Thursday, March 16, 2006

Choice? Rights?

I find this case of the man in Michigan who's arguing that he shouldn't have to pay child support for a child he didn't want, on the basis that Roe v. Wade gives women a similar choice, fascinating. Choice, choice, choice, the word just keeps popping up relative to sexual activity. With sexual orientation generally, the discussion eventually boiled down to the argument that homosexuality was or was not a 'choice.' Women have the right to 'choose' a pregnancy or not. Now men, or some men at any rate, want a similar 'choice.'

Does 'choice' imply the abdication of responsibility? Or does it make responsibility obsolete?

With women and pregnancy, the issue of choice is more complicated than just the responsibilities of parenthood. There is physical strain involved, which the body may or may not be able to handle. There is the loss of the completely autonomous body for approximately nine months. There are the potential restrictions on activity and the ability to hold a job that come with a difficulty pregnancy--and any pregnancy can turn arduously difficult. Those nine months can make or break you in a way from which the long-term responsibilities of parenthood differ. So, in some cases, the 'choice' involved is much more about the pregnancy than about the child or parenting.

The lawyer for the guy pointed out (I was watching a televised debate) when the person representing the opposing view point (because, as you know, we only have 2 points of view in this country at any one time, and they must be polarized) noted that if the guy didn't want a kid, he shouldn't have had sex--the lawyer pointed out that that was one of the arguments directed against the woman in Roe v. Wade. I have to say, a little chill went up and down my spine.

I think there are valid points in here for men: whether and in what way they should be held responsible for a child they didn't want (which is not always an issue of manipulation, but a matter of the vicissitudes of birth control), what rights they have over a child they do want that their partner decides to abort, etc. But how can any of these arguments be transformed into any kind of law when Roe v. Wade is not truly a settled point of law? Some states are abolishing abortion--and the law has been under attack within the legal and political systems virtually since it was decided. Yes, it is 'settled' in that it is currently the law of the land, but it's a hair's breadth from being overturned. You can't give men a bunch of 'rights' based on a woman's similar 'rights' in Roe v. Wade, when the rights for women could disappear at any moment, but the laws granting men 'rights' would still be on the books. It's ridiculous.

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