How can anyone possibly not want a baby?

Amanda Marcotte did an eloquent post on the isue of “secular” anti-abortion arguments yesterday. No, she doesn’t buy it either.

So, the atheist/skeptic community is in an uproar on the subject of abortion, and since that’s kind of my jam, I figured I should weigh in. The question isn’t whether or not legal abortion is moral—outside a few kooks, nearly all non-believers are pro-choice—but whether or not those anti-abortion kooks should be indulged and given the privilege of having everyone treat their shit arguments like they have value in free-wheeling discourse, or if they should be shunned on the grounds of being shit arguments the same way anti-gay or overtly racist arguments are shunned.

I find the anti-shunning side to be peculiar, on the grounds of boredom. Yes, we should, as freethinkers, not shy away from “difficult” topics and have freewheeling discourse about them, but it’s not like anti-choicers have suddenly farted out a bunch of new crap arguments to pick apart. They’re still pooping out the same old crap argument they’ve been using for the past forty years—that an embryo or even fertilized egg that has no brain has more human rights than the woman who has been drafted into growing it against her will—that’s been debunked a million billion times.

Go ahead if you want to, she goes on, but don’t go thinking you’re advancing free thought by doing it, because that would require arguments in good faith, and that’s not what these are.

Like Kruszelnicki’s pseudo-liberal argument that if only there were more daycare and stuff like that then women would stop all this abortion horror. Oh yeah? says Amanda.

Ah, doesn’t that sound nice? We give women more opportunities to leave work early for their mothering duties and some gold-plated day care and perhaps some re-education camps (don’t say that out loud) and eventually, they will succumb to our soft coercion and know that having a baby is what they really want, like they should, because all ladies love babies—and all ladies want a baby right now  because they are so cute—because they are ladies.

Well, let me just put a stop to this shit right now. You can give me gold-plated day care and an awesome public school right on the street corner and start paying me 15% more at work, and I still do not want a baby. I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding. No matter how much free day care you throw at women, babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. No matter how flexible you make my work schedule, my entire life would be overturned by a baby. I like my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby. I’ve heard your pro-baby arguments. Glad those work for you, but they are unconvincing to me. Nothing will make me want a baby.

And we get to feel that way, and act on it, because it’s our lives, not someone else’s.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    Not to change the subject, but let’s not forget that TODAY is White Man March day!!!

    “”We are now in a position to make a serious statement to the anti-Whites,” Hunt wrote on the WMM homepage. “That is why we need to be on a consistent message and execute our plans with power and precision. We can learn from the failures and successes of the past so as to use our energy effectively.”

    Using one’s energy effectively, in this case, means that the pro-white activists don’t want to spend a lot of time tangling with the police, the media, or anyone who isn’t a pro-white activist. It also seems to mean that Hunt doesn’t want anyone coming off looking stupid. He’s urging everyone involved in WMM not to wear “paramilitary uniforms,” Nazi outfits or Klan robes, and suggests a nice summery wedding look instead:

    If you are a man, put on a pair of light khakis and a nice dress shirt. It should almost look like you are a groomsman at a wedding. Or maybe like an avenging Aryan angel. Women, you know how to look great in white.
    You could also wear sunglasses. Ancient warriors knew that a mask covering the eyes offers protection, but also provides the wearer with extra confidence. Sunglasses can intimidate others who cannot see your eyes, while making you seem cool and collected. This look is good if there might be hostile crowds

    On a recent episode of White Rabbit Radio, yet another white supremacist podcast, Hunt urged White Man Marchers to organize in small groups. On Saturday, he wants them to put up their banners quickly, take some photos, and leave before anyone starts trouble.

    “If you show up at a place where the press is already there, you’ve got police, you’ve got the anti-fascists, I’d say take your people and go somewhere else,” Hunt told White Rabbit’s host, a guy who calls himself Horus the Avenger (the Southern Poverty Law Center says Horus’s real name is Timothy Murdock, a 43-year-old Michigan guy who lives in his parents’ basement.)”

