Friday, October 19, 2007


One of many such talks I've had :P I recently tried to break down the issue of abortion and a way to illustrate it as simply as possible, as well as why it's unfair for men to have a say in that decision despite that they then have to pay child support. Here's what I came up with.

Abortion = the woman's right to sovereignty over her own body. Legally, the woman has to be able to control what happens to her own bodily self. There's absolutely no way to make that "equal" between men and women. Because a pregnancy does not, and can not impose itself on the sovereignty of the male body.

Child support = support for a living, breathing child. Legally, that child needs to be cared for. And should the man want to take care of that child physically, women have to pay child support as well, so insofar as child support goes the laws are equal. So, what's best for this child is the bottom line here.

To put it in even more simple terms:

I'll break down the situation into mathematics for each step of this process.

Woman: Has sex +1, Carries Pregnancy +1, Cares for child after it's born +1
Man: Has sex +1, Cares for child after it's born +1

Guys who argue men should have a say in that middle step, or should be able to opt out of child support, seem to be arguing it by this logic:

Woman: Has sex +1, Carries pregnancy +1
Man: Has sex +1, Pays for child after it's born +1

And want to make the situation look like this:

Woman: Has sex +1, Carries pregnancy +1, Cares for child +1
Man: Has sex +1

The numbers speak for themselves why that kind of set up is unfair. They both have sex, they both have to care for the child after it's born. Their responsibilities in both these situations are equal, because they each play a part. But there's nothing in the guy's experience of this process that equals that middle step, so why should they have any say at all?


  1. Thank you for visiting our place and for leaving a comment. We are happy that his post was able to help clarify things. Oh and love your banner!

  2. I think there's a lot of tricky ground here. But you are near one of the things that really becomes the crux of the debate. You are identifying the process of making a baby from the perspective of the people involved, not the person made. So, for many people, they focus on the child - when does the child's life begin? I've heard arguments for everything from ejaculation to implantation. But, what all of those ignore is that the transformation of the embryo to a child occurs because of an enormous effort for the mom. And somehow, that always gets lost.

    And, simply, it's not fair. I don't think I would grant that it is "the key to the whole answer," but it is definitely an inappropriately forgotten part of the discussion.

  3. Yah I mean obviously when someone believes a woman actually has a "life" inside her will be a big issue. And I get that. But that's a different argument all together. In that case, there's just so much disagreement on WHEN exactly that happens that for me it's a "have some respect for people's autonomy to make their own moral decisions."

    Thanks for acknowledging how often the entire process of the pregnancy and all it involves on the mother's part gets passed over. It really does.

  4. Jade, this is "Guyperson". (I think I might actually adopt that pseudonym.) My argument is fairly simple, and is followed below. For increased simplicities sake, I'm putting a number in front of each assertion I make - that way you can specifically say ("I disagree with assertion #2, and here's why....") so it's easier to see where we differ, and then that'll lead to my conclusion, OK? For the purposes of this discussion, to keep everything simple, let's just discuss pregnancies that result from consensual sex - they're the norm, and it's easier to talk about them separately. We can discuss abortions because of rape or because of danger to the mother another time, but as abortions that are not taken to save the live of the mother and have nothing to do with rape make up around 80-90% of abortions (If I recall correctly) they're the most important area, anyway.

    Assertion 1: Citizens have responsibilities as well as rights. With everyright, there is a corresponding responsibility to exercise that right responsibly, and to be held responsible if you do not use that right responsibly - to "own up" to it, in other words. (Ex. You have a right to freedom of speech. You can say effectively whatever you want to. But with that you have a responsibility to not say things which cause harm to others in a physical or financial way - the classic example being that you can't yell fire in a crowded movie theater, because someone could be trampled on the way out. Financial also comes in, meaning that even though you have the right to say what you want, if you lie to me in a business transaction, I can sue you if your product does not live up to what you promised)

    Assertion 2: Citizens of both genders should be equal before the law. This includes equal responsibilities, as well as rights.

