Abortion: is it just male chauvinists versus hardline feminists?

I have watched, with growing repulsion, as the reproductive health debate degenerates into nothing more than a gender slinging match with each passing day; Basically, those pro-choice, mostly women and a few metrosexual liberal men, have taken a hard-line stand in which the rest of men are lumped under the ignoble description of being nothing more than neanderthal chauvinists who are pushing for the enslavement of any woman who gets pregnant without intending to and who would like to take away the right of a woman to control what she should carry in her own body. The pro-life group, on the other hand, basically sees those who would commit abortion as murderers who want to deny an innocent baby the very breath of life that they fervently enjoy themselves.

The reason this particular issue raises the ugly head of inequality has to do with several factors, chief among these is the insistence of most governments to decide on abortion, this implies that a woman’s body, her uterus, is not her own but is actually controlled by the state who, incidentally, happen to have a male majority in positions of political leadership and policy formulation. I recall one fierce pro-choice blogger who put it that; there would be howling from all males, liberal or conservative, were the state to move in and claim sovereignty over men’s penises and testicles, according to her, those who profess to be pro-life are only interested in subjugating all women who become pregnant and making them beholden to the state and its archaic male-leaning policies. It is not surprising that pro-life activists often claim that the goal of pro-lifers is not to reduce, or possibly eliminate, abortion, but that  it is geared towards enslaving womenfolk by limiting their freedom to engage in sex because of the “chastisement” that is pregnancy.

So, is abortion really a women’s right issue directly related to a march towards gender parity or is it just a liberal women’s issue being pushed by a few hardcore feminists who, ironically, incessantly harp on the line that men are incapable of understanding this issue and as such do not qualify to render an opinion by virtue of being men? There is even an argument that blocking legal abortions is tantamount to governments ordering all unmarried men be sterilized to prevent pregnancies; I don’t know how many see that as a fitting analogy.

PS. I have created a poll on the same issue, feel free to participate

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  1. #1 by pink m on July 1, 2009 - 1:58 pm

    With all due respect, I normally kick men out of this debate (politicians, metro sexuals, the clergy etc).

    Bearing a child is an extremely private affair, and every woman has the right to decide if and when she will have a baby. Period.
    I guess you can tell I’m pro choice, but I don’t believe it’s an equality issue.

    My take is that we have too many messed up kids already, we don’t need more due to unprepared parenting.

    I hear the pro life arguments about when life begins and what not, but I wonder, are sperms alive already? Does it mean the ones that go to waste are deaths? What about contraception that prevents implantation, yet fertilization has taken place? Should the state ban that too together with abortion?

    I think we should embark on contraception education, legalise abortion because at the end of the day, burying our heads in the sand doesn’t mean abortions won’t happen. Making contraceptives easily available will reduce unnecessary abortions.

    Then, I hate the way men (esp the clergy) act as if women go to abortion clinics singing and get out jumping for joy. Trust me, getting an abortion is the hardest thing ever for most women.

    Phew!!

  2. #2 by Maddog on July 1, 2009 - 4:43 pm

    The above comment reeks of sexism and arrogant dogmatism. It implies that only women can have a valid opinion on the because… PERIOD! So much for being reasonable.

    The anti-life crowd continues to ignore the facts. Abortion involves more than just their bodies. It involves the killing of ANOTHER PERSON. Killing other people to avoid inconvenient or difficult situations is uncivilized.

    Numerous studies have shown that increased usage of contraception leads to MORE unwanted pregnancies and increased demand for abortion. The feminist solution simply aggravates the problem.

    * Increased access to contraception not linked to decrease in numbers of unplanned pregnancies, abortions
    http://www.news-medical.net/?id=20761

    * Habit Persistence and Teen ***: Could Increased Access to Contraception have Unintended Consequences for Teen Pregnancies?
    http://www.econ.duke.edu/~psarcidi/teensex.pdf

    * The Role of Contraception in Increasing Abortion
    http://www.noroomforcontraception.com/Articles/Role-Of-Contraception-Increased-Abortion.htm

    • #3 by wes699 on July 2, 2009 - 9:27 am

      that’s what i try to articulate to pro-choice lobbysts; it will not be seen as a human right’s issue or indeed a basic right to what one can do with their own bodies as long as the hardline feminists make it a “women only” issue. This is especially considering a lot of policy is dictated by the political leadership that is overwhelmingly man. As far as saying abortion and contraception are correlated that is moot; the crux of the matter is that both sides don’t want to listen, no one is accepting a different opinion and in the meantime people die everyday from unsafe abortions while others are saddled with children they can scarcely take care of….. everyone is loosing as long as a middle ground is not arrived at.

      • #4 by The Arbourist on July 5, 2009 - 6:54 pm

        Well, giving birth is a woman only affair. Certainly men can be involved in the process, but the heavy lifting remains the woman’s burden.

