At Unequally Yoked, a reader writes in:
As a pro-choicer do you believe a man should have the right to opt out of parental responsibilities? It seems that if a woman has the right to choose whether or not she is to become a parent then a man should have that same right as well. Not trying to be a jerk just wondering if any pro-choicers have thought about this. Why should a man be held responsible for a choice he didn’t make?
He didn’t ask me, but I’ll respond anyway. :-)
I think that men and women should both have the absolute, non-negotiable right to do whatever they want with their own bodies to prevent pregnancy. So men and women both have the right to abstain from sex, to have sex but abstain from penis-in-vagina sex, to use whatever birth control on their own body that they want, etc.. Absolutely equal.
I also believe that once a child is born, both parents, regardless of sex, are responsible for that child. If they both agree to give the child up for adoption, then that’s fine; if either one of them wants to raise the child, then the other one should pay child support. Again, absolutely equal.
The inequality that exists is that women can get pregnant and men can’t; but that inequality is created by biology, not by biased laws. Arguably, this gives women an advantage (they can choose an abortion, and because they can keep a pregnancy secret from the father). But it also gives women a lot of disadvantages — even a pregnancy that goes well is physically and mentally stressful for most women, and if the pregnancy doesn’t go well it can be many months of suffering, and possibly even permanent injury or death. Men don’t face that problem.
So there is a biological inequality there; but it disadvantages women and men both.
The “choice for men” position also causes practical problems that legal abortion does not.
1) Studies have found that the weaker a state’s child support laws, the higher the number of single mothers.
If weak child support laws lead to an increase in single motherhood, then what would a law saying that men bear absolutely no responsibility do? We’d have an explosion of single motherhood, way worse than what we’ve already seen. That’s not a problem caused by legal abortion, but it is a problem that would be caused by giving men a “get out parental responsibility free” card.
2) When a woman has an abortion, the fetus dies before ever becoming a person (in virtually all abortions, including most late-term abortions, the brain’s cerebral cortex isn’t even functioning yet, due to the lack of dendritic spines). In contrast, deadbeat parents cause deprivation and suffering to existing, real people with functioning brains.
To sum up:
The pro-choice status quo is one in which women and men are legally equal, when it comes to reproduction. The inequality that exists is caused by biology, not unequal laws, and disadvantages both sexes, not only men. And unlike legal abortion, so-called “choice for men” would have very bad consequences for both society and for children.