    If only I could find out where some of these fascist white-supremacist loonies are congregating, I’d drive by and shout “ASSHOLES!!” at them! MANY TIMES!! And maybe throw some tomatoes…but that might get ME in trouble 🙁

  2. Desert Son, OM says

    Was thinking about this yesterday.

    Partially-Tongue-in-Cheek-Hypothesis: Many forced-birth advocates are many of the same people who insist on showing photographs of their children without asking if you would like to see them first simply because they assume that everyone is as interested in their children as they are. Because Children!

    And I say this as someone who is interested in some day being a parent (through adoption).

    Still learning,


  3. Blanche Quizno says

    The metamessage behind the anti-abortion movement is “We want to punish women for having sex. Women are to remain virgins until they marry, and then they are to have as many children as their husbands can meat-injection into them – everybody knows this is the only proper and righteous life. We need to make sure those slutty sluts who refuse to obey are saddled with a few kids – THAT’ll learn ’em about the ‘wages of sin’!”

    How DARE women want to have as much sex as men do, with as little responsibility? How DARE women want to be able to walk away from a sexual encounter without a lifetime commitment of some sort resulting?? How DARE women have casual sex?? How DARE women have multiple relationships in life, instead of saving themselves for lasting marriage and lots of children? How DARE women be married and having lots of wild monkey sex without wanting children??? Obviously, birth control must be banned. That is not the sort of thing a proper lady will have any interest in. Back to your needlepoint, girls! And remember, there is *no reason* to have sexual intercourse except to try to become pregnant!

    You know, for all those men who whine about having to pay child support because the woman they impregnated chose carry the pregnancy to term, we’ve really got a full spectrum of crazy going on. It appears that the anti-abortion nuts want to have all the fun of denying women rights while not getting saddled with a lifetime of extra taxes to support those babies they want to force women to have. The most strident anti-abortion individuals also tend to be the most anti-taxes, anti-social welfare programs, and anti-anything that helps the poor.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this – it’s all bleah…

  4. says

    Well , maybe, just maybe, I don’t want another baby because I already hadtwo of them. And yes, not only do I love my kids very much, I also love how our joint lives are developing, how finally restaurant visits can be scheduled again, and how we can do things together.
    Really, I’m all in favour of better daycare, but I wont have another one.
    Also, if these people actually believed what they say they would be “secular pro daycare”, because obviously the best andmost effective way to reduce the number of abortions would be to increase the number of daycares. No need to restrict abortion rights

  5. screechymonkey says

    [Pigliucci mode on]
    Oh, sure, you can not want a baby. Just so long as you feel really, really, really bad about yourself for that.

  6. jesse says

    OK, there is a bit here that can be an interesting question, but it’s so hypothetical that it is just sort of silly.

    One thing anti-abortion people throw out there is the whole thing about how the limit for a viable fetus has been pushed back — and it has. Not so long ago a 30-week preemie likely wasn’t going to make it, period. Now a 24-week gestation seems to be about the limit for a 50-50 chance, which is still not good but it’s a chance. (If there’s an OB out there who has better/ more accurate numbers, by all means educate me, I never went to med school).

    OK, so we say that we don’t do infantcide but we do abortions, and then have to decide when it counts as infantcide. That question seems to be altered depending on what technology you are talking about. The idea that human rights might be altered by that isn’t too unusual, after all we do make an effort to help people in certain kinds of vegetative states or comas alive when 20 years ago they’d have been dead no question. So it isn’t like ethical problems can’t be re-jiggered or affected by technological progress.

    If we had a world where artificial wombs existed, then could one make a case that abortions should be prohibited since a woman need not carry a child to term? Maybe so.


    We don’t live in that world and it isn’t likely that we will for another couple of centuries at least. And even if we did, the real issue is something an OBGYN told me: everyone’s story is different.

    That doc had performed abortions in her career, for women who were everything from born-again Christian to secular, under all kinds of circumstances. One very religious woman came in and just said she could not have another baby. The woman was in tears. She could not do it. No health issues (well, mental health I guess) no other “extenuating” circumstances, just — not wanting another child.

    Ever since I heard that I have said that whatever choices you want to make, they are YOUR CHOICES. Nobody else’s. Nobody else can know the circumstances. Nobody else can know what drives you, what’s important, what your needs are.

