“If you can kill this [baby] I can at least abandon him.”
The idea that a woman should not have to face any unplanned, unchosen difficulties that men do not have to face, such as an unplanned pregnancy, is odd considering as a nation we are satisfied to compel men to do things women never have to face such as compulsory child support of an unwanted child or the draft.
A man can, by law, be chased down by police, and pursued by courts to pay child support for decades of his life. He can also be drafted into war: forced away from home for years, in rigorous physical training in what amounts to a kind of slavery, forced to jump out of planes and boats into enemy fire, as young as 18 years old. But the pro-choice view is that no female of any age can be expected to finish out a few months or weeks of an unplanned pregnancy to give a baby up for adoption if she is disinclined to do so. This is curious.
In the United States men are by law financially responsible for the children they conceive, to the point of imprisonment should they fail. Yet a woman may not only give up her responsibilities toward her offspring without penalty, she can actually kill her unborn child (right up to birth in some states) to avoid her parental responsibilities. How do we understand this disparity between the sexes?
'My money, my choice'?
Dave Chappelle just released a comedy special in which he presented this same idea. He states that if he impregnates a woman unexpectedly, she should be free to decide what she wants to do, but if she decides to keep the baby he should not have to pay for it, noting: “If you can kill this [baby] I can at least abandon him… My money, my choice.”
In her documentary, The Red Pill, Cassie Jaye delves into the problem of paternity fraud. She very convincingly determines that women actually have more reproductive rights than men, who have very little or no say in how a woman chooses to treat either his fertility or his progeny. The children are ultimately treated as hers, and though he may never get to see them, at the same time those children are his legal and financial responsibility.
These paternity laws are working on a pre-sexual revolution model of women; they come from a time when women were loath to be a single mother, but that is no longer the case. In 2016, 40 percent of all babies in the US were born to single mothers, mostly older working women. The median age of first-time mothers has gone up nearly a decade in the same amount of time. These women are no longer young teens “in trouble,” but established adult women who have chosen on purpose to get pregnant without a partner.
Are men allowed bodily integrity?
Another way in which our country looks at men and women differently concerns the draft. Women in the United States, very significantly, do not currently face the possibility of compulsory military service. The draft and child-bearing are somewhat analogous. Both are essential to the life of a nation and both are dangerous and life-changing. Both ask terrible sacrifices for the sake of future generations. One is more acute, intense, and violent and the other is more chronic, drawn out and gentler. Both ask for nothing less than everything. Both could be done badly or secretly avoided, but men cannot legally get out of their difficult responsibilities, whether the financial support of a child or military service; women can legally avoid both.
What does this disparity tell us about our unspoken true opinions of women and men? Could it be the soft bigotry of low expectations toward women that keeps abortion legal and expands it toward infanticide, while we have expectations that a man will give his life for his country, and his money and life energy to support his children?
One argument for keeping abortion legal is the idea that an unwanted pregnancy violates a woman’s bodily integrity. And yet, men can (and should) be bodily forced to support their children. Furthermore, if the draft had not been called during World War II, we might all have lost our bodily integrity at the hands of Germany and Japan. It appears, for the sake of all, that bodily integrity cannot apply to men.
Too frail for childbirth, but good for the front line
The pro-life position bestows upon women the great compliment of high and honorable expectations in a very challenging situation. It sees women as equal to men in their ability to face difficulties for the sake of others. Bearing an unplanned pregnancy to term is heroic and it matches the seriousness of the draft and child support: both extremely challenging compulsory situations. The pro- choice position ironically presents the idea that women are frail and should be spared all difficult and courageous situations.
In both child support and the draft, men are caught between being a hero and being a criminal. We call men who avoid these responsibilities “deadbeat dads” and “draft dodgers” but it is considered normal for women not to bear their responsibilities if they choose not to. In the case of abortion, they are actually encouraged to be proud of it.
Recently there has been a move toward requiring the draft for women. But if women are so frail as to be unable to bear an unplanned pregnancy how do we expect they will fare in battle, where sacrificing your own choices and even your life for the sake of others is the whole point?
The unintended pregnancy rate of deployed military service women is 50% higher than women in the general population (even when adjusted for age). If she is pregnant and wants to keep her baby the woman is sent home, leaving a weakened unit because her place goes unfilled. It seems if women were made subject to the draft it is likely that the pregnancy rate of drafted, deployed females would only go higher.
Deserting her post
If we are serious about enforcing the female draft could that mean women might someday be forced to have abortions while deployed? Or perhaps placed in military prison for pregnancy? This is, after all, what happens to male soldiers when they desert their post, which is technically what a woman does when she gets pregnant while in service to her country. If both of these options seem barbaric (and I think they are) perhaps, the current slap on the wrist approach is the best.
So, it seems that a female draft isn’t really enforceable unless we want to punish women for non-compliance the way we do men, and I don’t think we do. But it is an interesting question: Why is it okay to force men to do difficult things for the good of all and punish them when they refuse, but not women?
Many people might say this is all irrelevant because we haven’t called the draft since 1973. Many people are both pro-choice on abortion and against the draft as well. This position, while consistent in terms of personal bodily integrity, does not remove the near universal expectation that men do all dangerous work in whatever situation, especially when the only alternative is for it to be done by pregnant women, a class of people perceived as most precious, and rightly so.
The feminine sacrifice is equal to the masculine
Women are capable of great self-sacrifice and nature has supplied no end of possibilities for it in the gestation and rearing of children. That is not the only way for women to express self -sacrifice, of course, but it is not an insignificant contribution. It is still the main way new citizens are created. In the past motherhood was given as much honor as soldiering, but as motherhood is now denigrated by our culture as a waste of time, it is not surprising that young women are seeking more honored ways of contributing in the marketplace and even on the battlefield.
The feminist position, ironically, elevates the masculine sacrifice (such as military service or financial prowess) as more desirable and significant than the feminine sacrifice (such as childbirth). Feminism treats the male body, with its inability to conceive and its relative insensitivity and more combative instincts, as normative, while treating the female body as in need of modification to be more like a man’s, so as to achieve those ends. Thoughtful women will find this curious, if not insulting.
The position against the female draft presents the feminine home-front sacrifice as what it is: an absolutely vital and necessary contribution to our nation’s thriving. The position against legal abortion honors women as full citizens, equal to men, mirroring the same level of sacrifice as their male counterparts in dangerous or challenging compulsory situations. In other words, both men and women in their own ways are capable of bravely facing adversity, fear and the shedding of their blood for the sake of others.
Katherine Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Western Pennsylvania