Soup Nazi Approach to Sex

Soup Nazi Approach to Sex September 16, 2011

An anonymous commenter asked:

This is a little off topic but as a pro-choicer do you believe a man should have the right to opt out of parental responsibilities? It seems that if a woman has the right to choose whether or not she is to become a parent then a man should have that same right as well. Not trying to be a jerk just wondering if any pro-choicers have thought about this. Why should a man be held responsible for a choice he didn’t make?

I’m pulling this out as its own post, because I don’t want an abortion discussion to start eclipsing the transhumanism/ethics discussion in the other thread. And frankly, I don’t really want this post to become open season on abortion arguments, so I’d really like it if commenters limited themselves to the scope of the question.

Ok, on to my answer. There’s a really easy way for men (and women) to opt out of parental responsibilities, and it’s called not having sex. If you choose to have intercourse, you can’t opt-out of responsibility any more than you can opt-out of an STI if your protection fails or you used it improperly. Wearing a seatbelt and taking appropriate precautions doesn’t let you opt-out of being injured in a car accident, it just improves your odds. If you have consensual sex with a woman and she gets pregnant, no matter how careful you were, you’re on the hook for child support or half the cost of the abortion, depending on her choice.

If you can’t tolerate a risk of either of those responsibilities, good news! No one ever died from not having sex. If you are willing to be on the hook for one of either child support or an abortion, but one of those strikes you as practically or ethically unconscionable, you’ve still got options: never have sex with someone if you disagree with them about how to handle an unexpected pregnancy.

This is also my solution to casual sex culture, by the way. Fine, go have sex with people whose names you don’t know, but only if you’ve already had a conversation about your respective feelings about abortion. Don’t feel comfortable enough to have that conversation with a stranger? Then no sex for you! Too tipsy to get through the chat? No sex for you! The other person brushes you off when you bring it up? No sex for you (and what a lucky miss)! Clear that hurdle, and we can get into discussions about consent and communication and not objectifying or disrespecting your partner (and I don’t buy into the ‘it’s ok if we’re both treating each other as sex objects’ argument). But if you don’t clear agreeing-on-abortion hurdle, tough beans.

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  • Botch

    Got it. So if a woman chooses to murder her baby, then the father has no say in it. Meanwhile, if a woman decides to deliberately sabotage birth control, then the father is on the hook forever.Sounds like only one party gets to "opt out of parental responsibilities" once a pregnancy has begun. Why?And dare I ask for your thoughts on child custody?

  • ALS

    For some reason this reminds me a little of conservative arguments about health insurance: "Well, you should have thought of the risks beforehand!" Yes, you should have, but assume that you didn't. What then?That is to say, I think you dodged the trickier part of the question. Let's say something happened and conception occurs without a prior discussion about abortion. You seem to suggest that the father is on the hook for any resulting child, right? What about if the woman says unequivocally that she WOULD have an abortion if she got pregnant, then changed her mind? Is the father still on the hook for having chosen to have sex? I know this feels a little like a cheap question, but the issue at hand is given that two parties are involved in conception, and current law allows one party to choose whether or not to terminate the pregancy, should (morally, etc.) the other party also be allowed some say? Allowing of course for the much greater role of the mother in childbearing.Adam

  • This sounds exactly like the "pro-life" response to women who have abortions. Didn't want a baby? You shouldn't have had sex. So this argument is ok to use for men, but not women? If it weren't for the fact that child support is actually for the good of the child (not the woman) I would say men should have a right to irrevocably relinquish all parental rights and responsibilities early in the pregnancy (early enough for an abortion to then happen if the woman so chooses), although they should pay half of the costs of an abortion (including lost work time and such). While the man's parental duties do not affect his body and health the way going through pregnancy does, child support payments are extremely life altering in some cases and thus to be fair (or the closest we can come to fair in our biological situation), both the man and the woman should have a choice in the matter. (Even pro-life women are able to give the child up for adoption if they don't want the financial responsibility, but if they choose to keep it, the man doesn't have a similar option).Unfortunately, it is difficult to raise a child with the support of only one parent, and thus, the question is really one of balancing a man's right to choose not to be a father against the child's right to the resources of two parents, and so I waiver back and forth on this question. One thing that makes me lean towards allowing men to opt out is the fact that we do allow single people to adopt children or have kids with donor sperm, and they only legally have the right to the resources of one parent.Anyway, I think the question is a lot more complicated than you want it to be, and your answer makes you sound like a pro-lifer, except you are placing the burden of not having sex on men instead of women.

  • Anonymous

    Leaving aside the question of whether "casual sex culture" needs a solution, I don't understand why the woman's choice is being elevated like this. Why is it that she and only she gets to choose whether to have the baby, given that this choice has (almost) equally big effects on the father? Yes, it would be wise to clear that hurdle before having sex or choose to go without if the risk is unacceptable, but god knows that's exactly the kind of argument that use against the availability of abortion in the first place. "Don't want to be on the hook with a pregnancy? Don't have sex!"Why does the pro-choice movement cherish a woman's ability to have sex and not have to deal with the possible consequences (pregnancy), and at the same time want to limit the ability of a man to have sex without having to deal with the possible consequences (child support)?And for the record, sex is an emotional and physical need, and yes, not getting any can be bad for your health. To dismiss it so flippantly is to display staggering ignorance about the kinds of things that contribute to health and well-being. (Did you know that loneliness, for example, is as likely to kill you as smoking, and twice as likely as obesity?) Unless… maybe this is just the same old, tired, unthinking sex-negativity behind the religious right's opposition to, say, the HPV vaccine?So, to rephrase the question, what's the difference between your brand of sex-negativity and the kind that wants to punish sexually active women with interminable pregnancies?

  • Anonymous

    Leah, I think a lot of people are going to nitpick this, but I want to thank you for taking a stand for personal accountability.Way too little of that around IMHO.

  • Botch

    I guess I should clarify that I don't think your double-standard is intrinsically wrong, Leah, just that you have some explaining to do.

  • I ditto on the personal accountability argument.

