Friday, July 29, 2011

Forced Birth: A Father's Right?

Welcome to Handmaid's Tale! It's not a dystopia, this time, but an actual proposal by a Fox News medical commentator, Keith Ablow, posted about a week ago as an opinion column:
The abortion debate has left one issue largely off the table: The proper rights of men to prevent the abortion of their children. 
I believe that in those cases in which a man can make a credible claim that he is the father of a developing child in utero, in which he could be a proper custodian of that child, and in which he is willing to take full custody of that child upon its delivery, that the pregnant woman involved should not have the option to abort and should be civilly liable, and possibly criminally liable, for psychological suffering and wrongful death should she proceed to do so.


Allow men who want to be fathers, and who could be good parents, to compel the women they impregnate to bring their children to term.

I love the language. Men "impregnate" women and then "compel" them to bring "their" children to term. Ablow notes, as a quick aside, that his proposal has certain negative consequences for women:
I understand that adopting social policy that gives fathers the right to veto abortions would lead to presently unknown psychological consequences for women forced to carry babies to term. But I don’t know that those consequences are greater than those suffered by men forced to end the lives of their unborn children. 
In Ablow's world no woman can die or become seriously ill from pregnancy or from giving birth! There are only "unknown psychological consequences," probably minor, from being forced to bring to term the child of any man who has successfully impregnated her! The pregnancy does not happen inside her body, the stakes in the pregnancy are identical for both men and women, and, honestly, pregnancy has no physical health risks whatsoever!

But this is one of those chilling and cold-blooded arguments you will get once you define a fertilized egg as a child. The woman has become an incubator for a child and the man has parental rights from the minute the egg and sperm unite. Inside the woman's body. Which means that he has rights to endanger that body if he so wishes.

Indeed, all our Keith thinks a man needs to make is a credible claim that it is his sperm! Any woman can then be forced to give birth. Perhaps even by a rapist, say? Ablow is unclear on that point.

When I began to use the term "forced-birthers" for anti-abortion folks, I never expected that some of them would truly take that term seriously and decide that, yes, indeed, women should be literally forced to give birth, never mind the minor inconveniences they might have to experience.

The logical answer to Ablow (which he does not deserve) is that he can force the birth the minute he uses his very own uterus for it, the minute it is his body which might suffer or die from the pregnancy. Absent those options, he must wait until the artificial uterus is completed.

Though Ablow also offers the usual argument that no woman ever need to be forced to give birth, as long as she simply takes full responsibility for her sexuality:
And I am absolutely certain that no woman needs to become pregnant who wishes not to become pregnant. Women taking full responsibility for their sexual activity and their bodies would mean that no woman would face the prospect of being compelled to bring a child to term.
Which really means that fertile women should not have sex with men, whether willingly or not. Complete abstinence and avoidance of all rape are what "full responsibility for her sexuality" would mean in Ablow's world. Either that, or sterilization. In all other cases women should be prepared to expect possible forced birth consequences.

This guy is a monster.

I'm not discounting the psychological suffering of men who wanted to be fathers and did not become fathers. But the two scenarios Ablow presents are not equivalent, the two sets of costs are not the same, and the human rights aspects of his proposal are monstrous. This is the kind of thing which happens when fertilized eggs are treated as born children.