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Abortion, authority, and responsibility

By Selwyn Duke
web posted March 20, 2006

We hear a lot about women's "reproductive rights." In fact, some leftist politicians – Barbara Boxer comes to mind – seem to be able to segue from any conceivable topic to a discussion of them with aplomb. But do men have reproductive rights too?

Answering in the affirmative, a men's group is filing a lawsuit to win those very rights. According to CNN.com,

The National Center for Men [NCM] has prepared a lawsuit – nicknamed Roe v. Wade for Men – to be filed Thursday [3/16] in U.S. District Court in Michigan on behalf of a 25-year-old computer programmer ordered to pay child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter . . .

. . . The gist of the argument: If a pregnant woman can choose among abortion, adoption or raising a child, a man involved in an unintended pregnancy should have the choice of declining the financial responsibilities of fatherhood. The activists involved hope to spark discussion even if they lose.

Let's start the discussion.

The relevant principle here involves authority and responsibility, two things that are inextricably linked. With authority comes responsibility, and with responsibility must come authority. For instance, we don't accord minors the authority of adults – they mayn't vote, buy alcohol or tobacco products, join the military, etc. – but we also don't ascribe to them the same level of responsibility. This is why children are punished less harshly for committing crimes.

It should be obvious why authority and responsibility go hand in hand. If a minor is under your care, you act in loco parentis and have authority over him. If he then plays with matches and burns down the neighbor's house, you are responsible. On the other hand, he wouldn't be held responsible if you burned down the house because he has no authority over you.

The problem with our laws governing abortion and parental rights is that they rob a man of all authority over the fate of his unborn child but assign him fifty-percent of the responsibility for that child should the woman, exercising her total authority in the matter, decide to bring the child to term.

It's for this reason that the NCM intends to argue its case based on the equal protection clause of the Constitution. And it's understandable. We live in a society that is obsessed with equality, and our government zealously enforces onerous regulations and mandates and imposes a radical-egalitarian model on all of us (i.e., Title IX dictates, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, etc.). Despite this, inequality is not only tolerated but prescribed when it redounds to the detriment of men and the benefit of women. And this is a perfect example: woman+conception+100% authority=50% responsibility. But what about man+conception+0% authority? Well, you won't see this on the SATs, but the answer is still 50% responsibility. It's amazing how placing a man in an equation completely alters the answer. It's the New Chivalry at work.

Not that there's a realistic expectation that NCM will be able to prevail upon the court with this line of reasoning. Said Matt Dubay, the plaintiff in the case,

"What I expect to hear [from the court] is that the way things are is not really fair, but that's the way it is."

Yes, fairness has nothing to do with it. Why does the equality-for-me-but-not-for-thee, feminist-powered abortion lobby and its sympathizers in government prescribe such a double standard?

Because they can.

But abortion and fairness never had the same address. The truly fair thing would be to abolish abortion and afford the unborn their right to life. This creates a problem of practicality, however, one that a libertine society finds unacceptable: how can you then indulge lustful desires while avoiding the responsibilities that attend bringing a human being into this world, a sometimes unavoidable unintended consequence?

So, we stripped unborn children, who can't vote, complain, lobby or donate money, of their right to life and gave the right to kill to those who just happen to be walking about, who can vote, complain, lobby and donate money. But then we found that this created another problem of practicality: who specifically will have that power over life and death, the mother and the father? Well, as C.S. Lewis said, "You can't have a democracy of two because the votes cancel each other out. Someone must cast the deciding ballot."

So you grant the power based on the preferences of those who vote, complain, lobby and donate money the most.

And we salve our consciences and numb our intellects with the fanciful. We not only rationalize that a baby is merely part of a woman's body before birth but a person immediately afterwards, but also that he has no kinship with the father before birth but a very definite one afterwards. That is, unless the mother decides she wants the child, then, somehow, some way the "it" within is magically transformed into both a human being and the father's progeny.

So, believing that free lust is a moral right, we see the choice between chastity and unwanted pregnancies as a dilemma. Then, forgetting that someone's right to life trumps your right to convenience, we are unfair to the unborn. But this creates another dilemma, prompting us to be unfair to the fathers of the unborn, who now have no say in whether their children will be murdered before seeing the light of day. Ah, what a tangled web we weave . . . .

And the only ones we deceive are ourselves.

I know many will warn that absolving men of responsibility in unplanned pregnancies will encourage abortion, but on balance this may not be so. Just as the best way to eliminate an unjust law is to enforce it, the best way to eliminate the exercise of flawed principles is to force their proponents to live with their implications. The NCM lawsuit is a step in that direction.

But getting back to the matter of authority and who shall cast that fateful deciding ballot, there is a third party who would, if possible, most assuredly weigh in: the unborn baby. And as to this grave matter, one of life or death, which way do you think the little one would vote?

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