    Assertion 3: Citizens have the right to have sex with another consenting, willing adult. Note that this isn't an "absolute right" in a sense, as the state doesn't have to ensure that there is someone who will have sex with you when you want to. It's merely a right in the sense that if you are an adult, no one can prohibit you from doing so as long as it is with another consenting adult. (Similar example: The Second Amendment. You have the right to own a gun if you are a law abiding private citizen, but the government doesn't have to help you buy a gun, you've got to provide that yourself. Make sense?)

    THEREFORE, with these three assertions held, I conclude that with the "right" to have sex comes responsibility - namely, that you exercise your right legally (Must be consensual, and not in a public place) and that you accept the consequences, intended or otherwise, that come from exercising your right. (This includes pregnancy, STD's, and the like - anything that can happen because you chose to have sex, desired or not, positive or negative. For the purpose of this discussion, though, we are ONLY going to focus on pregnancy, as STD's don't matter here, so pretend that pregnancy is the only issue) With all this held, we can move on to the issue of abortion itself. (If you're following this in a logical argumentative fashion, conclusion 1 follows assertions 1-3, and assertion 4 follows from conclusion 1)

    In this context of a discussion about rights and responsibilities, what exactly is abortion? To put it simply and bluntly, it is an "opt out" feature. It is something that allows women to exercise their right, but to avoid the responsibility for one of the major consequences. In practicality, this is an additional "right" - the right to opt out of a specific responsibility. This is assertion #4.

    Assertion 5: Men have no corresponding "opt out" feature. Men are not allowed a say in whether the woman keeps her child, or not - he cannot force her to have an abortion if she doesn't want one, and he cannot force her to keep the child if she wants an abortion.

    THEREFORE, with these two assertions held, I conclude that women have a right without a corresponding responsibility , and that men have a responsibility without a corresponding right. (Conclusion 2)

    This is obviously unfair, and I believe you yourself admitted as much. Going back to assertion 2, if you remember, we said that both men and women should be equal before the eyes of the law, with equal rights as well as responsibilities. With this in mind, we need to "balance" the metaphorical equation here, and we can do so two ways: First, we could take away the women's extra right (Abortion), leaving her with the same number of responsibilities and rights as the men do. Alternatively, we can take away the man's responsibility, and give men an "opt out" feature of their own: make it so that men are not legally bound to provide child support and help raise their child, if the pregnant woman wants to keep the baby. This leaves both men and women with an equal number of rights, as well as a single responsibility which is completely OPTIONAL - in the woman's case, having the child, and in the man's, supporting the child and the woman whom he impregnated.

    So there you have it Jade. I'm interested to see which assertion (Or conclusion) you will attack.

    A note on my personal beliefs: I think the best option is "balance option 1", outlawing abortion. That does not stop me, however, from arguing that there is a second, logical alternative that would leave men and women with equal rights and responsibilities, even if I don't like it. And yes, I do think that if a man gets a woman pregnant, he should stick around and help raise the child. But if the woman doesn't have an obligation, or responsibility, to keep the child and help raise it - why should the man?

    (I was going to address some of the specifics of your post, but this is already long enough! I apologize for the length - it's three times as long as your article, it's just that it takes a while.)

  5. Well first of all, I disagree with your "opt out" categorization of abortion.

    I believe being able to have healthy sexual relations with another partner without having a child if you do not want one is a right within itself. To me, abortion is simply the ability to exercise that right.

    And if the woman does become pregnant, ultimately, yes, the man has no say in the final decision of whether she decides to continue to pregnancy, or not. As I illustrated in my post, there is no corresponding step here for the man in this situation. Growing the baby and taking on all the things that will entail falls completely on the mother, and thus, deciding to either go ahead with that or not is and has to be her decision. It also should be noted here, that should the woman decide to have an abortion, the law does not require the man to pay for it. This to me acknowledges that at this stage their is no corresponding responsibility to the man's right to have sex.