        One can understand feminist objections to male opinion as a reaction to patriarchal nature of our society. Women have, and still are marginalized and therefore not ready for this sort of ‘sharing’ as it would be inherently biased.

        The abortion/contraception link is suspect at best.

        One must be careful not to commit the grey fallacy which is to conclude that the right answer to a given problem lies between the two opposing points of view.

        Either a woman has full personal autonomy, or she does not.

        The autonomy perspective –

        http://deadwildroses.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/abortion-an-ar…nership-part-3

        and of course the fetus fallacy which Maddog so diligently regurgitates dealt with here –

        http://deadwildroses.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/debunking-anti…-focus-fallacy/

      • #5 by wes699 on July 6, 2009 - 11:38 am

        While I do not subscribe to Maddog’s views in totality, I similarly do not agree with the concept of the grey fallacy and this is simply because I believe the answer is never in black and white; there is no way you can you can allude to women’s historical marginalization as the prime instigation for the push to have abortion be an issue on which only females should have an opinion. How can this be so when you consider that the very act of conception happens between a man and a woman? Do you mean to say a man should have no power to determine whether or not a foetus, that could be his son or daughter in a few months, should live? Women will only have full personal autonomy when the very act of conception is autonomous too and if the act of abortion does not arguably potentially constitute the snuffing out of another human being’s life.

      • #6 by The Arbourist on July 6, 2009 - 11:12 pm

  3. #7 by pink m on July 2, 2009 - 2:13 pm

    @maddog so, will banning abortion ensure no one aborts from now henceforth? No. Does preaching abstinence mean kids will stop having sex before marriage? I don’t think so.

    The best we can do is make the best of a situation we’re in now. Reduce what we can. Standing on top of trees calling women who abort murderers won’t solve the problem.
    Moral issues are moral issues and no amount of legislation will change what it is.

  4. #8 by pink m on July 2, 2009 - 2:15 pm

    My saying only women should debate this is based on the fact that men seem to be so passionate about it, yet none fully understands the pain a woman will go through before aborting that child. They speak from the outside.

    The pro life women aren’t as passionate as the men. Calling women names and what not

  5. #9 by The Arbourist on July 6, 2009 - 11:33 pm

    Wes699 said:

    “I believe the answer is never in black and white;”

    Which is what the grey fallacy is all about. Binary thinking can be dangerous and must be guarded against, however, sometimes a compromise also leads to less than ideal results as well.

    “Do you mean to say a man should have no power to determine whether or not a foetus, that could be his son or daughter in a few months, should live”

    I unequivocally say that men should have no power over what goes on with a woman’s body. Anything less reduces the status of females to chattel.

    “Women will only have full personal autonomy when the very act of conception is autonomous too and if the act of abortion does not arguably potentially constitute the snuffing out of another human being’s life.”

    So if I read this right, a woman is full autonomy until she has sex. After having sex then she loses the autonomy over her body because a blastocyst may have implanted in the lining of her uterus?

    No. I do not think women lose the right to their bodily autonomy at *any* time. Her right to decide what goes on in her uterus takes precedence over any free-rider may take up residence there.

    Consider some of the implications then of taking away a woman’s rights to her bodily autonomy. If she cannot make reproductive choices, what choices to we allow her to make? Should the state legislate against women who drink or smoke during pregnancy? Should they ever be incarcerated because they could be endangering their child?

    The choice must remain fully with the woman if we wish for her to maintain her full bodily autonomy.

    • #10 by wes699 on July 7, 2009 - 11:51 am

      The way this debate is taking shape is erroneously giving the impression that I am advocating the shackling of women when it comes to what they want to do with their bodies, that is not the case. What I am trying to put across is the fact that pregnancy does not occur in a vacuum nor in isolation; it involves a man who, in my unqualified opinion, should have the opportunity to assert his right as a would be father, anything less than this reduces men to mere “sperm dispensers”, I personally would be very bothered if I were to find out my partner conceived and chose to have an abortion without seeing the need to inform me or ask my take on the situation.

      It is also arguable whether or not the whole concept of autonomy over one’s body is just another idealistic but unrealistic right; it doesn’t matter the gender but no one has full autonomy over one’s body, otherwise the state would allow the use of hard drugs such as cocaine, not try to regulate use of tobacco and alcohol and would not view attempted suicide as an offence.

      As for saying that not allowing women full discretion in reproductive choices gives her nothing else to do, that I find absurd because, unless it is a case of rape, she has the choice to use contraception or not have sex at all; as soon as an adult willingly engages in sexual intercourse they introduce a slew of new considerations including the involvement of another person (a man) and the possibility of a moral/ethical question in determining at what point what she carries becomes a human being (whether its a blastocyst, zygote, foetus etc)

      • #11 by The Arbourist on July 8, 2009 - 7:21 am

        “I personally would be very bothered if I were to find out my partner conceived and chose to have an abortion without seeing the need to inform me or ask my take on the situation.”

