Richard Bennett posted a response to me, but I’m putting off replying until I can borrow a copy of a book he cites. Meanwhile, Tony at the Rant Factory (whose permalink isn’t working, so you may have to scroll down to find it) has been responding to an unwilling Meryl Yourish, arguing that “real choice” includes the right of men to decide whether or not women have abortions.
Bizarrely, Tony cites the Supreme Court to support his position. He emphasizes Skinner v. Oklahoma (which he mistakenly calls a state supreme court decision) to argue that “procreation is a basic human right available to women AND men.” But Skinner, which established that the government can’t punish criminals by sterilizing them (or, at least, that it’s unconstitutional to do so if sterilization is applied unevenly), doesn’t say that anyone is required to give up their rights to facilitate other people’s reproduction. Tony is arguing that he has a constitutional right to force his wife to bear children, and that proposition is not supported by Skinner.
If you’re having trouble seeing why Skinner doesn’t help Tony’s argument, think of the First Amendment. I have a First Amendment right to free speech, but not a First Amendment right to make Tony publish my opinions. In fact, Tony has a free speech right to not publish me, if he doesn’t want to (see Miami Herald v. Tornillo).
Just as my right to free speech doesn’t force Tony to publish my speech, Tony’s right to reproduce doesn’t force his wife to bear his child. On the contrary, Mrs. Tony has a constitutional right not to reproduce, if she doesn’t want to (see Eisenstadt v. Baird – “If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”).
If we’re going to look at Supreme Court cases, let’s look at relevant ones. Skinner isn’t the relevant legal precedent; Planned Parenthood v. Danforth is. In this case, the court addressed Tony’s question – should husbands have a legal right to prevent a wife’s abortion? – directly. “The obvious fact is that when the wife and the husband disagree on this decision, the view of only one of the two marriage partners can prevail. Inasmuch as it is the woman who physically bears the child and who is the more directly and immediately affected by the pregnancy, as between the two, the balance weighs in her favor.” (Notice this is just what Meryl Yourish said – “my body, my choice”).
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So all of Tony’s constitutional and Supreme Court arguments can be thrown out. What about Tony’s other arguments? They all boil down to this:
All Rights have responsibilities. If you want the sole decision-making power in all cases, you need to take the sole responsibility in all cases. Your body, your decision? That’s incomplete; how about Your Body, Your Decision, Your Problem. If men have no reproductive control and no procreative rights, they should have no responsibilities for the result of procreation, whether it’s an abortion or a baby. Personally, I don’t want to live in a society where the man’s responsibility defaults to non-existence.
Tony is attacking a collection of straw men. Women don’t have the sole power in all decisions; women cannot legally rape men to get sperm, for instance. Women have sole power to make the abortion decision, but women and men share the power to decide on reproduction. Tony’s claim that “men have no reproductive control and no procreative rights” is blatantly false; men decide to have sex (or not), to wear a triple layer of condoms (or not), to have a vasectomy (or not), to refuse to have sex unless she uses a diaphragm and spermacide (or not), and so on. It’s true that only the woman can decide to have an abortion; but it’s equally true that only the man can decide to provide sperm. Each sex has the ability to unilaterally prevent reproduction.
Since women don’t have sole reproductive choice, there’s no reason, under Tony’s argument, for women to bear sole responsibility. (I’ve previously addressed arguments similar to Tony’s here and here).
(Cliché watch: This isn’t important to my argument, but the claim that “all rights have responsibilities” ain’t true. A one-year-old infant has some legal rights, but no legal responsibilities. Even for adults, there are some rights so fundamental that no behavior, no matter how irresponsible or antisocial, can take them away. Even Charles Manson has a right not to be dipped in boiling oil by police.)