    For that reason alone, abortion must be legal. It must be available. It must be “on demand” — which is such stupid phraseology I can hardly stomach it. I mean, when the f-ing else would you want an abortion? When you don’t demand it? When you ask nicely? On alternate Wednesdays?

    Abortions must be legal and available because there is simply no way to prescribe a single program for everyone. There just isn’t. And if you’re going to pull out the “potential human” canard, then tell me you’ve solved all the other problems that go with that which Amanda Marcotte just outlined.

    Remember the bit about artificial wombs? Well, even if you had those, you’d have to figure out the baby’s care once it developed. Not every woman wants to do that. And last I checked it wasn’t exactly always easy to get adoptive parents of any stripe. I can’t imagine that changing without some HUGE societal/social changes.

    Not everyone wants a child, and the reasons vary a lot. It isn’t some essential woman-thing to want one.

    Is here an interesting ethical question (thinking of the other post “A secular argument for infantcide”) — yes there is, in an abstract way. But that matters not at all in the nitty gritty of practical consequences, and what we have to do here and now. We can play hypothetical games all day but they don’t matter.

    I never understood why any of this is so hard for anti-choicers to get. Especially since they show up at the clinics as patients on a pretty regular basis.

  7. says

    I think I’m having trouble parsing this issue and I’m hoping Ophelia or one of her frequent commenters can help me out. I’m a philosophy geek and I can get tunnel vision and lose the bigger picture if I don’t read carefully.

    Is the issue here that there are no good philosophical arguments that could be marshaled by someone for the purpose of demonstrating a zygote should get the same consideration as a human person?

    Or is the issue bigger than that? Are the philosophical arguments secondary or tertiary to issues of social policy, activism, feminism, and all that good stuff. That is to say, there may be good philosophical arguments for that position, but the reality of the issue on the ground for women is such that the philosophy is a moot point.

    If it is the former, then I think some pretty robust arguments can be made that are entirely secular in nature and take a full account of biology and psychology. If it is the latter, than I can go back to my little corner because I’m out of my depth.

    Or is there a third option I’ve missed?

  8. karmacat says

    I think there are more ethical issues with a baby born at 24 weeks. Babies born at 24 weeks sometimes have a lifetime of serious health problems. Is it right to save a24 week premie when it may suffer throughout his/her life. I don’t know the answer to this. If I had a premie like that, I would probably let him or her die peacefully

  9. screechymonkey says

    Patrick, I can only speak for myself on this one, but I’d say it’s a combination of:

    1) The arguments aren’t really “good.” At least not in the sense of holding together under any degree of critical scrutiny; I’m sure you can phrase some syllogism that will satisfy a philosopher as sound.

    2) The supposedly secular arguments are generally disingenuous, because they’re just thinly disguised religious or magical/mystical arguments.

    3) The arguments are old. We’ve all heard them before, so we get a little cranky at someone insisting that we need to “hear them out” on an issue that has been discussed to death. It’s like how every religious apologist who comes to an atheist blog seems to think they’ve got a real corker of an argument that will convince us, but it turns out it’s just another version of one of the oldies.

    4) This shit affects women’s bodies and lives, and so many people don’t really enjoy seeing a “philosophy geek” use it as an opportunity to flex his rhetorical muscles, or play Devil’s Advocate, or “play with ideas,” or however philosophy dudebros usually justify treating other people’s rights as subject of debate just for shits and giggles. (And I’m not saying you’ve done that yet, but you seem to be gearing up for it.) Especially since every single Devil’s Advocate turns out to be just slinging the same shit we’ve seen before.

    It’s not my blog and I don’t make the rules here, but my suggestion is:
    If you’re really keen to go construct some “robust arguments” why women should be deprived of their bodily automony, go somewhere else. Find one of the gajillion forums on the internet where people will be delighted to expound philosophically on the subject. Or go publish a paper in a philosophical journal or whatever. After all that, if and when you’ve come up with an argument that (1) isn’t the same old shit; and (2) that you sincerely believe is actually persuasive on the subject, i.e. not just “well, I’m still pro-choice, but this is a neat little argument I’ve built, isn’t it? Please admire it with me” but “wow, I have changed my mind on this subject and here is why”…. well, then maybe I’ll be interested, though I suspect I’ll find that you’ve fudged one of those requirements.