  • "they should pay half of the costs of an abortion (including lost work time and such)"Thus incentivising men to seek out women in low paying jobs and the unemployed… Interesting.I'm kinda with Leah on this, it isn't simply the 18+ years of paying for the child that is at stake, it is the lack of autonomy that comes from pregnancy that makes men and women different in the abortion discussion.As soon as we can rent a womb, or implant a young foetus into a man to carry, then men get equal choice on keeping the child. But only with the woman's agreement. As long as it resides within a woman's body it is an intolerable invasion of her privacy and autonomy to force her to do something against her will. (Sometimes it's hard to square these things with my generally libertarian outlook but this one seems to fit quite nicely.)

  • dbp

    Some here seem to be stuck on the idea that the woman should be allowed to choose to abort. That's not the issue in this particular discussion. The issue is, if the woman chooses NOT to abort, why should the husband not have a choice of her own? Whatever the argument is for a woman being able to choose what relates to her own body and future, why is the same argument not applied to men? It would seem to me that the logically consistent response would be keljopy's suggestion: the man gets the same period as the woman in choosing whether to be a parent to the child, with his maximum responsibility during that period being to bear a financial burden deemed reasonably commensurate with the woman's burden if she should choose to abort (whether she actually does or not).I say this, by the way, as being opposed both to abortion and to the prospect of a man abdicating his natural responsibility should this scheme be implemented.

  • dbp

    Heh, should be, "why should the husband not have a choice of HIS own." I'm at present thinking in terms of anything but traditional forms of husbandhood.Also, when I said "maximum responsibility," obviously if the time elapses and he hasn't made such a choice, he would be on the hook for all the normal obligations of parenthood. However, if he does make the choice to divest himself of the child, it doesn't make a lot of logical sense to compel him to do any more than this "maximum responsibility."

  • Thanks dbp, while my comment stands I now see that I missed this factor out of it.How about ALL (consensual) sex is preceded by having a contract where both/all parties state their intent should a pregnancy result from the act. That way neither party would have to pay (man) nor have an abortion (woman) should the partner's choice be opposed to theirs since they could refuse to have sex. There could be a standing contract in society in lieu of one being signed.Then we can have the intense debate about what the standing contract should be…

  • "As long as it resides within a woman's body it is an intolerable invasion of her privacy and autonomy to force her to do something against her will."To clarify, I'm not at all promoting forcing a woman to do anything. If a man did not want to legally be a father, that would leave the woman the choice to either raise the child without support (financial or otherwise) from a second parent or abort the child (or of course carry it to term and give it up for adoption). Basically she would have the same choice as she currently has, but the man would also have a choice as to his future.

  • Patrick

    In general, if two people engage in an activity that causes harm, they are equally responsible for the harm caused (or proportionally responsible for the proportion that was their fault). If one person has the ability to mitigate that harm, they are responsible for doing so. Costs are then divided based on the actual harm that occurred, not the potential harm without mitigation. If someone could mitigate, but chooses not to do so, costs are still divided based on the theoretical outcome that would have happened if they'd mitigated.This is the general legal rule of shared responsibility in a context-free environment.So for example, lets say I hire a landscaper to plant a tree in my yard. We each contribute to choosing its location, but like idiots, we put it too close to a water main. Assume for the sake of argument that we are equally responsible for this error (I couldn't come up with a more perfect hypothetical on the fly). If we leave the tree in place, it will cause $50,000 in damages to my property, neighboring property, and city property. If we remove the tree, it will cost $500. Only I can remove the tree, because its on my property (I can employ the landscaper, but he can't remove this tree without my permission).Suppose I refuse to allow the tree to be removed. When the damage happens, the landscaper will be responsible for half of the damage that would have occurred if I had mitigated, so $250. I'd be on the hook for the remaining $47,750.The reason this doesn't apply to abortion has NOTHING to do with personal responsibility. Structurally, it can't.It has to do with valuing female autonomy, as far as I can tell.And I'm sort of ok with that. I don't much mind that men take on extra legal responsibility above and beyond that which women take on, given the societal realities of gender relations and sexual equality, and the physical realities of pregnancy and birth.But… that IS what's happening. Other values, separate from personal responsibility, are being used to counteract norms of personal responsibility and to impose a legal regime that is atypical under normal personal responsibility standards.

  • Would you support the legal ability for men to get a binding agreement from a prospective sex partner that if there's a pregnancy, they will only be liable for abortion costs and not child support costs?

  • Patrick

    That should read $49,750. I'm an idiot.

  • dbp

    Another idea: if keljopy's suggestion is not adopted, I think it would at the very least be more defensible (as a matter of logical consistency, not natural law or anything else) if there is a provision for a father to choose to keep the baby even if the woman does not want to– perhaps with the woman's 'child support' obligation being reduced or eliminated in compensation for the 'service' she provides of carrying the child to term and giving birth.Either way seems to me to entail less unbalance than the current situation. If a pro-choicer doesn't like the implications of either option, a re-examination of premises is perhaps in order…

  • David

    Cosigning dpb's 9/16 12:30 pm comment and March Hare's 9/16 12:41 pm comment tip to toe.Are we allowed to ask question of a more general nature on posts not directly related to atheism or religion? There is a brief argument against atheism I read recently and I am curious to hear some atheists reply to it.

  • David

    One way to frame this is to say that if a man is not free to impose a child on a woman, she cannot be free to impose a child on him. They share their decision to have had sex in common; their responsibility in that matter is equal. There is no reason to make a man's responsibility contingent upon a woman's decision, there is no reason to hold men more responsible than women, and there is no reason to value a woman's autonomy more than a man's. Our current setup is pure female privilege and pure hypocrisy and anyone who wants a truly pro-choice society must acknowledge this in order to remain consistent. There is no qualitative difference in this matter between men and women that makes a woman's choice more valid than a man's. If there is, I would certainly like to know about it because I've yet to hear a compelling case.We say that it is abhorrent for a man to abandon a child. But why do we not say instead that it is wrong for a woman to choose to bring a child into existence knowing it will not have its father or otherwise will not have adequate provision? After all, it is her choice! Did he abandon the child, or did she fail to make *her* choice responsibly? Let her make *her* choice, and let *her* take responsibility for it. Likewise, let him make *his* choice, and let *him* take responsibility for it. She gets to choose, post-conception, whether to be a mother. He gets to choose, post-conception, whether to be a father. There is no reason in our modern age to consider women more equal than men. Let's finally be rid of this hateful, patriarchal nonsense and move to the next step of our evolution so that men, too, can finally be free of their shackles….Ladies of the pro-choice camp, do you think this is a sick line of argument? It is. Now you see what pro-choice looks like to us. But if you wish to be consistent – if you wish, in fact, to have integrity – you must embrace both sides of the equation. The current setup is half-assed thinking, intellectual laziness, female privilege and hypocrisy – no more and no less.