        I would as well, but then I would also have to acquiesce to my partners choice as she is the one doing birthing. It is an unequal distribution of labour, therefore necessarily an unequal distribution of rights.

        “It is also arguable whether or not the whole concept of autonomy over one’s body is just another idealistic but unrealistic right”

        I agree it is arguable. I would rather err in favour of a woman’s choice rather than having the state intervene when it comes to what happens to be growing in her body.

        “unless it is a case of rape, she has the choice to use contraception or not have sex at all; as soon as an adult willingly engages in sexual intercourse they introduce a slew of new considerations”

        So, females if they really want to be responsible should not have sex? Contraception is not %100 percent reliable after-all. And realistically, how many adults only engage in sex for procreation?

        I’m curious as to why the state does not allow hard drugs, or at the very least legalize and tax them, it would be very profitable and much safer for society overall. The ‘war on drugs’ is clearly an abysmal failure and really does not address the root causes of drug abuse poverty and social inequality.

        Again, to me either a woman has say over her body, or not.

        You have raised many excellent points, and I will continue to think about the issue. I appreciate the charitable, civil approach you have taken in responding to my posts and arguments.

  6. #12 by Maddog on July 10, 2009 - 4:47 pm

    The Arbourist said: “Again, to me either a woman has say over her body, or not.”

    Well, the question is NOT that simple. The unborn child has a right to life, over which no woman has any personal authority to take away.

    In answer to the question whether making abortion illegal will make it stop altogether, I would say that is really beside the point. We have laws against murder, drug abuse, and all sorts of other crimes. But these crimes continue to occur and, in the case of drug abuse, seem to even increase. Does that mean we should decriminalize all these criminal acts? Such logic will lead to absurd conclusions.

    The bottom line is that a group — whether they be females or whatever — has NO right whatsoever to monopolize the debate on abortion. There are persons OUTSIDE of that group whose lives are at stake. To exclude others from participating on equal terms in the debate is simply an attempt to silence dissent and quell legitimate participation. it isn’t rational discussion. It’s just bullying on the part of the feminists who want to control the debate.

    Sorry, but that won’t happen.

    And trying to depict pro-life males as looking down on women is no more than an ad hominem argument. Try to use reason, not caricatures, please.

    • #13 by The Arbourist on July 11, 2009 - 3:18 pm

      “Try to use reason, not caricatures, please.”

      Check.

      “The unborn child has a right to life” –

      This phrase is not only wrong, but a blatant mischaracterization of the fetus/mother relationship. As madamab so succintly frames this particular anti-choice canard:

      (http://madamab.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/life-vs-life-why-the-abortion-issue-rules-us-all/) (for the full article)

      “Technically, one could claim that life begins at conception. But what type of life is it at that point? It is potential life. One cannot argue that a zygote thinks, breathes, eats, or does any of the things that would make it a person. The potential human cannot do any of those things by itself, reliably, until it has reached the age of about 30 weeks. Until that time, it is not a life that can survive without its mother’s body.

      Consider the life of a woman, who has been thinking, breathing, eating, and loving her family and friends for many years. Then, consider the small clump of cells living inside this woman. In a real scientific sense, how can those “lives” be remotely equivalent? Using the term “life” to equate the two, as is a regular practice of the anti-abortion movement, is acutely dishonest, and there is nothing scientific about it. As for an abortion of a baby that can live outside its mother’s body, that should also be the woman’s decision.”

      “In answer to the question whether making abortion illegal will make it stop altogether, I would say that is really beside the point.”

      Exactly. Marginalizing women is the default anti-choice position. Let us restrict access to abortion as it appeals to our (somewhat skewed) morals. Concomitantly, abortions will still happen at roughly the same rate, just in more stressful and more likely unsafe conditions. Women lose, the acceptable, default position in our society.

      “To exclude others from participating on equal terms in the debate is simply an attempt to silence dissent and quell legitimate participation.”

      Woo. Feeling like your opinion is not worth or valued quite as much? A touch of unfairness perhaps as your hetronormative assumptions are challenged? You do not get to play the egalitarian card; especially on female reproductive issues. Participation and power in society has never been equal, nor will it be until the patriarchal structure of society has been cast off. Consequently the ‘feminist bullying’ you misidentify is merely women taking a stand that begins a movement toward an egalitarian balance in our society.

      “and trying to depict pro-life males as looking down on women”

      Why would I need to depict when one needs only to look at the virulent anti-female arguments put forth by pro-choice men and women? It is most certainly not a ad hominem, but a statement of fact.

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