  10. jagwired says


    If it is the former, then I think some pretty robust arguments can be made that are entirely secular in nature and take a full account of biology and psychology. If it is the latter, than I can go back to my little corner because I’m out of my depth.

    It’s definitely the latter. And I think you’re wrong about there being “some pretty robust arguments can be made that are entirely secular in nature and take a full account of biology and psychology.” Please do not take that as a challenge to prove me wrong. It’s been done to death. Just stay in your corner… at least when in comes to this issue. This might be an interesting philosophical topic for you to think about, but we’re talking about another human being’s bodily autonomy. That will never be up for debate.

  11. ema says

    If we had a world where artificial wombs existed, then could one make a case that abortions should be prohibited since a woman need not carry a child to term? Maybe so.

    Maybe not. In order to transfer an intrauterine pregnancy to that famed artificial womb you still have to, literally, go through the uterine container.

    Abortion is a safe and effective medical procedure, one that significantly reduces a patient’s morbidity and mortality. Clearly, something one should make a case for prohibiting.

  12. quixote says

    Well, if Patrick’s gone there’s no point to this, but what the hell. I’ll repeat myself anyway.

    Take the issue out of the whole fetus-babies-women mess. You have two kidneys. You are a perfect tissue match for a dying patient. Does the patient have any right to requisition your spare kidney, which you don’t actually need? (And which you could donate with less medical risk than a pregancy and childbirth entail.)

    The answer is, “Duh! No!” The legal status of the patient needing the kidney does not matter. It could be the president of the United States. Nobody, for any reason, has a right to damage your bodily integrity for their own benefit.

    Except when the people involved are women. It’s Exhibit A in the case proving that far too many people don’t really see women as real humans.

    It would be a grimmish world if we truly believed the idea the everybody’s body was available to provide life support to others.

  13. Katherine Woo says

    Ophelia, you only harm the pro-choice side by continuing to treat as valid that ridiculous Secular Census data.

    Their ‘poll’ was a survey of people who actively registered. That is not how you conduct representative polls of any given subgroup or populace. It is a prime example of selection bias.

    Please I am begging you stop giving credence to that complete and utter bullshit. It makes you look politically compromised and anti-intellectual. The exact same general argument can be made with the highly credible Pew data.

    But the actual number, 72%, does not open the door for Marcotte’s smug, childish slur of “kooks.”

  14. theobromine says

    The atheist pro-lifers I have encountered (Kruszelnicki being one of them) do not accept the validity of quixote @15’s kidney argument (or the additional point that there is no society (that I am aware of anyway) that mandates any sort of tissue or organ donation – even from dead people). Their justification for disregarding the equivalence is that, since she had sex, the pregnant woman bears responsibility for the generation of the zygote/embryo/fetus. In response, I have pointed out that the sperm donor has at least as much responsibility (up to 100%, in the case of rape), so why should the woman have to take all the consequences? The response I have received is that it is simply a fact of biology that a man can participate in making a zygote then just walk away, and is irrelevant to their assertion of the immorality of abortion. (And then they will swear up and down that their position is not in the least misogynistic.)

  15. AnotherAnonymouse says

    @karmacat: you’re right about the lifetime of disabilities. There’s now evidence that a child born anywhere short of 40 weeks’ gestation (even 38 weeks!) is at higher risk for ADHD. A 24-week fetus risks a lifetime of blindness, deafness, mental retardation, seizures, and even early stroke and all the neurological problems that go with any stroke victim. When I was pregnant, I made up my mind that should I give birth to a micro-preemie, I would let it go at birth rather than have it live a tortured life. One aspect of lifelong disabilities the anti-choicers neglect is that there are no safety nets out there. I speak as a family member of a profoundly disabled adult with the mental capacity of an 18-month old and the blind rages and temper tantrums that go along with it. That adult has been on the waiting list for respite care (1 hour a month for her elderly mother) for the past 17 years, and on the waiting list for institutionalization for much longer. It was under Bush’s reich that she turned 18 and lost her Social Security (her father died of a heart attack from working 3 jobs to pay for her special therapy when she was 8), and her mother had a year-long fight to try to get benefits for an adult with the mental age of a toddler–who cannot be toilet trained and may not even know her own name. Because sure, as the Republican party keeps mailing her, she should “feel the value of accomplishment” by going out and getting a job–there are jobs going begging for profoundly disabled adults who are violent.

