Thursday, June 15, 2006

On men having babies

Okay, so I'd be horribly remiss if I didn't stop in to visit two of our favorite Atlantans, Shaunti Feldhahn and Diane Glass, also known as the AJC's Woman to Woman team. The girls are discussing a fairly timely question: Should fathers be held financially responsible for children born without their consent?

I hate to say it, guys, but, shyeah.

And yeah, I've heard the reasoning, which, on the surface, makes sense. Shaunti's case, as well as that of a lot of MRAs (Men's Rights Advocates) and even otherwise-reasonable people, is that men can't control whether or not a woman has a baby. Women, however, can do that. The right to have an abortion gives women the opportunity to decide, in given circumstances, whether or not to have the kid, and thus if the babydaddy doesn't want to support the kid, she can decide not to have a baby she'll have to raise by herself.

The problem with that argument is that men can't get pregnant.

When I was in college, I didn't have the right to demand a Braille note-taker from the University. Doesn't that suck? All of these other kids could have one; they made the announcement at the beginning of class and everything: if you're blind and need someone to take notes and transcribe them into Braille, the university could provide. Ohhhh, but not for me. If you can see (assuming you don't have some other kind of diability, like a learning disability, which also warrants a note-taker from UGA), you have to take notes your own self. Lazy blind punks.

You might ask yourself what the hell blindness and Braille note-takers have to do with men's rights, and that's fine, because only in my convoluted mind is such a connection readily apparent. But here 'tis: A man doesn't have the right to have an abortion, because men don't get pregnant.

An abortion terminates not a child, but a pregnancy. Now, of course, a side effect of the pregnancy's termination is that the fetus involved doesn't make it to babyhood, but no-baby isn't the purpose of the abortion. No-pregnancy is the purpose of the abortion. If all a woman wanted to do was not have a baby, she could simply give birth and put the baby up for adoption.

And that's where men's rights come in, because while a man can't be pregnant, he can be a father. The vast majority, if not all, pregnancies result from the union of a man and a woman in one way or another, and once that baby has been produced, both father and mother have a right to decide how the kid is raised. In most states, the decision to put a baby up for adoption has to be a unanimous one, agreed to by both parents, and several high-profile adoptions have gone pear-shaped when an absent sperm donor turned up and decided he wanted the kid after all. Issues of consent and support come up only at that point, and not before. Diane mentions a case where a father (unsuccessfully, which I think is a pity) argued that the woman who stole his sperm and purposely impregnated herself without his knowledge should not have a right to child support, and that, I think, is worthy of reconsideration as a seminal (if I may) case on this subject.

What a man can't do is decide what goes on in a woman's body, regardless of whether that body is harboring his sperm. A man can't force a woman's hips to spread. He can't force her hormones to race, her breasts to swell, her feet to swell, her back to ache, her moods to swing, or her vagina to express a watermelon. Those are all things that only a woman experiences during the length of her pregnancy, and her partner/husband/boyfriend/sperm donor can't make the decision for her to keep experiencing them or stop doing it. Only when a woman has made the decision to carry a pregnancy to term does a man's right to keep or not keep his child come into play.

So men, when you're able to carry a baby, carry away. When your girlfriend/wife/woman/what-have-you decides that she doesn't want to be pregnant anymore, and you valiantly take over incubation of the fetus, you can decide whether or not the little peanut becomes a big peanut. But until reproductive technology gets that far, you don't get to make decisions until the sucker's out. And for God's sake, keep it zipped.

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