Thursday, February 3, 2011

Men and Abortion, a Rant


It looks like Representative  Chris Smith has changed his mind, or what passes for his mind.  The Hyde Amendment, passed first in 1976, limits the use of certain federal funds, primarily Medicare funds, to pay for abortions.  Exempt from this limitation have been pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.  The Smith bill initially was going to eliminate all but forcible rape from the exemption.  Among other things, this change would not allow Medicare to pay for abortions resulting from statutory rape.  Even Republicans thought this change was going too far.  Smith today announced that he would retain the Hyde exemptions.

Good news, if today’s report is to be believed.

What has interested me about this horror, aside from the horror itself, is something which I’ve wondered about for years.  Why is it that the principal opponents of abortion all seem to be male?  In this case, Smith was joined in his idiocy by the lachrymose House Speaker, John Boehner.  These two men, joined by other men of their party, were attempting further to limit the rights of women to control their own lives.

Last week, I read an interesting book by Frank Schaeffer, Crazy for God.  The author is the son of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer, an evangelical theologian and founder of L’Abri, the evangelical community in Switzerland.  Father and son were big anti–abortion activists in the early days after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.  What prompts me to mention Frank Schaeffer is something he wrote in his book after describing the birth of his first son.  He wrote that he finally had proved himself as a man.  He apparently felt the need to offer such proof to his father and to himself, and maybe to the world at large.

Maybe the reason men are the leaders of so many anti–abortion movements is just that.  Failing to procreate leaves them without proof of their manhood.  Women who act so as to deny men that opportunity, then, would be denying men the one thing that proves beyond a doubt that they are straight heterosexual men whose seed is strong and effective.  Such women, if all this is true, would have to be stopped.  Every abortion would prevent some man from manifesting to the world the certain evidence of his masculinity.

When it comes to making babies, men really are the weaker link.  Their contribution is necessary, obviously, but once they have deposited their sperm, there really is no further need for them in the reproductive process.  The woman takes it from there.  She carries the fetus, she nurses the baby, and she traditionally rears the child.  Men are nice to have around if they play their proper part: support of the pregnant and nursing mother and of the young children.  Men who see themselves as rulers of the world—and I am convinced this is how many men see their masculine “prerogative”—are fooling themselves.  In the most basic and most important area of life, the transmission of life, they are bit players with little or no control whatsoever.  I think that this lack of power and control infuriates men whose view of their maleness is built on a presumption of entitlement.

I further think that men who oppose abortion aren’t really concerned with the fifth commandment or law or science.  They are concerned about women: “who do they think they are?”.  For a woman to have control over her life and body means that men have no control over either and that, obviously, is as it should be.  As citizens of the earth, women and men are equal.  One sex can’t control the other.  One person can’t control another.  This is the most basic of the “human rights” everybody worries about when we talk about China or Burma or Cuba.

Men who want to control women and their bodies act from the same sense of entitlement that leads us into wars, that refuses to see the need for universal health care, that seeks to prevent aliens from getting a fair hearing, that persecutes gay men and women, and that believes some god has ordained that men are superior to women.

Men lead most anti–abortion movements not because they believe abortion is bad for the fetus or the mother, but because they believe that a woman’s right to an abortion threatens the status quo that lets them believe they are somehow in charge.

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