as seriously as I did.

I pay more attention what a person does than what he or she says, but for some odd reason a lot of men are very impressed by the man-slut stereotype (the guy who sleeps around indiscriminately).

It's almost as though they think it's unmanly to be selective. Or just smart.

Texan99 said...

I don't think your statement of the pro-abortion position matches that many people. I'm always surprised how rare it is to encounter a pro-abortion believer who is willing even to entertain the notion that anyone might reasonably conclude a fetus is anything important. It's a threatening thought. I'm much more accustomed to getting back a barrage of comments along the lines of "only ignorant superstitious religionists can't understand the simple scientific facts" or even "you must hate women." And I spend a surprising amount of time online trying to get out the simple message that, whatever you may believe about fetuses, you will find the pro-life position easier to understand if you take into account that pro-lifers think a separate human being is involved.

Grim said...

You could be right; but this is the kind of point that is worth fighting over. You want to talk about a violation of natural law? Commanding a man to pay for the destruction of his offspring is as complete a violation of natural law as it is easy to imagine. Any government that undertook to do that would be sowing a whirlwind.

Texan99 said...

You know how much I agree with you! And that's why it distresses me a great deal that there are people who are very difficult to reach on this subject, because they won't entertain for one instant the idea that the fetus is a child. It will be very hard to find a compromise with them.