As the nervous exploration of our country’s flirtation with authoritarianism bubbles up in a variety of media, the embedded value assumptions bubble up too. So, I was struck by an observation of some leaders of the “Christian right”, who noted that though their embrace of the abusive aspects of authoritarianism was indeed incompatible with “Christian values”, they “at least saved all those babies”. The simplistic analysis of the single-issue anti-abortion “movement” apologists: we may have to sacrifice democracy to save “all those babies”.
Which led me to reflect upon what I consider the weirdest part of the anti-abortion “movement”: the assumption that all pregnant women became pregnant as a solo act, an amazing collective “immaculate conception”! All these women, alone in the room where it happened! Biologically, we know there was some sort of male sperm donor involved, however the debate focuses exclusively on women, and their “responsibility” to carry their babies to term. Implicitly we are also saying that they are the responsible party in the pregnancy, that other participants need not be held accountable. And they are obligated to have their babies. Putting aside all the ways these women are rarely assisted in their lives as they work to care for their babies “after term”, and then care for the children and adults their babies become, I want to know about the men who fathered these babies. What is their responsibility?
We have paternity identification tools at hand, and we certainly know that these babies (and their mothers) need support. If these men elected to take actions that introduced the possibility of paternity, then they too are responsible for the outcome. Where are the protests, political action committees, legislative initiatives…the actions to engage these men in their responsibilities? Does the anti-abortion “movement” even realize that there were actually men involved in the situation confronting the women seeking abortions? Why aren’t the men identified, judged, shunned, punished, held to account? Why is there no “Men Who Impregnate with Impudence” oppositional movement?
I ponder the high school student who finds herself pregnant. Easily, the anti-abortion “movement” insists that she carry this baby to term. They suggest adoption as if this will not further change this young woman’s life irrevocably, though we have the data to support this reality. Imagine if we altered our focus, and the real issue was the baby’s father. What if his life was altered, so that immediately he was required to publicly support the girl during her pregnancy, and for the life of the child? Would he and/or his parent’s step up? Would the anti-abortion “movement” pressure and shame him? Would they point out that he erred, perhaps was even immoral? Would they tell him how easy adoption would be? Would they hound him down persistently until he took responsibility for his actions?
I have been following the crazy Texas law that essentially supports neighbors reporting on anyone seeking an abortion. I imagine the Texas Rangers hunting down all the dads of all these pregnant women to require engagement with and financial support of the women they impregnated and their children. I imagine Governor Abbott vigorously condemning the men trying to avoid their responsibilities for these babies that Texas wants to be “carried to term”. I want the dads as pressured and shamed as the moms…and I see nothing in the anti-abortion “movement” that even hints at awareness of their blatant blind spot that obsesses over the “mother” and often does not even acknowledge the “father”. Now there emerges the Idaho legislative mimic of Texas, where the fathers apparently do have a role: they can sue an abortion provider for damages after a woman has an abortion if they impregnated the woman.
I have a hunch that persons embracing the world view that flirts with authoritarianism are also willing to focus only on the woman’s role and accountabilities when a man and a woman create a fertilized human egg, a zygote, that becomes implanted in a woman’s uterus as a human embryo. I wonder if they know that at least 40-60% of these embryos do not survive to result in a term pregnancy. Would they organize funerals and make sure the dads attended?
I find the patterns of patriarchy endlessly ignorant and fatiguing.
“Rather than looking at the unanswered questions, we now need to be looking at the unquestioned answers of our time.” ~Lynne Twist