  16. jesse says

    @ema – yeah, understand the point was that the whole bit about technology and fetal/preemie mortality that anti choices trot out is dumb.

  17. Blanche Quizno says

    PatrickMefford, I hope you’re not gone already, because I recently ran across a source that I think perfectly addresses your concerns (and kudos to you for being concerned). How did I run across it? Via a link from this site? Entirely possible. Regardless, it needs to be presented here, because it addresses specifically your concern, Patrick. May I presume to call you by your first name? I hope.

    I’ll excerpt the most important parts – and please consider these, in light of the other responses you’ve received:

    “On the Privilege of Discussing Abortion

    During my research I began to see how extraordinarily shallow and politically-motivated most of the arguments against abortion rights really are. Most of those arguments are not at all ethical investigations into the character of a particular choice, but thinly-veiled attempts to control women’s bodies, made most often by men. They are rooted in patriarchy, and seek to reinforce the illegitimate claim many men think they have to control what a woman does with her body. Digging beneath the surface of most “pro-life” arguments, I found that they are not “pro-life” at all, because they deeply disrespect and demean women and *their* right to live their life. It was impossible to escape the conclusion that many of the arguments came from a place in which a person with a uterus is just less of a person.

    What I had failed to realize, despite my weeks of preparation, is that my ability and willingness to enter into a space of “debate” around the issue of abortion is a manifestation of privilege. What you are wiling to debate – what is effectively “up for discussion” – is frequently a reflection of what you think, in principle, you might be willing to give up. What you are able to put on the table of public discourse are the things you don’t feel too threatened to let go of. During all my discussions on the topic before the debate it had never occurred to me that my ability to conduct the research and weigh the arguments in a reasonably dispassionate way was due to the fact that I simply will never have to face the decision to abort. I was discussing, and discoursing, and debating rights which are not mine to put up for discussion. By opening that debate, even taking the pro-choice side, I was essentially putting women’s right to autonomy on the table in a way I have no business doing. Engaging in abstract philosophical discussion about other people’s rights in a public forum, when those rights are constantly under threat in the current political and social climate, and when the answer to the questions you raise will never effect you directly, is a callous and thoughtless thing to do.

    When it is my fundamental rights being debated, it is very easy to see when the issues are being discussed with too much intellectual remove, and too little righteous anger. I have, more than once, tried angrily to impress upon those arguing against equal marriage (say) that it is my life they are talking about, not some topic for a class paper. My life. It is sadly less easy to see this happening when you are on the other side of the equation. The fact is that as much as I try to be an ally to women, I do not feel the sense of threat and personal affront when confronted with an argument against abortion which I feel when confronted with an argument against gay rights. It doesn’t hit me where I live – which makes me a very bad person to judge when and to what extent such discussions are appropriate.

    I have noted the fact that my Facebook comment threads regarding this issue are overwhelmingly filled with men, and that women often seem to not wish to comment. I have noted, too, that people who do not have a certain set of privileges associated with being a man are telling me I am being privilege-blind at this moment, and I have come to the conclusion they are correct. Although it is not pleasant to be criticized by people you respect greatly, and with whom you share important values, I would like those who have offered criticism to know that, ultimately, I value the chance to discover where I was wrong, as in this instance.”

    Do you have a uterus, Patrick? Is it possible for you to get pregnant? If not, then I wonder how you can presume to judge or decide, philosophically or otherwise, what, when, and whether someone, who is completely different from you in the only sense that matters for the topic at hand, should be allowed to do under circumstances you will never find yourself in.

    With all due respect, of course.

  18. Blanche Quizno says

    AnotherAnonymouse: I’m so sorry. How impotent that comment is, yet I’ve got nothing to offer. Thank you for bringing your real life situation to the public, if only on this forum. I’m am heartbroken that we as a society are so callous and selfish. Can you possibly move to Canada?

