Remember Billboard Douche? If you don’t, read my post about him. Rehashing the details makes me go all incoherent and angry. Anyway, I’ve been keeping one eye on him to see what the outcome of this case is. I really want the billboard taken down on the grounds that he shared private – and possibly erroneous – medical information about another person in a way that was potentially harmful to her. So far there’s been no movement but this Douche keeps talking about some grassroots effort that he wants to spearhead having to do with the rights of father’s to participate in medical decisions regarding pregnancy.
Now, he’s not the first guy to think up this little nugget of paternalistic crap. The Pennsylvania State Legislature attempted to codify a spousal notification law regarding abortion and the Supreme Court struck it down. So it’s unconstitutional on its face and we should be able to stop having the conversation. However, we can’t stop because this is actually a big, scary, ugly topic and it’s important to think about it because the simplistic nature of the original thought belies the nest of vipers beneath.
Here’s the deal: some men think that they should be able to say yea or nay on their partner’s choice to get an abortion. Sounds straightforward. Until you rephrase it: some men wish to be allowed to compel their partner to carry a pregnancy to term against her will. Ugly, no? But that’s the heart of the matter. There are men who oppose abortion and see nothing wrong with the idea of forcing a woman to stay pregnant whether she wants to be or not. This is not an exaggeration, I promise. Just look at the conscience clauses states have put into place that allow pharmacists or physicians to deny women regular contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion-inducing medications. These people exist and they do not care about the circumstances of the woman’s situation: they will force her to stay pregnant.
Another troubling facet about the cry for so-called fathers rights is the very real slippery slope of giving one partner dominion over the other’s reproductive life: if a man can prevent his partner from obtaining an abortion, he could theoretically also force her to have one. Or he could prevent her from seeking pre-natal care if he did not approve of the pregnancy. Possibly, he could force her to be sterilized or use some type of contraception against her will.* Or we could turn the tables and look at how a man could be affected by this new legal framework. Perhaps a woman could compel her husband to have a vasectomy if she no longer wished to bear his children but was unwilling to discontinue sexual relations. Or if she did wish to bear his children but he was reluctant, she could compel him to produce semen for the purpose, and possibly also pay for fertilization if he was unwilling to go about it the old-fashioned way.
And if one individual can control the health care options of their partner related to reproduction, what else could they control? Could man force his wife to get a boob job? Could a woman force her man to take steroids? It’s a slippery, slippery slope and there’s a reason so-called fathers rights are not already established: they should not be, despite the cries of unfairness from some corners of the anti-choice movement.
Is the current model wherein women have final say about the outcome a pregnancy fair to men? It is not. But reproduction is not fair. Biology dictates that only women can bear young. No law can change that. The balance of power cannot be evened out. Men who howl at the unfairness of it are shouting into the rain and should be roundly ignored. The best remedy to inequality of human reproduction is the eliminate all other inequalities between men and women. The power in relationships should be otherwise equal and decisions about reproduction should be made with two cool (fully-clothed) heads in control, long before the act of potential procreation occurs. Both parties should be forthright about their hopes for the relationship, their feelings about the possibility of conception, the outcome of a potential pregnancy, and what steps they each plan to take to prevent or ensure a pregnancy. Unless all of that subject matter has been covered, clothes should stay on. No one should fear walking away from the negotiating table if terms can’t be reached and both people should respect the other no matter what.
And have I ever mentioned that all people should know about and have good access to reproductive health care? I have? Oh good. I wouldn’t ever want to forget to say that reproductive health care and education are vitally important on a macro-social scale.
Some would throw in the notion of fetal personhood and suggest that, in the case of a woman wishing to abort, a man has a right to protect his progeny but since fetuses do not have legal standing in most cases, that argument is without value. Abortion, within defined limits, is legal. Preventing a woman from seeking legal medical treatment should not be. Period. The day abortion ceases to be legal is the day I will say women may no longer seek abortions. Until then, I just can’t fathom any situation in which another person’s judgement can be substituted for a mentally competent woman’s own judgement.
*Or he could keep his dick in his pants and avoid impregnating anyone but that would just be too simple, wouldn’t it?