Feminism is said to be about equality between the sexes.
While I don’t see feminists fighting equally on many issues (you can see my previous articles and follow my future articles to understand why), there is still one very important issue that is yet to be discussed. Men and women aren’t equal by nature. We are not equal by the most basic body function: reproduction.
Men and women aren’t equal by nature. We are not equal by the most basic body function: reproduction.
We can’t achieve equality of rights when we don’t have equal responsibility. It’s a bit like if you buy a house. Your tenants don’t have to pay your mortgage, but you have the right to renovate. Equal rights come from equal responsibility.
On the issue of reproduction, then, when considering rights, it is crucial to remember the differences between the sexes:
Men and women don’t have the same birth control options yet
Men’s only birth control options are condoms or a vasectomy. The problem with vasectomy is that it is not reliably reversible. It is comparable to a tubular ligation in women. Ie. it is invasive and considered permanent. The problem with condoms is that they are not an independent solution. If the woman lacks lubrication on her side of the condom, it can break and the man would be at risk, even if he used his method perfectly. So, even if this method is 98% effective when used perfectly, it needs perfect use from both partners. Therefore, perfect use is not achievable by the man alone. Women, on the other hand, have many safe and reliable options for birth control. They have IUDs, pills, rings, injections, patches… in addition to tubular ligation. These methods can provide 99.9% effectiveness with perfect use, and that can be achieved by the woman alone since these methods don’t require any input from a partner. Responsibility in the case of an unwanted pregnancy is therefore not equal because women can ensure perfect use by themselves. Perfect use – with very few exceptions due to birth control failing, not misuse. For women, the effectiveness of their birth control is in their hands and their hands alone. If you misuse your own birth control, it’s your responsibility. The problem is that men lack a safe, effective and reversible birth control option where use is entirely their responsibility. Men lack this option, yet are still held responsible when there’s an unwanted pregnancy.
While women have the upper hand in birth control, it has been assumed that they don’t have the upper hand in the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy. In both abortion and pregnancy, it will be the woman who will experience the medical procedures, the body changes, the pains and the risks to her life. While the risk of life is significantly lower than it used to be, it is still a risk. A man will not experience any changes to his body. This does not mean he is not at risk of death from an unwanted pregnancy, however. If he is forced into fatherhood, he will be forced to provide for the child. He will need to work more hours, keep a job he doesn’t want, etc. This exposes him to greater risk of death in the workplace. The CDC data for 2013
puts the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for women in the US at 17.3 per 100,000 live births. This is slightly lower than the risk of death for taxi drivers and chauffeurs
in the US for the same year at 19.7 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. The annual rate for some male-dominated professions exceeds 100 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Men forced into fatherhood endure this annual risk for 18 years or more.
Nobody should be forced to endure pain, change their body or risk their life, be it at work or in a pregnancy. That is bodily autonomy.
Like marriage, parenthood should be something adults consent to. People have different situations in life and might not even be able to provide for themselves, much less for someone else.
Like marriage, parenthood should be something adults consent to.
The current situation and why it’s not right
Women have all the best birth control options and yet they are the only ones who can decide to say no to an unwanted pregnancy with abortion. Women can also stop their birth control and then force a man to pay for the resulting child. They can force a man to be a father, and then force him to support the resulting child for 18 years or more, which also supports her.
Solutions from the other side and why they don’t work
Some people want both parties to consent to an abortion. That means that if a man wants to keep the child, the mother would be forced to keep it. That goes against the right of bodily autonomy, forcing the woman to go through pain, change her body and risk her life, without her consent.
This also does nothing to address the ability of a woman to force a man into fatherhood without his consent.
Solutions that do work
To me, balancing the differences between the sexes regarding reproduction means taking into consideration the different rights and responsibilities: As women have better birth control options and the option to get an abortion, it’s important that women cannot force men into parenthood. If she misused her birth control, it shouldn’t be a man’s problem. If it’s an accident, she still has the option to abort. A man should therefore get the same right to say no to parenthood. That’s where legal paternal surrender (also known as financial abortion) comes into it. He would have the option to surrender his responsibility and rights to the child. To be fair, this solution requires 2 conditions:
- Women need to be advised of the man’s decision before 10 weeks. This provides her with the time to abort if she doesn’t want to be a single mother.
- Men would have to be advised of the pregnancy no later than 8 weeks, so they have time to decide too.
The cons and their solution
I will address the pro life position by keeping to the rights addressed in this article: Some women don’t want to abort, some men don’t want their unborn child to be aborted. In this case, the solution is a relationship contract between the parties where they both agree not to have an abortion or apply for legal paternal surrender. Relationship contracts could also be conditional on taking/using birth control if the parties so choose. That means that if a woman stops her birth control, the man’s responsibility for a resulting pregnancy is nullified.