  • David

    The most bizarre thing about the pro-choice position is that it gives women the power to define what it is and is not a child – it gives them the power to define reality.This can be seen in the fact that a woman can destroy my child without my consent, but can also impose my child upon me without my consent. She alone defines the reality. She alone decides whether the thing inside her matters. If she says it is a child, behold! reality itself honors her wishes and now the thing inside her belly has human significance. I am now bound to it as a father. If she says it is not a child, behold! reality itself, once again, does her bidding. I now have no responsibility to the thing whatsoever, for it is not a child, but merely a blob of tissue, not unlike a cancer. The woman herself has made it so. Surely women do not have the power to change something from non-child to child or from child to non-child. And surely something as important as defining that which qualifies as human, as one of us, is not one that should be left in the hand of any one individual, male or female. It is a question that belongs properly to the society, and only to the society, for it is the *responsibility* of society to safeguard all its citizens. Therefore it, and it alone, must retain the power to *define* who its citizens are. The pro-choice position, by contrast, purports to acknowledge a power women have always had, but about which we never knew until 1973, to will the fetus into a child, or to will it into a cancer that must be removed. Indeed, the fetus itself obeys the will of its mother, and becomes what she wishes. She changes its very substance merely by an act of the will – a real transubstantiation of the fetus. Clearly, we men, to whom nature has not seen fit to grant this privileged power, must not only accept whatever decision the woman makes, which must, of necessity, be good, we must recognize something further, a far more weighty truth which has only begun to crystallize in our minds, decades after the just decision of Roe v. Wade: that women, in fact, are goddesses, who have the power to make insubstantial things into human beings.At last, we grasp the full import of Roe v. Wade, and can live according to the truth.

  • Assuming all else is equal — that is, the father contributes equal time/effort/resources to the raising of the child, which is sadly not as common as it ought to be — then, yeah, the potential father would have equal say in what happens to the potential child. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that pregnancy itself is a risk/responsibility taken on entirely by the woman in this situation. That's 9 months of another being (whether you believe that to be a full-fledged person or a mere fetus) basically taking over her body, being the focus of every physical decision she makes. That's the health risks inherent in even normal pregnancy and birth. That's the medical exams and birth plans and pain and scarring. And that's assuming that the act that resulted in pregnancy was consensual and that there are no major health risks right off the bat. All being equal, I would say: sure, the man in this situation should have equal say in any decisions involving children or potential children. But all is *not* equal. Basic biology is that women deal with all of the effects & risks of pregnancy. Should a woman consider her partner's wishes in the event of unplanned pregnancy? Certainly. But in the end it is ultimately her decision, because it is *her* body that will be doing the carrying & birthing.

  • Hibernia86

    David, I agree with a lot of what you say, but your anger is going to turn a lot of people off. Presentation matters.I am glad however that there is a large number of people on this thread that agree that both members of a couple should have reproductive rights. Maybe the idea is becoming a little more mainstreme. As has been pointed out before, the pro-life arguments against women's reproductive rights (why don't you just keep your legs closed?) are exactly the same ones that some women on this thread are using against the men. Hopefully pointing this out will make it easier to see what is wrong with that argument.There are actually several ways you could give reproductive rights to men, but keljopy's idea is one that would probably gather the most support here. Men would only be allowed to have an "abortion" when the women are and the woman could terminate the pregnancy if she didn't want to raise the child alone. Having a child should be a joint decision, not one that a single person makes against the wishes of the person they are dating. It is pretty mean to force someone to have a child against their will, something that feminist theory does touch on quite a lot (but this time applies to people besides females).I think part of the problem here is that people view bodily autonomy only in terms of things inside the body. Things outside the body affect bodily autonomy just as much. No one would say "Well it is unfortunate that blacks were slaves in the past, but at least they weren't vaccinated against their will! That would be absolutely horrible!" Most people understand that slavery is worse than a vaccination. The point here is that pregnancy can be bad if you aren't ready for it, but being forced to quit college and spend your life working minimum wage jobs to support the kid you had too early is bad too. If women can choose to not get stuck with an accidental pregnancy, then men should be allowed to as well.

  • Hibernia86

    looloolooweez, first, wouldn't your example only work for a father who wants to have the kid and the mother doesn't? If it is the other way around and the father doesn't want to have a kid and the mother does then why should the father have to submit to the woman going through something you describe as dangerous? Shouldn't he be able to say "You can go through the pregnancy if you want, but I never consented to it so you will be responsible for the kid yourself." Why should he held responsible for the woman going through the pregnancy when there is the safe alternative of a first trimester abortion?Second of all, medical science is making birth safer than it was in the past and first trimester abortions only take a few minutes to do. I understand that pregnancy and abortion are heavy topics, but so is having an child before you are ready. It can send you into povery and create life long financial and emotional responsibilities. So it is a serious thing and I feel that he should have some rights to reproductive freedom. We need to take both genders into account.

  • You have an interesting position. Even if a couple do have this discussion about whether they both agree on abortion, either party may change their mind when the rubber meets the road. The woman may choose to either abort or keep despite the man's pleading. And a man may pressure her to follow his wishes despite previous promises.It would seem the only way to make this binding would be to have a non-breakable contract (binding in a court of law), that any failed contraception would result in a certain course of action. The "choice" would be made at one point of time and could not be changed for all subsequent sexual encounters without an addendum.Those choosing to not abort any child would need to establish that the man would provide an optimal environment for the child to be raised, and since children do far better in two parent homes, essentially for the life of the child the man would be bound to that woman. This is essentially a marriage.The other option of aborting all failed contraception occurrences would not be life-long and would essentially be a contract of temporary sexual partnership with the agreement to provide money for an abortion if the said situation rises. Sounds like a concubine or prostitute arrangement.This, of course, ignores that the pro-choice position rests on the woman deciding if the fetus is a human (instead of science).

