Bench Memos

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Men’s “Rights” and Abortion


Kathryn blogged about one facet of this on The Corner yesterday, but a word is in order on this AP story in a lot of papers today, reporting on the filing of a lawsuit that claims that “[i]f a pregnant woman can choose among abortion, adoption or raising a child, a man involved in an unintended pregnancy should have the choice of declining the financial responsibilities of fatherhood,” and that this argument should somehow prevail as a constitutional matter under the equal protection clause.

This is an unsurprising wrinkle in an argument that rumbles forth now and then from “men’s rights advocates” who think that Roe v. Wade gives women more options than men have. It is true that from one angle, Roe makes spectators of men—men who want to be fathers, men who don’t want to be fathers, men who quake in clueless fear about what women will do when they become pregnant. But as I have told students off and on for years, the real “empowerment” accomplished by Roe v. Wade is that of young men who wish to have sex without consequences. The sexual revolution, women’s “liberation,” the death of modesty, the Pill—these provide randy young men with their opportunities. Abortion provides them with their escape hatch. “Why can’t you just, um, take care of it? You don’t really expect that I’m going to, like, marry you or something? Do you?” It often takes more courage than a lot of young women can muster to go forward with a pregnancy after an encounter with the standard-issue cad that today’s young man can so easily be. Women, as always and in the nature of things, run nearly all the real risks in their sexual encounters (which is precisely why the wisdom of the ages taught that they should be in control of maximizing the opportunity costs for men). Now some jerks who pretend to be “advocates for men” want to eliminate one of the very last shreds of civilizing coercion that is left in the feminine arsenal. So they beg the courts to fashion a policy that would inevitably result in more abortions.

At the end of this road, as I argued a few months ago here, is a man’s “right” to seek an injunction forcing a woman to have an abortion if a pregnancy is “unplanned.” There is no reason, under the abortion regime as it stands in our constitutional law, that this last barbarous step cannot be taken. But then there is simply no reason at work in that regime at all—only willfulness.


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