  19. Forbidden Snowflake says

    My most recent thought on the subject of abortion is this:
    If a woman has some kind of pregnancy-related health crisis, and requires medical help to save the fetus, or both herself and the fetus, or just herself if it’s too late for the fetus, the man who impregnated her isn’t legally obliged to give up a kidney, or even donate blood for her benefit. This in spite of the fact that all of those arguments, like “blah blah blah but she had sex”, and “blah blah personal responsibility”, and “blah blah blah but babies” are at least as valid, often more so (because he would be saving both woman and fetus in some cases; because he isn’t legally obliged to help even if he impregnated her by force), in the case of the man.
    I don’t suppose any pro-lifers think that the man should be forced to provide with his body (I haven’t seen them argue it or try to legislate it), but even if they do, they should admit that as long as he isn’t obliged, obliging the woman is unjust.

    Does that make sense?

  20. says

    Their justification for disregarding the equivalence is that, since she had sex, the pregnant woman bears responsibility for the generation of the zygote/embryo/fetus.

    Which is bullshit.
    My husband passed on his family’s liability for kidney abnormalities. While he has 2 healthy kidneys, our youngest has only one. He procreated knowing the risks for possible offspring. He still could not be forced to give up one of his kidneys.
    Mothers of haemophiliacs who gave their sons their own damaged X-chromosome are not drafted into blood donations and in both cases we’re talking about actual people who can suffer.

  21. Blanche Quizno says

    “as long as he isn’t obliged, obliging the woman is unjust.

    Does that make sense?”

    Yes, and thank you for a perspective that I hadn’t seen before. I promise you I’ll use it :}

    Boy, howdy, will I use it!! >:)

  22. Silentbob says

    @ 23 Forbidden Snowflake

    Brilliant, and quite correct!
    In fact, the argument can be generalised. Even if I am responsible for another person needing a transplant (let’s say through reckless driving I crushed another person’s kidneys), there is not a court in the land that would order that I must forcibly have an organ removed to save their life.

  23. theobromine says

    @23: Concise and brilliant.

    @26 Silentbob: I have often made the general argument, but the advantage of Snowflake’s framing is that it includes the “because sex” component. (Pregnancy is, after all, a sexually transmitted condition.)

  24. AnotherAnonymouse says

    @Blanche (and everyone else): sorry for the rant. It started off as a simple comment and went off into a whole crazy place. The point I wanted to make is that the anti-choicers demand all fetuses be gestated to term (and in my family’s case, there would have been no indications of any problem in utero anyway), but once the baby is born, if it needs special care of any kind, the mother and baby are on their own. Sure, that cute little high-functioning Down Syndrome toddler is adorable, but the reality of the handicapped is that they aren’t all sweet little snowflakes who stay tiny and adorable and simply need someone to tie their shoes and cut their meat for them–they grow up, and many of them are quite disabled. In the USA, funding for the profoundly disabled has been cut to the bone and hundreds of thousands of adults are languishing for lack of care. Moving to Canada sounds wonderful, but immigration is hard, and they don’t want you if all you can do is provide 24/7 care for someone who can’t care for themselves.

  25. shari says

    Parenthood is hard when you choose it.

    Parenthood is Really, Really hard when you choose it, and family health issues rear up at the same time.

    Parenthood is devastating when you choose it, and the baby is really unhealthy. You are torn between desperately hoping that child can live and make it, and being afraid to admit that maybe…..the child has been through enough.

    And having never had a child I didn’t want, I cannot imagine how hard it would be to keep things going with an ‘oopsie’ baby when things get tough – especially with the child’s health.

    Hearing arguements from any anti-choicer who has never had a child is particularly vile to me. Or someone who will Never experience the real dangers of pre-eclampsia and worse. I can understand people being anti-choice if they had many children and no health scares. Or, if they had a bad miscarriage and a crew of safe babies after that. I totally get it. But their experience doesn’t get to dictate anyone else’s. That’s just evil.