  • However, I like your attitude that pregnancy is not something that just zaps you against your will. Many of your commenters keeps saying "but a child takes so much effort – you shouldn't be forced to deal with that." No you shouldn't and there is a very easy way to not deal with that that which you touch on – simply say NO.I think the main issue is you are telling Men to say no (good), but forgetting that women have the RIGHT to say NO too. No woman should be forced to have sex.If you choose abstinence you:- don't involve yourself in an unhealthy relationship (pre-maritial sexual encounters are shown to greatly effect mental health)- have essentially no risk of STDs- have no side effects from the Pill (a class 1 carcinogen that disrupts a woman's cycle and can cause reduced libido, acne, weight gain, mood swings, migraines, blood clots, and death)- have no invasive procedure that interrupts the bodies natural cycle.- choose to have a healthy relationship with those of the opposite sex, not using them, but accepting their whole person (fertility and all).

  • David

    Hibernia86,I hear what you are saying, but sometimes I feel that the only way to get a hearing as a guy is to speak forcefully. If you want to raise concerns about the lives of women, you only have to whisper, because everyone is listening and waiting to hear it. In our thoroughly feminist culture, we are finely attuned to the needs of women. And that's fine. But feminism has cast men as the bad guys, and has pervaded the culture, so that we also cast men as the bad guys – or let's say, the more guilty sex, the less innocent sex, the more harmful sex, the less deserving sex. So it seems to me people are toughened in their attitudes toward men. At any rate, if you advance a concern on behalf of men, you are likely to hear, "What? You're men! Who cares?" and you will feel (or at least I feel) that being really nice isn't going to get you anywhere.Why does a woman shout at her husband? She does not feel she is being heard. We naturally lower our voices as we realize there is no need to expend so much energy.I just want to be clear – I am not pro-choice at all. I agree with Leah that the 'choice' properly belongs to an earlier point on the timeline, that is, any point prior to conception. However, it is simply not consistent to argue that women on the one hand should have what we today call 'choice', and that men should not have precisely the same 'choice' – that is, whether to assume the responsibilities of parenthood, whatever the wishes of the other person. Again, I say that anyone who wishes to advance this position needs first to demonstrate a clear and relevant qualitative difference between men and women that justifies the double standard. The fact, for example, that it is the woman who carries the child to term is not relevant, because no one is arguing that women should be forced to carry children to term against their will. But more than this I am not pro-choice simply because I do not think women have supernatural powers. That may sound glib but I do believe that is only the logical corollary of the pro-choice position: that a woman has the power to change the very substance, in the philosophical sense, of the thing that is inside her womb. The fetus either is or is not a child; surely a woman cannot make it one thing or another merely by an act of the will. Today she decides it is a child, and now she is a mother and he a father and the thing inside her belly is a public concern. Tomorrow she gets nervous and gets an abortion; but we do not say she committed murder. We say the thing inside her is not a child. One day she was a mother, the next the unwitting host of a life-draining parasite. What changed? Only her will. Does this sound rational to anyone, that women – and believe me, I am quite fond of women, I do not mean to denigrate them – have supernatural powers? And who can reasonably deny that this is the implication of the pro-choice position?

  • David

    Hence I consider the pro-choice position nothing more than moral and intellectual sloth, and one of a particularly atrocious kind. Oh, I am sure I sound angry, but I'm not; I'm only calling things exactly what they are. Consider: the question at hand is whether a certain thing (in this case the fetus) is human. According to what noble Western tradition has it ever been left in the hands of any one person to answer so vital a question *privately*? If a woman can decide whether a fetus is human, on what rational grounds can one object to my deciding for myself whether something – or someone – else is human? I may know someone I really don't like, but I can't kill him and say, "Well, you see, his nature was contingent upon my will, and I willed that he not be human any more, so that I have done no wrong to kill him." If I should ever be so crude and sick as to advance such an argument, I will rightly hear in response, "And just who the hell are you to make such a decision?" People will naturally think I am wildly narcissistic, that I have quite a grandiose sense of my own self and power. And they would be right. Somehow, however, the wild narcissism of our having privatized, so to speak, the abortion question eludes us. Perhaps this is only because a not-yet-developed fetus has less of a visceral impact on us than a fully formed human being. This does not mean, however, that such an objectively important question belongs in the hands of any one person.We understand that wherever the question of something's humanity comes up, it belongs to the society, and the society alone, to answer that question decisively. And so the society can only decide that fetuses are human, and thus entitled to human protection – or they are not. It is a sick, lazy, and selfish society – one that is quite frankly on its way out the door – that abdicates its duty in answering vigorously and thoroughly the question of the humanity of anything we encounter.There is no exaggeration here. Only reason. I know I am only restating my position so I will stop here. Just felt it was worth saying again! LOL – Of course, it's my position.

  • Patrick

    David- At least learn what pro choice people think before you attack them. No one thinks that the mother magically transforms a fetus from a person into a non person and back again through an act of will. Pro choice people think that "person" isn't an appropriate label for a fetus, end of story. From there, what's done to it is a decision for the person its inside of.And if we're going to pick out inconsistencies in people's opinions about abortion… how about all the people who claim to believe that a fertilized egg is a person, and yet who don't give a toss about the natural abortion rate of fertilized eggs? Its about 30%. If a fertilized egg is a human being, that makes implantation failure the single greatest cause of human death on the planet. And yet the amount of research money going into preventing these deaths is approximately zero dollars and zero cents, American. I wonder why that is.

  • Not to turn this into an abortion debate, but to respond to your views David, you say "the question at hand is whether a certain thing (in this case the fetus) is human"; but I, and I believe a large number of other pro-choice people as well, disagree that this is the question.I fully agree that a fetus is human. So is a cancer found in a human body. I have no issue removing either if they are inhabiting my body as neither a tumor nor an early to mid stage fetus has a functioning neocortex and thus neither is a person possessing rights, such as a right to life. (And this completely sidesteps the argument over whether one persons right to life would trump another's right to bodily autonomy, which if you look at organ/marrow/blood donation, society has made a clear choice in that as well).In your scenario of the woman getting the abortion, nothing changed, there was never a child, only a fetus that would have eventually become a child had she continued to term. Yes, people who miscarry a pregnancy may grieve, but they are grieving the loss of something expected (a future child), rather than an actual person that existed.