    This brings us to the next step in the process, which you do not include in your analysis. When a baby is born. Then we have another element to the equation, a child, who has needs that the mother will be paying for. Adding another element to the equation completely changes it, because this new element trumps the needs of both Mother and Father. Making sure that this child is cared for is now the law's concern, as it must be. And thus we have child support laws, which are equal for both sexes.

    The fallacy in your argument is that you are ignoring that there is no corresponding element for the man to the pregnancy. That is a right and a responsibility carried completely by the mother, whereas the sex and the care for the child is shared by both mother and father. Men can choose whether to take care of the mother during this time and help her with her pregnancy, or not. They have their own opt out here. What they cannot choose to do is leave the resulting child in danger, which the mother is not allowed to do either.

  6. Fine then Jade - for the sake of argument, let's just say that "having healthy sexual relations with another partner without having a child if you do not want one" is a right. And since the sexes are equal, men should have this right as well, correct? Then where is it?

    It isn't there. What you're doing is giving women an additional choice, an additional right without a corresponding obligation, while giving men a responsibility without a corresponding right. This is obviously unfair.

    Now, the main crux of your argument seems to be that pregnancy is an intervening step, or stage, and here women have extra rights because there is no corresponding stage for men. (If I'm getting this wrong, let me know) The problem with this view, though, is that you're viewing each step independent of the whole, when they aren't - they are a seamless whole that cannot be separated if they are to make any sense at all. You can't be pregnant without having sex, and you can't give birth without being pregnant. None of this would be fair or make sense in any context if you didn't consider it in conjunction with the rest. Having responsibility for a child in step 3 if you didn't have sex in step 1 wouldn't make sense - but when considered all together, it fits. ANY of these steps, taken by itself, will be unbalanced and won't work, it is only by looking at the entire situation as a whole that we can fully grasp it.

    The only way to make sense of this is to look at it not step by step, but side by side. To put it simply, look at the rights and responsibilities of the women in all three steps, and then look at the rights and responsibilities of the man in all three steps, and see if they match up. Quite obviously, they don't.

    My overall point here Jade, is that men are expected to take responsibility for their actions, and are in fact forced to, and if they don't then they are thrown in prison. (Inability to pay child support payments is the only sort of debt in the US that can get your drivers license revoked and get you sent to prison) They make a single choice, and then are stuck with it - women, on the other hand, make multiple choices and are only stuck with the responsibilities that they choose.

    As for the child involved, simply put, at the time the opt out feature comes into play, he legally doesn't exist, thanks to people like you. While the woman is pregnant, the baby isn't a human being, and thus has no rights. Here, the woman has an opt out feature, and here so should the man. If you want to say that the man should not have an opt out feature after birth, as the woman does not - since she cannot commit infanticide after birth if she doesn't want the baby anymore - then fair enough. But during the pregnancy period, in the status quo the situation is completely unequal. As I said before, there are only two ways of fixing this - take away the woman's opt our right, or give the man the right to opt out as well.

    I don't really expect you to choose either, and I suspect that you will keep on hammering home the idea that "well men aren't pregnant, so they don't count in this area", or something to that effect, even though it is obvious that men are getting unfair treatment in this area and have fewer options available. (None, basically, after the initial choice) That's because both banning abortion and giving men the right to abandon women is anathema to you as a feminist - because you look out for women first. Which is why I take issue with feminism, and why I made that remark awhile back about how I wouldn't marry a feminist, because feminism is in the modern day, basically chauvinism against males rather than females. I don't approve of sexism, and I'm not a sexist myself, which is why I take issue when people try to set policy based on sexist ideals - whether they favor men OR women.

  7. A man's right not to have children exists in contraceptives and the ability for women to seek abortions, just like it does for women.

    Women get an additional choice because they have an additional step in this process, because that choice hinges on her ability to be an autonomous human being.

