Dec
05

Abortion: a way for men to opt out?

The idea espoused in this article, of giving men the ‘right’ to what is termed a financial abortion in order to somehow equalise their right to opt out of pregnancy just like a woman, is interesting.  It is one that I have written about before when I see abortion advocates saying women ‘need’ abortion in order to be equal.   In fact, a woman’s ‘right’ to abortion gives her far greater rights than men.

The fact is that women are the sex that grows and births children.  This fact of biology seems to have escaped the notice of many although perhaps they are working on the wishful thinking notion that if they say it enough, the facts will change to suit them; like the gender-fluid advocates. 

There is nothing ‘equal’ in reproductive rights between men and women and no amount of wishing will make it so.  Women are far superior to men in this department, in spite of the fact that radical 60’s and 70’s feminism chose to uphold men and the ‘things men do’ in much higher regard and told women that unless they could do those ‘men things’ they were not good enough.   

The problem is not what men do or what women do biologically speaking.   The problem is that we have conveniently structured society around male biology to make it easier for them to do what they do.  We’ve done this so effectively that many came to believe that only men could even do those things unless women changed their bodies and rid them of themselves of their ‘unwanted’ children.

Yet in spite of the fact that we know that the vast majority of abortions are not taking place as an expression of freedom or autonomy of women, but of poverty and desperation, a proposal that would further disadvantage these women is being sold as yet another empowering move for them.

Giving men the right to a ‘financial abortion’ doesn’t give them equal rights unless they also have the option to choose parenthood, just like the woman does.  This would necessitate a man being able to prevent a woman from having an abortion; another fact overlooked by Deveney, the author of the article; an article so replete with ignorance that I am not sure where to begin.

  ‘… the litmus test is simple: Is it fair for people to be forced to become parents against their wishes? If it’s not fair for a woman to be forced to bear a child or have an abortion, it follows it’s not fair for a man to be forced to become a parent.’

It also follows that it is not fair for a man to lose his ‘wanted’ child to abortion.  The balancing of ‘rights’ and ‘equality’ in this regard just gets messier doesn’t it?   Almost everything we do in daily life is about juggling the rights of individual people, yet this simplistic solution, supposedly ensuring equality between the sexes has some major flaws.  It doesn’t create equality of ‘choice’ but it does provide a legally sanctioned way to further abandon women and children. 

I can hear the radical feminist screeching about the concept of ‘abandonment of women’ now as though the need for support at different times during life is a weakness, or that the need for social and relational stability during some circumstances makes a person ‘lesser than’.   The biological fact remains that women are more vulnerable during pregnancy, both physically and often emotionally as they manage changing hormonal states.  

So what?  

When did vulnerability and the need to provide a little more care and nurture become synonymous with something so terrible?   Was that about the time we started talking about killing off the elderly?   Or perhaps it was when we started insisting to women that they kill off their less than perfect babies?

Deveney decries calls on men to be responsible for caring for women and children and to stop ‘infantilising women’,

The word “responsible” comes up whenever fatherhood does — the idea that men should “step up” and “do the right thing” and support their own flesh and blood.

… again, as though the need for care and support is a weakness rather than a simple biological life phase.  In this context men are more able to continue to work and earn money.  That’s just a fact. Whereas women’s bodies are performing amazing acts of their own, no less important, perhaps even more important.   Why shouldn’t there be some complementarity to what they each do?   Why does this old 70’s feminist radicalism equate this to weakness?   Why are they still insisting that women are innately weak when in fact women are innately awesome and strong and can still be vulnerable, just like men can be.

She says,

But if there was an opportunity for men to opt out — blame free — of fatherhood earlier, there may be fewer cases of men abandoning their children later in life. Surely it would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child if its father opts out early in a pregnancy than if he abandons it (and its mother) after it is born?

and:

Opting out of fatherhood sooner makes it clear it’s not the particular child he’s rejecting, but fatherhood itself.

Has Deveney not turned on a television in the last 2 years to see the number of TV shows devoted to parents searching for long lost children, siblings looking for each other, and one of the latest depicting adult children desperate to know their fathers?   It doesn’t take much of a google search to find the stories of abandonment, rejection and dejection that children experience even when donor conceived.   Does she seriously think that such intense emotions will be wiped away by rationalising that ‘it wasn’t me he rejected, it was just a pregnancy or just fatherhood.’  This constant focus on individual rights totally disregards the rights of yet another group of people; the children conceived and born as a result of this exercise of ‘rights’ with no responsibility.  