  • Anonymous

    Leah, *thank you* for this post. I have no interest in engaging in an active conversation on this, but I think you're absolutely right.

  • – B ..

    1. Sex and contraception are choices for individuals. It takes two to tango but either can stop the music at any time.2. If you ever face an unintended pregnancy then it's an accident. You knew there was some risk, and you know pregnancy decisions are inherently gender asymmetrical, personal, and emotional.

  • Hibernia86

    Anonymous, I'm betting if it were your gender that faced these limitations then you wouldn't be so quick to praise Leah's post. How can you make a declaration about a person's rights and then say that you "don't want to talk about it"?It is sad that there are some who are so quick to stand up for women's reproductive rights and also so quick to reject them for men. It seems very hypocritical.B, the goal is to decrease these gender asymmetries. A person should not be punished based on the gender they were born into.

  • A different David

    I think I agree with Leah's position in the end, but her argument for it is very problematic for me. Leah, you have to realize that you are, in fact, making the exact argument pro-lifers make for why abortion should be illegal: if you don't want the responsibility of a kid (or the burden of a pregnancy) then don't have sex. The reasons that's a wrongheaded statement to make to a woman are the same as those why it's wrong to say to a man.That said, I think I agree with your conclusion on the grounds that abortion is (to me at least) properly understood as a woman's independent choice because she is the only one who actually has to be pregnant. She's allowed to decide whether her body is to be used to grow a child (and actually David, a woman does have the power to turn a fetus – a fertilized egg, actually – into a child, that's how a pregnancy works, though the only act of will involved is the choice of whether to allow that development to happen). Until the uterus becomes unnecessary for producing children (and I'm not really expecting that day to come soon), there's no way you can give both sexes equal decision making power in abortion.On the other hand, I think we do have a problem post-birth, in that, once the kid's been born, men and women should have completely equal rights and responsibilities for it. That is, a mother shouldn't be able to unilaterally give up a child for adoption any more than a father can unilaterally refuse the responsibilities of a parent. And fathers and mothers should be assumed equal in things like custody cases. But that's all a somewhat different (if related question).

  • Christina, a two parent home is not the optimal environment to raise a child, and certainly not one where the only reason the man is there is that the woman elected not to have an agreed upon abortion and had the child. NB. A two parent home may be the best currently available, but that in no way makes it objectively optimal.You then go on to promote abstinence using one of the weirdest arguments ever:Abstinence means you can have no potential side effects from the Pill such as reduced libido. I know you mention other potential problems, but this one is a bit silly to include – Not having sex means you avoid having your libido reduced by taking the pill!?I may be reading your comment ungenerously, but it very much seems to be a patriarchal structure, very much in line with certain religious views – if you knock her up you have to marry her (you break it you pay for it) or you pay for the abortion/contraception which somehow makes her a prostitute/concubine. Why no pejorative for the man?

  • anon atheist

    When it comes to so called reproductive rights we live in feminist paradise. The woman has 100 % of the say and the man has to pay. The question was whether that is fair? Well, it is not. (The situation could be remedied by making a law that if the woman does not agree to have an abortion then the man would not have to pay child support.)Maybe in another post Leah will explain why she thinks the situation is fair. Concerning casual sex Leah has voiced her disapproval which is fine. But really why should I as a man discuss the topic of abortion beforehand? I don't have a say anyways. And that I don't plan to reproduce should be clear by using condoms.

  • Patrick

    I get the feeling that this post has been linked to in some other blog or forum.

  • hibernia86

    I don't think so Patrick. If you are referring to anon atheist's post, I think that is just based on the fact that the word feminist means different things to different people. I'm sure everyone on this thread would, for example, support women in the sciences as well as other issues of equality. They would only disagree when they feel it isn't promoting equality. I call myself a feminist in the sense that I believe in gender equality. Men speaking up about issues is not meant to be against women but rather working with women to make sure things are fair for everyone. I think we should just discuss the issue at hand because if we start using labels then people are going to get the wrong idea about each other.

  • Like ALS says… isn't this the same as Goldwater's "The time for a woman to control her body is before she gets pregnant"? If someone says that about "the woman's" side, it is Evil, Stupid, and Rightwing. How is this NOT a double standard?

  • Patrick

    hibernia86- Look at the number of posts in this thread, compared to other threads on the forum. While there may be plenty of lurkers on this site, it seems odd that they'd all have similar opinions.

  • Katie

    I disagree, Patrick. This is a popular topic, and Leah's stand is both unusual and not very tenable. The objections that people are voicing are really obvious.I suppose I'm one of those lurkers, since I had never commented before I posted the first anonymous comment above. I was personally tempted to respond because Leah's position struck me as bizarre and untenable in an especially obvious way. And the way she dismissed sex pushed more of my buttons than I care to enumerate.

  • Leah, this was a great post. I agree 100%.Patrick, you said, "And if we're going to pick out inconsistencies in people's opinions about abortion… how about all the people who claim to believe that a fertilized egg is a person, and yet who don't give a toss about the natural abortion rate of fertilized eggs? Its about 30%. If a fertilized egg is a human being, that makes implantation failure the single greatest cause of human death on the planet. And yet the amount of research money going into preventing these deaths is approximately zero dollars and zero cents, American. I wonder why that is."If you think no money or research is going into miscarriage prevention, you need to brush up on current events. For example, here.Secondly, your assertion assumes natural death and induced death are the same thing. To use an analogy: since elderly people die a natural death of old age at an extremely high rate, that must mean it should be morally and legally acceptable to murder all elderly people if they fit certain criteria (they're not wanted by their caregivers, it'd be too financially difficult for their caregivers, or what have you, their caregivers simply don't want the responsibility, etc.). I've had two miscarriages and I resent essentially being told that my babies' deaths were no different than if I had waltzed into a Planned Parenthood and killed them.