    I also totally disagree that viewing this as steps makes it unbalanced. It points out very well where there is balance and where there is not. For every other step in the process there is a step for both partners, except pregnancy. Since women are also thrown in jail for not paying child support, or for abandoning their child or otherwise being irresponsible towards them, there is nothing unfair about men being held to that as well.

    If I was really trying to elevate women over men, I would argue that the man should have to pay for half of all the woman's care while she was pregnant. I realize men have fewer choices in this situation. That is because the situation is biologically unbalanced. But there is no way to reformat this to make it more fair, unless, as I've said, we make it possible for men to carry children, or for a fetus to be taken out of a woman and grown elsewhere so the man can keep the resulting child.

    Letting men opt out of caring for the child will only leave those children poor and in terrible shape too much of the time for the law to condone it.

  8. And a woman has those same rights - AND an additional right, the right to an abortion, which is unparalleled. Furthermore, the man's responsibility - whether or not he will have to pay child support - hinges upon the woman's decision. No decision of the woman hinges upon that of the man's, because the woman has all the options and the man has only one. (That of initial consent)

    Jade, if you view any of the other steps by themselves, then it is clearly unbalanced. You cannot view pregnancy independently of the events that lead to it, or the events that may come out of it. By taking this circumstance out of the context of the whole, you render any judgments on it meaningless.

    Also, women are not thrown in prison for abandoning their children, EXCEPT when they do so under circumstances that would likely lead to the child's death. At most police departments and hospitals, a woman can leave her child without facing any legal repercussions whatsoever. Can a man similarly drop off his financial obligations? Hardly!

    Jade, the ONLY way to balance the situation is to give men and women similar options. Remember, you didn't challenge my second assertion, that men and women should be equal before the law, with equal rights and responsibilities. IN THE STATUS QUO, women have more rights, and men more responsibility. You need to either admit that you do not think men and women should be equal under the law with equal rights and responsibilities, or you need to balance the situation by either outlawing abortion or giving men a similar ability to "opt out" of the consequences of their actions.

    Would the second option lead to a lot of abandoned kids? Sure. Which is why I vastly prefer the first option. (Not only because I'm pro-life) But since we aren't considering the children, because they have no rights in your view, we can only consider here the men and the women involved, the father and the mother. And when we just do that, it is quite clear who is getting the raw end of the deal....which is exactly why you don't care. Because you're a partisan who cares more about women's issues than men's issues. You're attitude is a sexist one, and you're trying to cover that up but it isn't working.

    Jade, you're no different from the old timers who wouldn't let women get jobs or move out of the house, or drive or vote. They wanted an unfair distribution of rights and responsibilities, and so do you. The details differ, but the essence is the same - preference for your own group over another group. And as long as feminism exists, and continues to prefer the rights of women to the rights of men and women, of PEOPLE and CITIZENS, then there will continue to be animosity between the sexes. That's why I don't like feminism - it's sexism, and it leads to increased tension and actually worsens the situation. Most people won't say this out loud, and many don't even think of it in those terms, but I'd say most do know this, subconsciously. There's a reason why most women don't identify themselves as feminists, and most men reject the modern version of the movement wholesale....and it isn't 'cause they all hate women. It's because they actually want fairness for everybody, something you don't.

  9. "we aren't considering the children, because they have no rights in your view"

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Undeveloped fetuses have no rights under the law. Living breathing children do.

    As for your last paragraph, I could say all the same things about you. You are acting exactly like those people because you don't really believe a woman should have bodily autonomy. You think she should give birth, and this is just another, more creative, argument as to push that point home.

    The only possible way to have true equality is to take issues like this step by step, and acknowledge the different roles and responsibilities of both parties at each step, and make laws accordingly. That you would call me sexist when it is you who are advocating for men to have direct financial control over women and children, I can only find laughable.

