By Jonathon Van Maren
There’s a reason that the suffragettes of days gone by may have founded first wave feminism, but were still resolutely anti-abortion: It’s because most of them believed, quite accurately, that abortion would end up serving as a way for promiscuous men to skip out on the natural consequences of sex. (That’s pregnancy, in case you were wondering.) A recent back-and-forth between the New York Times’ resident “ethicist” Kwame Anthony Appiah and a woman who chose to withhold her name highlights their wisdom in a heartbreaking exchange:
I am 38 and accidentally pregnant. It turns out my boyfriend does not ever want children, never mind after just a few months of dating; he wants me to have an abortion.
This is not an unusual story. A Toronto doctor even sued a woman he impregnated for refusing to abort their offspring, accusing her of denying him his Disney happy ending by allowing their child to live. One prominent NBA star was even revealed to demand that his sexual partners sign “abortion contracts” to ensure that any children resulting from coitus ended up where they belonged: a dumpster behind an abortion clinic. And then there’s the problematic wording of the phrase “accidentally pregnant.” When did people forget that sex makes babies? When did people create the right to be shocked that the use of their reproductive organs could occasionally result in reproduction?
I am pro-choice and not attached to what has begun to grow inside me. I had hoped to fall in love with a man and have a child with him, but I am well aware that I’m running out of time. While I’m apparently quite fertile, as time goes on the odds of getting pregnant get tougher, and there are enormous costs in egg freezing and/or I.V.F. For these reasons, I’m leaning heavily toward having the baby.
Notice the fundamental schizophrenia of the pro-choice worldview. On one hand, she is not “attached to what has begun to grow inside” of her. And what is that mysterious being that is growing inside of her? Well, it turns out that she knows, because she is “leaning heavily toward having the baby.” Only the cognitive dissonance that accompanies the so-called pro-choice worldview allows people to talk about choice and talk about a baby but never put two and two together and realize that abortion kills that baby.
My boyfriend is disturbed, angry and upset that I would have his baby ‘‘against his will,’’ as he put it. The point being, I think, that I can find another guy or get inseminated, so it’s not fair to have his baby because of my biological-clock concerns. I’ve read a lot about the ethics of expecting him to be involved or pay for support if he doesn’t want the child but not about whether it’s O.K. to choose to have the child at all.
This boyfriend, as I mentioned earlier, is adopting an attitude that is increasingly prevalent among the ranks of men who grew up during the era of legal abortion. Presumably, this fellow knows that sex makes babies. He engaged in sex with his girlfriend, and they have discovered that everything is in working order. But somehow, he believes that she got pregnant against his will. It’s hard to know where to start with this fusion of pettiness, ignorance, and stupidity. He knows that a baby is present—his response to her pregnancy indicates that. And yet he is “disturbed” by the fact that she is audacious enough to consider not killing a baby—his baby, no less.
I told him he can, guilt-free, have no involvement, but that’s not the issue for him. Are there ethical implications to consider here, especially because it is technically half his — he’s not a sperm donor who chose to let someone have his baby and not be involved — and I’m not against abortion (and have seriously considered it)? If it matters, he thought I was on birth control (but never asked, and I had requested that he use a condom once before), so he didn’t think he was having unprotected sex.
This boyfriend’s problem, it seems, is not exclusively the fear that he might have to financially support the son or daughter his girlfriend is currently carrying. He also seems to instinctively recognize that this child is his in a way that supersedes simple financial support. His reaction to this realization is to demand that she kill the problem—the problem of his child. And his girlfriend, who simultaneously recognizes that it there is a child’s life at stake in this debate while also being willing to abort that child’s life at the whim of her emasculated sex partner due to his outrage at his failed attempt to remain sterile, feels that she might owe him an abortion.
The ethicist at the Times responded by saying that the boyfriend was being unreasonable, she could keep the baby if she felt like it, but that his feelings “may provide some grounds for ending the pregnancy.” The “ethicist,” too, referred alternatively to the baby—“you want this child”—and to abortion, when the object being discussed was somehow magically no longer a human being of moral concern, but a problem that could be dispensed with at any moment.
This is precisely why pro-life activists must work to smash the cognitive dissonance between what people instinctively, if not intellectually, recognize about the human being developing in the womb—that it is a baby—and what they culturally believe about abortion. There are very few people who genuinely believe that abortion does not take a life. That is why they want abortion to be legal, after all—because they want that life to stop before it interferes further with their own. It is our task to bridge that divide, and show them what they already know, deep down—that abortion is an unconscionable act of violence against the youngest members of the human family.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.