  • Patrick

    JoAnna- I'm referring to the implantation failure rate of fertilized eggs. It occurs about 9 days after ovulation, and if you've had one you wouldn't even know. I'm not even 100% sure its considered a form of miscarriage- it might be, but the only medical discussion of it that I'm aware of is related to women with particularly high implantation failure rates, and in that context its considered to be related to infertility rather than to miscarriage.Its a slight exaggeration, I suppose, to say that no money is spent on this particular topic. Implantation failure is more common with IVF than with non IVF pregnancy, so there has been some research on lowering the rate of implantation failure in IVF situations. But there is zero research being done on this subject on the purely moral ground of preventing massive amounts of accidental human death… and I derive from this that no one actually believes this counts as accidental human death. They just lie and say they do because it makes good copy.After all, if the death of a fertilized egg is a human death, that means the accidental death rate due to implantation failure rate makes SIDS (and cancer, and most plagues) look like a joke… so you'd expect someone to care. And no one does.If you want a freebie, the usual trash apologetic for anti abortion advocates is to claim that human life begins with implantation, so implantation failure doesn't count as human death. I don't think that's principled (its pretty clearly an ad hoc change to avoid a problem that wasn't thought of when the original human life rhetoric was invented), but I rarely think anything abortion opponents say is principled. I'm fairly certain they're just making things up as they go based on a gut feeling about what seems right and natural to them.

  • Patrick – my analogy still stands. If your justification for abortion is that blastocysts or embryos die of natural causes every day, therefore it's justified to induce their deaths at one's whim, then you must also condone killing the elderly, given that senior citizen die of old age every day. "After all, if the death of a fertilized egg is a human death, that means the accidental death rate due to implantation failure rate makes SIDS (and cancer, and most plagues) look like a joke… so you'd expect someone to care. And no one does."By that logic, no one cares that senior citizens die, either, given that thousands die of old age on a daily basis. But you see, it's a false dichotomy to propose that either we MUST care about preventing ALL death, natural or otherwise, or we must freely condone murder of those we allegedly "don't care" about (or that others don't care about).

  • Anonymous

    The question:"…as a pro-choicer do you believe a man should have the right to opt out of parental responsibilities?"Yes I do. Everyone, regardless of gender, should have a choice as to whether they want to become a parent and take on all of the things that entails. If the man says he doesn't want a child and the woman still wants it than she should be the only one taking care of it without any support from him (or financial support from the public). Of course if the man chooses to go this route this means he can't come waltzing into this kids life years after the fact when all of the work has been done and decides now he wants to be "daddy".

  • Anonymous

    The original question was for PRO-CHOICERS.If you are not pro-choice why are you commenting on this thread?And why is this launching into a debate on abortion when the original question wasn't about abortion plus the original poster said:"And frankly, I don’t really want this post to become open season on abortion arguments, so I’d really like it if commenters limited themselves to the scope of the question."

  • Anonymous

    Hi JoAnna,I don't think that you've addressed the meat of Patrick's post. First of all I think we need to be clear on what we are arguing about. No one is arguing the following.1: Embryos fail to implant2: If the natural death rate of embryos is high then aborting them is justified.3: Aborting embryos is justified.That's a ridiculous argument that no one would make. No – the argument being made is in opposition to the following argument:P1: Embryos are persons.P2: Killing persons is morally wrong.P3: Therefore aborting embryos is morally wrong.I can't speak for Patrick but I see no reason to accept 1. Furthermore I suspect that not even people who claim that abortion is wrong really accept 1 either. If they did then that high rate failure of embryos to implant would a moral catastrophe. My extension:P4: The death of persons is a moral tragedy.P5: Embryos die en masse P6: from P1, P4 and P5 the natural death of embryos is a tragedy.But no one actually accepts P6 indicating a problem with one of the premises or perhaps with P6 itself.I think we can both agree that old people dying of natural causes is a pretty bad situation for all those involved yes? We can agree that at least most people are filled with grief when their elderly parents or siblings die. The key point is not that failure of embryos to implant is high and inevitable like all death. The key point is that no-one, not even pro-life people, think that the failure of embryos to implant is a moral problem to be solved. In contrast to our attitude towards non-implanted embryos, virtually everyone would love for to see their grandma or mom live longer (well obviously unless you have a strained relationship). It is not our ability or inability to save the elderly that makes it a tragedy. The fact that death is inevitable does nothing to ease the pain of loss. Rather it is our attitude towards the elderly that makes their passing a moral tragedy.To defeat this argument you would have to demonstrate how it is that embryos can be considered persons yet everyone is completely indifferent to their mass death. You could defeat this argument by showing that P4 is wrong or that P6 does not follow from the premises. Alternatively you could bite the bullet and say that natural abortion is indeed a tragedy.

  • Patrick

    Anonymous summed it up pretty well. The point wasn't to show a justification for abortion, the point was to show that the arguments being offered against abortion are made fraudulently, and in bad faith.

  • Patrick (and anon), the problem is that you are operating under the assumption that pro-lifers believe that NATURAL death is somehow a moral evil. It isn't. Spontaneous abortion is a tragedy, but it's not a moral evil or an injustice. Induced abortion is the direct. intentional murder of an otherwise healthy, innocent human being. It is a violation of their human rights (and this isn't a religious belief — see Natural death is a part of life, often a tragic part of life, but not a violation of anyone's basic human rights.

  • Patrick

    JoAnna- You could rescue yourself from this critique by claiming that, in your opinion, there is no moral obligation (or even value of any kind) in saving others from accidental death. That's true. I'm not convinced this is actually the populist pro-life position, though. Religious pro-life people, in my experience, actually do seem to care about preventing deaths due to illness, disease, birth defects, and so forth. In fact, I'm not even convinced that you actually believe the argument you're making. Given the two hypotheses, first that you actually believe there's zero value in preventing natural death, and second that you're just talking nonsense because you feel cornered, I'm going to assume that you're desperate rather than that you're a sociopath.

  • Patrick, you're the one claiming that the occurrence of spontaneous abortion justifies induced abortion, yet I'm a sociopath because I see a distinct moral difference between accepting the fact that natural death occurs and recognizing that deliberate murder is a moral evil? Sorry, not seeing the logic. Spontaneous abortion is UNINTENDED and unwanted death. Induced abortion is INTENDED and wanted death. Do you seriously not see the distinction? If not, I'd watch who you're calling a sociopath.

  • JoAnna, you use a lot of emotive phrases that you have yet to show you are justified in using: "person", "murder", "human being".When you are talking about an undifferentiated ball of human cells it is hard to think of that as a human, a person, or their destruction as murder. Thinking of it in this way leads to all kinds of weird scenarios:If you separate the cells out, have you committed a mass murder rather than a single murder? Each one can potentially become a human…When the cells have split into two balls and then recombine, has there been some sort of fratricide within the womb?How do you logically differentiate between an embryonic stem cell and an adult one?

  • Just a reminder: I did try to screen off general fights about abortion from this post. Y'all are welcome to continue discussing, but I almost never see these arguments go anywhere productive (and the frequent uses of the word 'sociopath' above suggest this thread will not be an exception).

  • Patrick

    "Patrick, you're the one claiming that the occurrence of spontaneous abortion justifies induced abortion,"NO. READ AGAIN.My argument has nothing to do with the morality of abortion.My argument is about whether or not people who claim to believe that a blastocyst is morally equivalent to a human being actually behave and hold other beliefs consistent with that claim.My contention is that, in the main, they do not. To that end, I gave an example of an issue they would care about if they were sincere in their claim that a blastocyst is morally equivalent to a human being, but which they do not in fact care about at all.The reason this argument isn't going anywhere worthwhile isn't because its about abortion, its because you're only reading my name off the top of my posts, then filling in the rest with your imagination.

  • My argument is about whether or not people who claim to believe that a blastocyst is morally equivalent to a human being actually behave and hold other beliefs consistent with that claim.And what I'M saying, Patrick, is that pro-lifers do hold all blastocysts to be morally equivalent – they are all unique human beings – but that we do not view unintended, natural death as a moral evil to be prevented at all costs. [Not meaning to speak for ALL pro-lifers here, but in general.] Spontaneous abortion is tragic but it is not a moral evil like intentional, deliberate murder.See the analogy I used above – using your logic, you could claim that since "no one cares" when senior citizens die a natural death of old age, then no one should likewise care when a senior citizen is murdered.March Hare, I will address your comments in a bit when I have more time.Leah, apologies for the derailment. Comments like Patrick's make my blood boil because they imply that I caused or didn't care about my two babies that died due to spontaneous abortion.

  • I don't want to speak for Patrick, but my reading of it is that if one believes a non-implanting blastocyst is an equivalent to an old person dying then you would have a moral duty to prevent both equally, but the vast, vast majority of research (public and private) goes into adult diseases and not enhanced implantation. In fact, given the additional years of life, should the younger diseases not attract a disproportionate amount of funding?

  • if one believes a non-implanting blastocyst is an equivalent to an old person dying then you would have a moral duty to prevent both equallyThis assumes that pro-lifers believe that we (as a society) have a moral duty to prevent natural death, whether for a blastocyst pre-implantation or a senior citizen, when that is not the case.

  • Patrick

    I wouldn't equate implantation failure to the natural death of the elderly. I'd equate it to the natural (but in theory preventable, if we put some effort into it) death of children, such as through birth defects.And I'm less interested in claiming that we have an "equal" duty between the two cases, and more interested in claiming that, according to the stated position of pro-lifers, we ought to have AT LEAST SOME duty… and yet they don't care even a microscopic iota."Comments like Patrick's make my blood boil because they imply that I caused or didn't care about my two babies that died due to spontaneous abortion."I've never implied that. That part of the conversation has taken place entirely within your own head. I haven't much appreciated it, I should add.

  • I wouldn't equate implantation failure to the natural death of the elderly. I'd equate it to the natural (but in theory preventable, if we put some effort into it) death of children, such as through birth defectsPreventable how, given that (in a normal pregnancy, not an IVF conception) there is no way for a woman to know that conception at least five days after a successful implantation? A woman is born with roughly 200,000 eggs in her ovaries; do you propose that we screen each one for genetic defects? Or somehow come up with a way to screen a man's sperm for genetic defects prior to every sex act? Maybe that might be realistic in a few hundred years, but right now, not quite so much.according to the stated position of pro-lifers, we ought to have AT LEAST SOME duty… and yet they don't care even a microscopic iota.Why do you say that? Obviously, I can't speak for all pro-lifers, but I certainly care. I take prenatal vitamins even when I'm not pregnant to ensure an optimal environment for conception in case it should happen to occur (even if I don't intend it to). My husband and I practice NFP so no children are unintentionally aborted due to the properties of abortifacent contraception. What else do you suggest? Medical technology is not yet at a point where there's much we can do about preventing loss of life due to genetic defects in one's sperm or eggs that cause a failure to implant. I've never implied that. That part of the conversation has taken place entirely within your own head. I haven't much appreciated it, I should add. Perhaps you don't realize how callous it sounds when you claim that the unintentional, natural death of a blastocyst or embryo, either prior to implantation or afterwards, is no different morally than an induced abortion of an unborn child. To me, and to many other mothers who have suffered spontaneous abortions, it sounds very cruel indeed.

  • ugh, some of my words went missing, above; that should say, "there is no way for a woman to know that conception occurred until at least five days after a successful implantation"

  • I tried posting this earlier, but it never appeared. Hope it's okay that I try again…I think that men and women should both have the absolute, non-negotiable right to do whatever they want with their own bodies to prevent pregnancy. So men and women both have the right to abstain from sex, to have sex but abstain from penis-in-vagina sex, to use whatever birth control on their own body that they want, etc.. Absolutely equal.I also believe that once a child is born, both parents, regardless of sex, are responsible for that child. If they both agree to give the child up for adoption, then that's fine; if either one of them wants to raise the child, then the other one should pay child support. Again, absolutely equal.The inequality that exists is that women can get pregnant and men can't; but that inequality is created by biology, not by biased laws. Arguably, this gives women an advantage (they can choose an abortion, and because they can keep a pregnancy secret from the father). But it also gives women a lot of disadvantages — even a pregnancy that goes well is physically and mentally stressful for most women, and if the pregnancy doesn't go well it can be many months of suffering, and possibly even permanent injury or death. Men don't face that problem.So there is a biological inequality there; but it disadvantages women and men both.The "choice for men" position also causes practical problems that legal abortion does not.1) Studies have found that the weaker a state's child support laws, the higher the number of single mothers.If weak child support laws lead to an increase in single motherhood, then what would a law saying that men bear absolutely no responsibility do? We'd have an explosion of single motherhood, way worse than what we've already seen. That's not a problem caused by legal abortion, but it is a problem that would be caused by giving men a "get out parental responsibility free" card.2) When a woman has an abortion, the fetus dies before ever becoming a person (in virtually all abortions, including most late-term abortions, the brain's cerebral cortex isn't even functioning yet, due to the lack of dendritic spines). In contrast, deadbeat parents cause deprivation and suffering to existing, real people with functioning brains.To sum up:The pro-choice status quo is one in which women and men are legally equal, when it comes to reproduction. The inequality that exists is caused by biology, not unequal laws, and disadvantages both sexes, not only men. And unlike legal abortion, so-called "choice for men" would have very bad consequences for both society and for children.

  • I got bored.Men need a contraceptive that works to a ridiculous degree (vasectomy, male pill?) and then they have to take the woman's decision regardless of what it is.You don't want kids? Have a reversible vasectomy. Want kids later? Have some frozen, so that if the reversal goes wrong you're safe.Shit, just talked myself into having a vasectomy. Won't someone invent a safe, reliable male pill?

  • March Hare – sorry for the delay in my response; I finally found the article I was looking for. The following is an exchange of letters between Prof. Lee Silver at Princeton University, and Professor Patrick Lee (professor of bioethics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville) & Robert George (McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University).Professor Silver maintains, as you do, that blastocyts and etc. are merely clumps of cells and not human beings (1st letter). Professors Lee and George dispute his assertion (2nd letter). The exchange is excellent and it's my opinion that Profs. Lee and George make their case quite well.

  • Thanks for that link JoAnna. Reading to Lee and George was like hearing William Lane Craig for the first time, if you don't know much about the subject and you don't know any of the linguistic tricks it sounds almost reasonable.Some key points:"Were you once an embryo?"No, I wasn't. Any semblance of 'I' did not exist in utero. The genetic information that later made up the body and, more importantly, brain that is even remotely recognisable as 'me' was present, but it was not me. None of the atoms that existed at that point now reside within the body I currently have, so this attempt to get the audience on-side using emotion is philosophically and scientifically fraudulent."human embryos are indeed what we say they are and what Silver denies that they are, namely, whole, living individuals of the species Homo sapiens."Sounds nice, but is ultimately false. Each individual cell in a blastocyst fulfils all the criteria that they put forward as requirements of being a human being (that's how identical twins etc. form) yet they are not arguing that, they are saying the ball of calls is an individual. When placed next to: "there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and egg is a human being." we are left with the questions: are identical twins half a human? Triplets a third? Or does a new human spontaneously appear when a blastocyst (a whole human being remember) split? And magically disappear should the two blastocysts fuse back together?No, this view conflates and confuses terms that we, and they, use as atomic and see that it is not the case when applied to a blastocyst: individual, human being, whole, distinct.I could go on, but my armchair analysis is that they are retrofitting ambiguous or semi-valid facts to fit the conclusion their religious beliefs have foisted upon them. Perhaps the most obvious example to the man on the street would be their insistence that a fused egg and sperm is a human being when we all know that human beings are multi-cellular organisms. It is alive and it is human, but it is not a human being – as any dictionary definition will show. They may wish to selectively insert a particular scientific definition of human being into the discussion, but if the argument is in the public sphere they look silly doing so.Anyway, back on topic, I stand by my drunken comment last night – if men wish to endanger women they have to take partial responsibility for the consequences, if they wish to avoid them then they should get medically fixed. That is, as far as I can see, the libertarian view, it is also the generic liberal view and, excluding abortion and having sex for fun, it is the conservative view.

  • Well, March Hare, we'll have to disagree. I find your view very un-scientific. A new human being is created at the moment of conception; there is no non-human organism created when sperm meets egg that magically becomes human at some mystical point later on in its development (and once again, I emphasize that this is not a religious view; it is held by many non-religious individuals as well).

  • JoAnna: A new human being is created at the moment of conceptionWell, sort of. A new embryo is created. A new, alive, human cell is created.However, you have to wrap yourself in logical knots to maintain the view that this is somehow special, that it is a human being – as Lee states (paraphrase), "with the right conditions it can become an infant, an adolescent, an adult human being." Yes, so can an adult stem cell, what of it? Just because the conditions Lee sets out are a womb etc. doesn't mean that a petri dish and empty egg cell, then womb are any less valid as 'right conditions', or any other way that science manages to discover to change a cell back to an undifferentiated state that could 'with the right conditions' become a full human adult.The alleged uniqueness of this fusion of gametes is also a red herring because any mutation our cells have also counts – as does a non-fatal mutation of a cell in a blastocyst, does that count as two people now?Do you also accept that "a new human being is created" when the blastocyst splits into two separate balls of cells? What is the result of them recombining later, does that involve the death of a human being, if so, which one?"magically becomes human at some mystical point later on"Actually, that is exactly what I am saying, if you replace human with person. Except it isn't a single point, it is gradual: A child is less of a person than an adult and we recognise this by giving them fewer rights but more protection.Look, as far as abortion goes, no being has the right to depend for its existence on another*. As such from a single cell to approx 23-26 weeks the human lifeform (like that?) cannot survive outside the womb at present. After that period it can (and should imo) be removed as safely as possible, to both mother and child, and be allowed to attempt to survive. The sole exception to this should be where the health of the mother is in jeopardy. That's my personal view and it straddles both camps. When it comes to 'rights' then we have a different discussion that would no doubt annoy both camps, but I'll leave that for now.* If you disagree then blood, bone marrow and kidney donation should be mandatory and tax should be as high as is required to ensure no-one dies preventable deaths (many illnesses, malnutrition, exposure etc.)

  • Point of fact: Adult stem cells are mostly multipotent sometimes pluripotent, i.e. they can grow into many different kinds of tissue but not into complete adult humans. Embryonal stem cells, too, are mostly just pluripotent. The objection to embryonal human stem cells is not what they themselves could grow into but what the organism killed to harvest them could have grown into.

  • A good point, Gilbert.So my question is: is the organism killed to harvest embryonic stem cells important enough to care about? The main/only (reasonable) reason given thus far for why people would say 'yes' is what it can potentially grow into. Hence it is human, hence has human dignity and deserves human rights.My argument about adult stem cells (or any cell with a nucleus) is that potentially we will be able to make a human from that too.