  26. Hibernia86 says

    @Blanche Quizno, I agree it is hypocritical of those who want to ban abortion to complain about child support, but I should note that even in the pro-choice community I too often see people saying that if a woman isn’t ready to have a kid she shouldn’t have to, but if a man isn’t ready to have a kid then “he shouldn’t have had sex if he didn’t want the baby”. It is a sad double standard when it comes to how people react to reproductive choice based on the person’s gender. I don’t know if you meant to imply this, but I see it too often so I note it here.

  27. hoary puccoon says


    No man is ever ready to “have a kid” unless he’s a transsexual former woman. Men don’t bear children. They don’t take the risks that women do. A man may find his paycheck attached, but he will not face physical pain and danger, as women do in pregnancy and childbirth. It’s only fair that the people who have to take the physical burden should get the final say in the matter.

    And I might add, men who confine their sexual activities to women whom they know and trust generally are given quite a bit of say in reproductive decisions.

  28. Hibernia86 says

    @Hoary Puccoon: It is true that men aren’t forced to be pregnant which is why I don’t think women should be forced to have children, but at the same time having a child is a huge responsibility both financially and physically. It can end your chance of going to college if you have to get a job to support a kid before you are ready. You either spend hours per day on child care or if you aren’t with the mother you pay a large chunk of your paycheck and rarely see your kid. First trimester abortions are quick and easy which is why I think the burden on the father from having a kid before he is ready is a thousand times or more than the burden of a woman having a first trimester abortion. Also, yes many women do take their partner’s desires into account when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, but many don’t as shown by the tens of thousands of unplanned teenaged pregnancies where the boyfriend is much less enthusiastic than the girlfriend about having a kid.

  29. Amy Clare says

    #30 Hibernia 86 – you can’t compare abortions to child support. It’s apples and oranges. One is doing something to your body, the other is doing something with money. It’s a qualitatively different kind of burden, so you can’t say it’s a thousand times worse for the man or anything of the sort. A more fair comparison would be with the burden on a man of having a vasectomy to be sure of not fathering any babies. I hear they’re quick and easy too.

  30. hoary puccoon says


    It may be a thousand times more than the burden of a first trimester abortion, but it’s about a thousand times less than the burden on the young mother, if she actually decides to keep and raise the child. (Have you looked at the statistics of who is living in poverty?) This is why teenagers should be taught about birth control and strongly encouraged to use it– and to see abortion as a rational alternative, not a sin.

    In Alaska last summer I heard the story of a seaman, about to become a boat captain, who was the only survivor of an accident at sea. The seaman immediately quit his job, gave up all effort to be a captain, and got a much lower paying job on land. Now, obviously, his wife’s standard of living was severely reduced by the decision he made. She hadn’t bargained for life as the wife of a semi-skilled workman. Did that give her the right to compel him to go back to sea? (Alternatively, if a wife gets scared by the danger of a life at sea before the husband does, should she have any right to compel him to stay home?)

    No, in both cases the wife will undoubtedly be told, “it’s his decision,” and, quite likely, “you should have considered that before you married him.” Why? Because IT’S THE MAN’S BODY ON THE LINE. The wife of that seaman who quit probably had her life more severely disrupted than the average teenage guy who gets a girl pregnant. That still didn’t give her the right to force her husband to put himself at risk.

    There are a lot of circumstances where one citizen can demand that another fork over money. But unless a person has been convicted of a felony, a citizen cannot be compelled to surrender his or her bodily autonomy. when it’s your body on the line, you get the final say.

  31. AnotherAnonymouse says

    @Hibernia; there’s no reason a man should “almost never get to see” his children if he wants to. There’s joint custody and there’s liberal visitation if he doesn’t want joint custody. You’re beginning to sound like many men I’ve worked with over the years who rant and rave that the mother of their child is “living it up” on their $200/month in child support (because children never need to eat, or get shoes that fit, or even go on a field trip to the zoo with their class, and they certainly never need braces or school supplies or a roof over their heads). These same guys practically orgasmed when their kids turned 18 because legally they were not required to give another cent to their own flesh and blood.

