[Today’s guest post is by across-the-pond SPL supporter Peter Hardy.]
I’m frequently berated with the comment that as a man I’m not allowed to have an opinion on abortion. Occasionally this same sentiment is expressed as a polite suggestion, and we should sympathise where women are worried that this is an attitude that wives should be under their husband’s control. But the overall impression I get is men are dismissed on the basis of their sex as an anti-intellectual manoeuvre to try to shut down critical enquiry on this ideologically-charged topic.
Abortion Is A Mens’ Issue Too
Abortion is absolutely not a woman-only issue. It affects men because every child has a father, it affects men because half of children are male, and it affects men because many of the people involved in abortions, such as doctors are men. There has been a scandal recently about sex-selective abortions, terminations carried out because the parents would rather not have a child of that sex. Some left wing publications (that would normally only have positive things to say about so-called reproductive rights) have come out to condemn it.
While we normally associate this practice with with the Eastern world, countries like China and India where women are sadly viewed as inferior to men, this does also go on, under the radar, in the West. And because women are more highly regarded here, the motivation for a sex-selective abortion becomes one of ‘completing the set’ of having the number of boys and girls you desired, perhaps even in a certain order, rather than to avoid having a girl. And thus while there is only anecdotal evidence for it, I don’t doubt that fetuses are being killed in this country because they are male. And what could be more of an issue for men than that?
One left wing publication, Red Pepper, broaches the issue in its most recent issue. Here, Kate Smurthwaite (who you might know from a very popular clip on YouTube called ‘atheist bitchslap’) says that this is being used by what she calls “The ‘moderate’ end of the anti-choice movement,” to derail the agenda from by shifting the focus to the fetus, excluding the mother from any place of importance.
And this is an important point for us men to note, because although appeal to the fetus is sufficient to show that abortion is wrong, we err when our discourse ignores mothers and their situations. A pro-life movement that ignores real women may still say the right things, but it says them in the wrong way, making us look sexist and out of touch. Smurthwaite doesn’t concede that this is also the case for the pro-choice movement’s exclusion of fathers, but at least she does recognise that the pro-life movement’s focus on gender and disability is no more derailing than the pro-choice’s movement’s focus on cases of rape and incest (I would argue that it is much less so, considering the minute proportion of abortions carried out because of rape or incest).
Treating men as irrelevant to the equation also has significant drawbacks for women’s well-being. As feminist campaigner Catherine McKinnon put it, “abortion facilitates women’s heterosexual availability” and “frees male sexual aggression.” Abortion supporters aren’t doing women any favors by treating abortion as purely a “women’s issue” and ignoring the reality of predatory pro-choice men.
Going back then, the first response when you are challenged for being a pro-life man,
is to explain how much of a man’s issue it is.
One’s Sex Is Irrelevant to One’s Reasons
Even if abortion were just a women’s issue, that wouldn’t mean that men shouldn’t express an opinion on it. To argue that they should not is an ad hominem argument. It is irrelevant to attack the person making an argument—in this case an argument against abortion—rather than the argument itself. This is because there’s no logical relationship between the individual who happens to be articulating an argument and the soundness of that argument.
As an illustration, on a course on ethics, if two exam scripts make exactly the same points the teacher has no right to give lower marks to one person on the basis of their sex, even if that one was talking about the other sex.
Moreover, it is inconsistent for those people who take this line to appreciate the support that men such as myself give for the advancement of education and other rights for women. And ironically, I’ve encountered many women who approve of men saying—as they often do—that us men can’t have an opinion on abortion, which is clearly incoherent.
So the second response when you are challenged for being a pro-life man is that the challenge is essentially sexist because it has no basic in logic.
Ultimately, standing up for the voiceless—for animals, the environment, the disabled, the elderly and the very young—should cross all social divisions, not least of all sex. A man’s place in the abortion debate to act as a father by protecting children. Not just his own, but everyone’s. The very least he should do is talk openly about abortion, and I hope I have given you some reassurance as to why you shouldn’t be afraid of doing so.