Wednesday, July 22, 2009

She'll Take Care Of It

Richard Sith has a provocative piece in the current issue of First Things in which he argues that contrary to claims that the availability of abortion "empowers" or "liberates" women, it actually worsens their position by shifting the responsibility to decide whether a child comes into this world squarely on their shoulders and letting men off the hook. Her Choice, Her Problem: How Abortion Empowers Men (sub req):

But once continuing a pregnancy to birth is the result neither of passion nor of luck but only of her deliberate choice, sympathy weakens. After all, the pregnant woman can avoid all her problems by choosing abortion. So if she decides to take those difficulties on, she must think she can handle them.

Birth itself may be followed by blame rather than support. Since only the mother has the right to decide whether to let the child be born, the father may easily conclude that she bears sole responsibility for caring for the child. The baby is her fault.

It may also seem unfair to him that she could escape motherhood (by being legally allowed to prevent birth), while he is denied any way to escape fatherhood (by still being legally required to pay child support). If consenting to sex does not entail consenting to act as a mother, why should it entail consenting to act as a father? Paternity support in this context appears unjust, and he may resist compliance with his legal duties.

Prior to the legalization of abortion in the United States, it was commonly understood that a man should offer a woman marriage in case of pregnancy, and many did so. But with the legalization of abortion, men started to feel that they were not responsible for the birth of children and consequently not under any obligation to marry. In gaining the option of abortion, many women have lost the option of marriage. Liberal abortion laws have thus considerably increased the number of families headed by a single mother, resulting in what some economists call the "feminization of poverty."

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