  32. hoary puccoon says

    I thought of another case where a man’s decision about his own body had terrible consequences for others. He was a husband and father of five children. He was also an avid motorcyclist. My in-laws, who told me this story, were close family friends. They had a serious talk with the family about having a will drawn up and getting term insurance. The motorcyclist and his wife agreed.

    But a week later, before the family could act on the advice, the man drove his motorcycle in the rain. Unlike the character in the Billy Joel song, he did not make it home alive.

    That left a woman with no job prospects and five minor children.

    Yet no one is advocating that men with children should be banned from riding motorcycles. Motorcyclists scream their rights are being violated if they are so much as compelled to wear a helmet.

    All women are asking for is the same autonomy to make their own decisions about their own bodies– even if they can’t avoid creating repercussions for other people.

  33. Wylann says

    I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding. No matter how much free day care you throw at women, babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. No matter how flexible you make my work schedule, my entire life would be overturned by a baby. I like my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby. I’ve heard your pro-baby arguments. Glad those work for you, but they are unconvincing to me. Nothing will make me want a baby.

    I now love and don’t want to make babies with, Amanda!

    In a purely platonic way, mind you, because I already found and married a woman who totally agrees with the part I quoted. 🙂 At least it’s a lot easier to not make babies in a platonic way. The other option is a lot more difficult….

  34. Wylann says

    I really hope one day we can invent an artificial womb, and it could be ‘implanted’ (for lack of a better term) in men. Then we can see just how pro-life all those guys really are.

  35. thascius says

    @38 They’d undoubtedly screech that it was “unnatural” and want nothing to do with it.

  36. Mimmoth says

    Heh. If you coulld make an artificial womb and implant it in men they’d screech that their bodily autonomy was being breeched.

    I have a modest proposal. Instead of discussing again whether women are real human beings with real human rights or just a superior kind of barnyard animal that can be trained to perform simple household chores but does not get a say in whether she is bred, perhaps we should discuss whether men should have bodily autonomy.

    Perhaps all men over the age of puberty should be permitted to make a few sperm donations, for when a woman wants to have their child, and then be vasectomized, by force if necessary. Period, no exceptions.

    Every fetus conceived will be the result of a deliberate decision. Abortions will not stop completely–there will always be the occasional tragedy, the fetus that dies in the womb and is poisoning its mother, the fetus that is developing without a head, the fetus that is half baby and half cancer. But they will be *enormously* reduced.

    Of course, men’s bodily autonomy will have to be breeched a tiny bit–but a vasectomy is a very minor operation, well understood, very quick to do–shaving the hair off will take longer–and quick to recover from. Compared to vomiting one’s way through pregnancy and screaming one’s way through labor, it is nothing any reasonable person would fuss about.

    This is the disccussion we should be having over and over. Whether *men* have bodily autonomy.

  37. says

    Patrick said:

    Or is the issue bigger than that? Are the philosophical arguments secondary or tertiary to issues of social policy, activism, feminism, and all that good stuff. That is to say, there may be good philosophical arguments for that position, but the reality of the issue on the ground for women is such that the philosophy is a moot point.

    No, Patrick, the issue is mainly that people who are self-proclaimed “Philosophy geeks” are completely ignorant of the fact that all the good philosophy papers are on the side of bodily autonomy.

    Dana’s post hits this home here:

    My own post on this topic from March 12th:

    Anytime you want to catch up with Philosophy papers from the ***1970s*** would be good. Want to know why people shit on Philosophy? Because “Philosophy geeks” keep saying this kind of crap. (“Geek” is supposed to imply some kind of expertise, right? You’ve set the bar: please meet it)

  38. Timothy says

    @18 AnotherAnonymouse:

    So well said. Thank you. I very much agree: there is no safety net. I’ve spent most of my adult life working with children, teens, and adults with mental illness. I loathe the term “pro-life,” because in my experience, they are not. Very similar to the reasons you stated. I’ve seen abused children ignored by the very systems set up to protect them. I’ve seen teens and adults fall through the cracks of our society through no fault of their own. America is a very violent society, and survival on the edges is brutal. The anti-choice folks want to prevent abortions, but they are unwilling to pay to support adoptions or to improve safety for children or to really reduce violence in household across America or even to pay to feed hungry children.

    Makes me furious.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *