Three years ago, my article titled “Vizhetzoom” closed with the conundrum of how to integrate the future father’s rights, interests, and needs with those of the future mother when performing an abortion is in the offing. This takes on more relevance in light of “Changing Abortion’s Pronoun”, an article appearing in the January 7 LA Times.
The piece describes a burgeoning movement of men’suffering in the aftermath of abortions. These men are being tended to by the religious sector of society. The political overtones are portrayed as ominous because of the gut-rending, tear-jerking stories these men can and do tell. The concern is that such emotional punch can lead to a major turnaround by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding abortion rights. Given the usual lag between when a social movement becomes substantial and when the major, conventional, corporate media start covering it, being concerned with this turn of events entirely sound.
The cynical manipulators of the religious right are just the fanatics to take advantage of men’s misery to re-impose the wire-hanger based misery and tragedy of yesteryear on women.
Here’s the nexus between what I wrote in January, 2005 and the post-abortion men’s movement. In one of the rare instances of men being disempowered vis-a-vis women, in the U.S. the choice of aborting has been granted entirely to woman. Obviously there is no problem when both future parents agree to have the child or abort. Conflict arises when one or the other wants to have the child and the other to abort.
When the woman wants the child and the man doesn’t, that’s exactly what happens, and the man is often saddled with raising, partially-rearing, and or paying for a child (one he may not even see). Conversely, if he wants the child and she doesn’t, he’s still stuck, because ultimately, she gets to make the decision.
This total disempowerment of men disregards the fundamental biological reality that when it comes to reproduction, we humans achieve it via sexual contact, not through mitosis like an amoeba, nor through the hermaphroditic self-insemination of some creatures, and neither through the random, impersonal spreading of sperm on fish roe. The human male and female are inextricably intertwined, biologically and emotionally. Excluding either one can only lead to clashes. Yet that’s what we’ve done.
I suspect this grinding– even degrading, exclusionary, disempowering state we subject men to under current law is a major undercurrent feeding the phenomenon the LA Times describes. The fanatics exploiting the tragedy could well be undercut by addressing this imbalance of power. Abortion rights activists would do well to consider this need before it gets out of hand. Some kind of compromise must be struck. Some means of sociological, psychological, supportive intervention mechanism must be developed to help those pairs who are at the critical juncture of choosing, yet are at odds over which route to select.
Our community’s churches, social workers, and mental health practitioners should be examining this matter also. They should be coming up with solutions and policies that address it in the context of our unique historical, Diasporan context. I’d love to hear more about this. “Vizhetzoom” generated no replies. Perhaps this time will be different.