But haven’t we moved past the thinking that people should be punished simply for engaging in pleasure? Do we really want our children to be conceived by force?

Herein lies part of the problem of this very tired 70’s feminism thinking; the viewing of pregnancy, birth and the raising of children as punishment. Parenting is hard work.   It brings enormous challenges, and many great joys.   Biologically speaking, if we don’t keep doing it we will cease to exist as a species in a very short amount of time; a fact very conveniently ignored by those only concerned about their immediate personal gratification.   

I believe every baby should be wanted, and every parent should be willing.

Really?  What if the baby is wanted by the father but not by the mother?  What if the baby is wanted by the grandparents, the father, the aunts and uncles, but still not by the mother?  What if the baby is wanted only by the mother and by none of her support people and she is therefore compelled to abortion because they refuse to help her with housing, money or vital emotional support?   How does ‘wantedness’ and your version of equality fit there?

Unfortunately, there is still an expectation in society that men should provide for women; indeed, many women and men prefer and expect it.

Just beginning this sentence with ‘unfortunately’ tells us everything about Deveney’s bias.   If MANY men and women prefer and expect these particular roles, what is the problem?   I for one am quite sick of hearing that if a woman chooses to be home raising children she has been somehow brainwashed into a socialised gender role and she’s oppressed.   Maybe she just chose it? 

Also worrying in the debate about financial abortion is the conviction that abortion itself is a scarring and emotionally traumatic procedure for women and parenting a child is always the better alternative.

More worrying should be the fact that the women who do experience abortion as scarring and emotionally traumatic are usually marginalised and dismissed from any discussion about abortion.  The fact that those most at risk of psychological harm following abortion are those who feel pressured toward it whether by people or circumstances, and women who have other specific vulnerabilities such as mental health problems or difficulties coping, makes this idea even more dangerous for women.   Suggesting that a man can opt out early in pregnancy does nothing to empower women or their children to ‘go it alone’, but does plenty to isolate and abandon women who may already be feeling unsupported and alone.

There are consequences for everything. But we need to start challenging moralistic ideas about the “blessing of conception” and be more practical about how it actually affects people’s lives.

Yes, there are consequences for everything.   Conception doesn’t need to be framed in terms of a ‘blessing’ in order for it to be a consequence that requires adults to both step up to the responsibility of the ‘consequence’.   Nor does abortion need to be the way in which we resolve the issues facing women when they bear the greater biological role of children during pregnancy and early parenting.  We do need to look at the practical challenges.   These include not enough paid parental leave, inflexible work and educational institutions, seeing children as punishment and continuing to advocate abortion when it is known that it is used most often by women who feel they have no choice. 

What we know today is that women are not only capable of the unique and amazing biological function of bearing children, they are also capable of bringing their skill, knowledge and strengths to the professional and educational worlds.    If the Deveney’s of the world spent as much time and energy into addressing the actual social inequities instead of pushing for greater abortion access, women would have more choice and we could all benefit from their contribution.    

 

Nov
29

State sanctioned rape of children

As parents, we generally want to do everything we can to protect our children against life’s harshest circumstances.  Many of us go to great lengths to do so.  Some may work very long hours in undesirable jobs to make sure their children are well fed, clothed and educated.   Parents often make personal sacrifices so that their children’s lives are somewhat better than perhaps their own had been and to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed.  Parents would surely do everything humanly possible to protect their children from physical and emotional harm, and it would be hard to hold back the outrage against any person who threatened or hurt them.

Imagine then, a scenario where your 12yr old daughter comes to you because she has been sexually assaulted.   You call the authorities, or take her to a local doctor, first of all to ensure that she is physically okay, and secondly to find out what you need to do to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice and your child will be safe.  She might be examined and probably questioned about what happened to her.   She is then told that there is something even worse than this that could happen.. in fact, it is so bad, that the first thing that needs to happen is that her body needs to be chemically altered to ensure it is impossible.   A small metal rod needs to be inserted under her skin so that she won’t fall pregnant.   Having a baby would be terrible.   She might wonder how on earth she would be having a baby;  you are probably wondering the same thing; perhaps concerned that you’re misunderstanding; perhaps they think she might already be pregnant and that’s what they are talking about.

The doctor then explains to you that ‘no, she isn’t pregnant, but we don’t want her to get pregnant do we… you know.. when this happens again.’

What you have just been offered is the solution currently on offer to a number of Indigenous communities in our country, where pregnancy is considered intolerable, but rape of children is tolerated.  Children from Indigenous communities in Queensland are being given contraceptive implant to prevent pregnancy when it is known they have been sexually abused, sometimes for years.   They are then sent back to the perpetrators, who are not charged, and are perhaps expected to be happy that they have been saved from a fate worse than repeated rape:  an ‘unwanted’ baby.   Tolerated isn’t in fact a strong enough word for this.  When we sterilise girl children so that they won’t get pregnant, knowing that the most likely way this will happen is if they are raped, you are not only condoning the actions of rapists, but encouraging them. 

In what ways must a mother have given up hope for her own life, and the life of her child, for her to give her consent to such an action?  What are we saying about the value of the lives of these little girls when we tell them that having a child would be worse than being raped, therefore we are going to ensure the former doesn’t happen and send you back to the danger? 

Why isn’t this making every national headline, repeatedly?  It is nothing short of state sanctioned rape of vulnerable children, and it has to stop. 

Nov
09

The greater pain..

This week I posted a comment on a ‘first mothers’ forum’.  First mothers are those who lost a child to adoption.  The forum post I commented on was one where the mothers advocate strongly for abortion rights, touting research that I know is methodological flawed to rationalise why women need abortion and that it causes no harm.

My intention when I respond to such posts is never diminish or dismiss the extraordinary depth of pain the mothers experience at their loss, but to try to increase awareness that today many women experience the same lack of choice in abortion as they may have experienced in adoption.  

Similarly I will occasionally venture to point out to prolife groups that promoting an ‘adoption not abortion’ approach dismisses the depth of loss inherent in adoption and undermines what we know about the reasons women seek abortion; that being not because they don’t want their children, but that their circumstances seem untenable to that option.

My aim in responding to either group is to separate the two issues of abortion and adoption, rather than see them as the viable alternatives to each other, and to ensure that women suffering after either one can have a voice without being dismissed.

The hostility that usually follows from both sides has come to be expected and I think demonstrates the ways in which women on both sides continue to fail to be heard. 

On a personal level I know many women who have had abortions.  Quite a number of them have never discussed the experience and appear not to have suffered any ill effects over the years.  I also know a smaller number of women who adopted, and some who were adopted.   Again, their experiences are varied, with some quite content and others struggling.

On a professional level however, I work with a population of women, and some men who have suffered following an abortion experience, some for much of their lives.  I also facilitate support groups for mothers and adoptees who have suffered as a result of adoption.  

Between my personal and professional contacts over the years I have seen every kind of experience; adoptees who say they would rather have been aborted than to have suffered the sense of loss, even when they also say they have lived happy lives;  mothers who wish they’d aborted instead of adopted, mothers who wish they’d adopted instead of aborted, fathers who had no say in any decision making, adoptees who are thankful they had a chance at life and mothers who feel their lives and the lives of their adopted child benefited from adoption.

It is difficult for me to see such pain, knowing that for so many this pain is dismissed and denied by people who hold strongly to a single view based on their own pain or experience.   Women who aborted may see their pain as much more significant than if they’d adopted because they will never get a chance to see or know their child.  Women who adopted believe if they’d aborted they would have just got over it a lot quicker because they are not always wondering where their child is or if they are okay.

Both groups do to the other the very thing that increases their own suffering, silences them, and fails to fully address the real reasons women are denied their motherhood.  Until we can take the time to fully hear and understand the pain; to believe the suffering is what the woman says it is, and redress the social and cultural inequalities that would deny a woman the support she has a right to when bearing children, nothing will change.

We are living under such an oppressive cloud of maternal grief, a powerful force that could be used to create genuine change; to honour women and the power and strength of their biology, rather than to oppress and deny it. 

It greatly saddens me to see either group claiming the greater pain and in doing so, denying the reality of the other.  Suffering should never be compared in this way, particularly the suffering of women who have lost their children, however that loss has manifested.

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