    And reasons like the right to abortion are not the ones that have led some women to no longer self-identify as feminists. There are a plethora of reasons for that, but abortion rights are not one of them.

  10. not weighing in on the abortion discussion, but i would like to comment on the comments about feminism.

    namely, that feminism is not sexist. this is not to say that female chauvanists do not exist, but that's not feminism.

    simply - feminism is advocating equal rights for men and women. i think the word equal sums that up. but clearly, because our society is still rather male-dominated, a push to make opportunities available equally to both sexes is going to focus on women's rights. i can see where that might look sexist on the surface, but as far as i'm concerned that's like saying that integration is racist because it creates a hardship on whites in order to help blacks.

    in that push for equal rights there are men's rights that need to be fought for too. that's feminism.

  11. I couldn't agree more Lady Brett.

  12. Jade, a lot of the arguments I make are less because I actually believe them, and more because I'm a big fan of consistency. I can respect someone with whom I disagree with 100% on many issues a great deal, as long as his positions are consistent. But if I disagree with your positions, and you aren't even consistent in your views - you teach equality, but you avidly support a clearly unequal position with unequal rights between the genders.

    Calling this argument simply a "creative argument" to argue against abortion is a dodge, pure and simple. Whether I believe the argument I'm making is the BEST solution isn't relevant - whether my arguments are logical is relevant. I happen to think both solutions I've proposed are better than the status quo, although I think the plan that abolishes abortion in these kinds of cases is clearly the better one. That doesn't make my argument somehow invalid, however.

    I'm not suggesting that men have direct financial control over men and women. I'm suggesting men have direct financial control over themselves and their own finances, and not be forced into financial obligations which they do not desire, when women are not similarly forced into such obligations. That simply isn't fair.

    Really? You speak for all women who don't identify as feminists any longer, and you know for a fact that abortion isn't one of them? If I can find a single woman who hesitates to call herself a feminist because of abortion, will you retract that statement?

    Lady Brett, in theory, feminism may espouse the idea that the sexes should be equal. In practice, I haven't seen a single instance of feminism actually doing a single thing for the rights of men, or ever standing up for men's rights as well as women's rights. It sounds find and noble to say that feminism is about equality for everyone, but when it comes in the middle of a debate where feminism comes down on the side of unequal treatment based on gender, it rings pretty hollow.

  13. Giving men the option to leave their children destitute, or leaving their mothers destitute because she sacrifices her own well being for that of her child, is in fact giving men direct financial control over them in some cases.

    Your call for "equality" in this case is unreasonable. It's not equality. You're asking for us to try and equalize a biological inequality through monetary means. When those monetary means have nothing to do with that biological inequality, and do nothing to rectify it. The trouble a woman goes through to grow a child, the toll it takes on HER body and HER finances, you are totally disregarding. That you don't see that is naive at best and utterly callous at worst.

    There's nothing else to say, you and I are not going to agree on this.

  14. guyperson - to start, i'll just say that "never" is a dangerous word =)

    but seriously, you haven't heard that (many of, obviously not all of) the people fighting for paid parental leave are fighting for it for mothers and fathers? or that there is equal (if not greater) concern for the fact that boys are lagging in reading as for girls lagging in math and sciences? there are plenty more, and they are feminist issues, even if they are not espoused by all feminists. it's a pretty broad label - that's to be expected.

  15. Woman: "The consensual sex we had was great but now I am pregnant."

    Man: "Shit that sucks. I don't want a child so you should get an abortion."

    Woman: "I do want to have this child therefore I am not having an abortion."

    While whether or not a woman has an abortion is definitely her choice, the man in this scenario has no choice whether or not he now has to be a parent and thus pay child support if the couple choose not to stay together.

    Woman: "The consensual sex we had was great but now I am pregnant."

    Man: "Great! I've always wanted to be a dad!"

    Woman: "Well too bad because I am not ready to be responsible for a child so I am having an abortion."

    Man: "That isn't fair, I want this child!"

    Woman: "Well it's my body and my right to do whatever I would like with it."

    Again, a woman's choice whether she has an abortion but in this scenario the man again has no choice whether or not he now gets to be a parent.

    Woman: "The consensual sex we had was great but now I am pregnant."

    Man: "Shit that sucks. I don't want a child so you should get an abortion."

    Woman: "I do want to have this child therefore I am not having an abortion."

    Another option, if the woman wants to carry the child but the man wants her to have an abortion is to have the ability to go to court and relinquish his parental rights and responsibilities. While I don't care for this option, as it would leave many children without a fair amount of support, it seems to equal up the numbers of rights and responsibilities the mother and father both have.

    And while I don't consider myself a feminist, only because of how far some women have taken it, I do firmly believe that woman should have the same rights and responsibilities as men, no more no less. Since men do not have the right to force a woman to have an abortion, there should be the equal right for a man to 'opt out' that the woman has.

    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  16. And so exactly what is the male equivalent to the burden of carrying a child in your scenario?

  17. In the end does that make a difference? Why should the woman, simply because of a uterus, have all the rights? The only right the man has is to go along with whatever the woman decides she wants to do whether it fits into his plans or not. Seems one-sided to me...

  18. But with guyperson's whole rights&responsibilities scenario, when he says that women have the right but not the responsibility, he is saying that the "right" is sex, and the "responsibility" they are avoiding is raising a child. Not so. The right is to abortion, and if they exercise the right to give birth, they (and the man) have to fulfil their responsibility to raise that child. So in this specific scenario, yes, the woman does have the right to impose this responsibility on the man. Which is anything but equal.

    Surely since both men and women have equal rights to sex, they should have equal rights to how they wish to handle the resulting "responsibility"?

    But if a woman chooses not to have an abortion, is guyperson saying that since it was solely her choice, she must bear the sole financial responsibility for the child? In some ways this makes sense, but surely this opens up a whole lot of problems as it would effectively make child support from fathers voluntary?

  19. Does it make a difference Teresa?

    Yes, yes it does make a difference.

    It makes a huge difference.

    All you need do is look up the physical, mental and emotional toll women pay by being pregnant to see why it matters.

    And men have no, NO, legal responsibility to help her with the MANY expenses that arise from that.

    All they have is the same responsibility the woman has when the child is born, take care of it.

    This is biologically one-sided, and it is as fair as it can be as it is.

    Charlie, that's exactly what he's supporting, the ability for men to opt out entirely of helping raise the child in any way.

  20. It's logical for a woman to have complete authority over the decision whether or not to carry to term. Pregnancy affects her health and her job security; it's a normal biological function, yes, but it's also a major health risk (and a potentially fatal one). Complications happen. I deeply believe no woman should be forced by law to remain pregnant against her will. There should be no higher veto than her own as it's potentially her existing, established life at stake. However you rank a fetus, she has seniority.

    Guyperson does raise a strong point, though. It's entirely possible under the present legal system for a man to use protection, sleep with a consenting, sober woman once, never see her again, then receive the tab for the next 18 years of his life. As a sex-positive feminist this does not jibe.

    Fathers should pay child support. They're arranging, with the mother, to help support the child throughout its life and in many cases she's basing her decision of whether or not to carry to term on his partnership. He has made a conscious decision to help support the child and should be held to that (the same of course would hold for women in the same circumstance). Note I say fathers and not only married men - according to common sense this should be common-law friendly and apply to established relationships in general.

    Sperm donors should not pay child support. The courts should weigh whether or not the man in question demonstrated intent to become a father short of sticking it in (i.e. didn't use protection, encouraged her not to abort, cohabited, helped raise the child up to a point). There is a big difference between a man saying he wants sex and a man saying he wants to have a child, and I think the law should work accordingly.


whatsername reserves the right to delete your comment if you choose to act like an asshole, so please engage respectfully