Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Meanwhile, in Ohio

The patriarchs of the far right have proposed a bill which would make it compulsory for the "father of the fetus" (should be embryo) to give permission for a woman's abortion. If he doesn't give permission she can't have an abortion. The only cases where a woman is left in complete authority over her own body are when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, as documented by the police (or by DNA test in the case of incest) and when the woman's health or life is at risk.

What is the point of this proposed bill? It is obviously an anti-abortion bill and perhaps a fathers' right bill, too. But it doesn't work for many fathers' rights people who actually would like to see the reverse put into a bill, i.e., a requirement that a woman can't give birth without the prospective father's approval. That has to do with child maintenance payments.

I got the link through and the discussion there has veered to a debate over the rights of men not to become fathers. This bill is all about the right of men to become fathers even if it means that the woman is forced into motherhood. A different thing altogether. I have written about this dilemma earlier, and in general I think neither men nor women have the "right" to become parents (because such a "right" would ultimately imply forcing someone else to be the other parent), but that both women and men should have the right not to become parents.

What complicates that argument in a way which makes full equality tricky is that pregnancy takes place in the woman's body. If we had fetal incubators I'd be happy to argue that both the woman who gave her egg and the man who gave his sperm should have equal rights to decide on the pregnancy. But as long as the pregnancy takes place in the woman's body it is she who should have the final say on whether to continue it or not. This does mean that a man doesn't have the same rights to decide on the termination or the continuance of a pregnancy as a woman does. Until those fetal incubators step out of the science-fiction novels we need better contraceptives for men and better education for boys so that they understand the inherent risks in every act of intercourse. Girls are taught that fairly well in many families, though not all.