[Mb-civic] Men's Abortion Rights By JOHN TIERNEY
michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Jan 11 18:30:50 PST 2006
The New York Times
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January 10, 2006
Men's Abortion Rights
By JOHN TIERNEY
Judge Samuel Alito is a reactionary - at least according to feminists
horrified by his notion that a woman can be required to notify her husband
before an abortion. But Alito's critics in the Senate face two big obstacles
this week if they try to make that label stick.
The first is public opinion. Most Americans tell pollsters that they think a
husband should be notified before an abortion, and the Pennsylvania law that
Alito approved was hardly a draconian version of that principle. It merely
required a woman to say, without presenting any proof, that she'd told her
husband. If she said she feared physical abuse, she was exempted.
The second obstacle is the logic of feminism. Spousal notification has been
denounced as retrograde by the same advocates who have been demanding gender
equality in the workplace and at home. If men are expected to be parents
with equal responsibilities, shouldn't they at least be allowed to discuss
whether to have a child?
This is an easy question for those on the pro-life side of the abortion
debate. They'd like men to be not only notified of pregnancies, but also
given veto power over abortions.
Being pro-choice, I don't agree with that position, but I admire the logic.
It's a gender-neutral policy: if either parent thinks it's wrong to end the
pregnancy, then the pregnancy must proceed.
If the pro-choice side adopted a gender-neutral policy, then either the man
or the woman would have the right to say no to parenthood. I don't know of
anyone advocating that a woman be required to have an abortion, but there's
another right that could be given to a man who impregnates a woman who isn't
his wife. If the woman decided to go ahead and have the child, she would
have to notify him and give him the option early in the pregnancy of
absolving himself of any financial responsibility for the child.
This option to have a "financial abortion" has been advocated by a few
iconoclasts - not all of them men with child-support payments. The term was
coined by Frances Goldscheider, a professor of sociology at Brown University
who studies family issues. She compares the current campaign against
"deadbeat dads" to the punishments once given to "wayward women" for having
"It used to be our daughters we worried about being forced into
inappropriate parenthood, but now it must be our sons," she says. "Men
should not be made to become fathers against their will. They should have
the right Planned Parenthood has claimed for women: 'Every child a wanted
Goldscheider, who's a pro-choice Democrat, has found that her proposal
provokes a rare bipartisan consensus. "Neither the left nor the right like
my egalitarian ideas," she says. "The right's response is that men should be
macho and pay for playing - unless they've gotten burned themselves. The
left's response is that men should pay, period - unless it's their sons."
There is, of course, one big physical inequality between the sexes in this
regard: it's the woman who must either have the abortion or go through the
But as Goldscheider points out, women also have more power than men to
prevent the pregnancy because they have exclusive control over some forms of
contraception. It's not fair, she says, for a woman who lies about being on
the pill to be able to trick a man into marrying her or making child-support
payments for 18 years.
If it were just a question of the woman's rights versus the man's rights,
I'd go along with Goldscheider's proposal. But if the man gets a financial
abortion and the woman goes ahead with the pregnancy, someone else's rights
still need to be considered: the child would suffer because of the parents'
Goldscheider's solution to that problem is for the government to provide
financial support in place of the father. But would this new public subsidy
encourage more single-parent homes? To avoid that risk, I'd rather stick
with the current system, unfair as it is, of making all men pay.
But there's no reason that it couldn't be a little fairer. As Alito ruled,
it's not an undue burden for a wife to notify her husband before an
abortion. And it's not unfair, as Goldscheider proposes, for a single woman
expecting child support to be required to tell the father as soon as she
decides to keep the baby. If men are going to pay to play, they should at
least know the score.
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