The New York Times asks, “What happens to women who are denied abortions?” Well, we know what happens to their unborn children: they aren’t scalded or dismembered or otherwise killed in their mother’s wombs. But the Times invites us to consider the case of “S.”, who feared she was about to “murder” her child, but whose sister gave tender theological counsel:
S. arrived alone at a Planned Parenthood in Richmond, Calif., four days before Christmas. As she filled out her paperwork, she looked at the women around her. Nearly all had someone with them; S. wondered if they also felt terrible about themselves or if having someone along made things easier. She began to cry quietly. She kept reminding herself that she felt secure in her decision. “I knew that that was going to be the right-wrong thing to do,” she told me later. “I was ready for it.”
After S. urinated in a cup, she was led into a small room. She texted one of her sisters, “Do you think God would forgive me if I were to murder my unborn child?” It was the first time anyone in her family knew she was pregnant.
“Where are you?” her sister asked. “Are you O.K.?”
“I’m at Planned Parenthood, about to have an abortion.”
“God knows your heart, and I understand that you are not ready,” her sister texted back. “I think God will understand.”
Mind you, here is how S. found herself pregnant:
The pregnancy had crept up on S. She was a strong believer in birth control — in high school she was selected to help teach sex education. But having been celibate for months and strapped for cash, she stopped taking the pill. Then an ex-boyfriend came around.
Note that her pregnancy did not come from ignorance of how babies or made, or how contraception works. She wanted to have sex. She had sex. Uncontracepted sex often has consequences.
S. didn’t show up at the Planned Parenthood clinic until she was nearly five months pregnant. Five months! It was too late for them to do the abortion.
S., who had never seriously considered adoption, was overwhelmed when Baby S., a healthy girl, was born in May 2012.
I’m sure she was. New babies are always overwhelming. But why did she never consider adoption? Was aborting the baby a better choice? Anyway, the story goes on to say that S. now considers her daughter to be the best thing that ever happened to her. So that’s great. But the story points out that single mothers are far more subject to poverty.
What the piece doesn’t talk about is why these women were denied abortion: they were too far along in pregnancy. The unstated ideology here is that to deny a woman abortion for any reason is unjust. The author brings up a woman who was so far along she and her husband had to travel to several states before they could find a clinic able and willing to do a late-term abortion. But she got a decent job after that, a job that she wouldn’t have gotten if she had a child at home, so all is well, right?
Why do liberals believe it unjust to deny a woman abortion for any reason? Part of the answer, I believe, is that they believe the summum bonum of life is to maximize opportunities for sexual pleasure unrestricted by law, biology, or morality. Take a look at this essay on the NYT’s website by a philosophy and women’s studies professor, arguing that a man who impregnates a woman should not be required to accept fatherhood unless he wants to. Excerpt:
Feminists have long held that women should not be penalized for being sexually active by taking away their options when an accidental pregnancy occurs. Do our policies now aim to punish and shame men for their sexual promiscuity? Many of my male students (in Miami where I teach), who come from low-income immigrant communities, believe that our punitive paternity policies are aimed at controlling their sexual behavior. Moreover, the asymmetrical options that men and women now have when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy set up power imbalances in their sexual relationships that my male students find hugely unfair to them. Rather than punish men (or women) for their apparent reproductive irresponsibility by coercing legal paternity (or maternity), the government has other options, such as mandatory sex education, family planning counseling, or community service.
Policies that punish men for accidental pregnancies also punish those children who must manage a lifelong relationship with an absent but legal father. These “fathers” are not “dead-beat dads” failing to live up to responsibilities they once took on — they are men who never voluntarily took on the responsibilities of fatherhood with respect to a particular child. We need to respect men’s reproductive autonomy, as Brake suggests, by providing them more options in the case of an accidental pregnancy.
Shorter New York Times philosopher: “We need to make consequence-free sex more possible.”
The reader who sent me the philosophy essay writes:
Some of the assumptions in this column are breathtaking:
“In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent, just as in consenting to any activity, one does not consent to yield to all the accidental outcomes that might flow from that activity.”
Pregnancy is an “accidental outcome” of sex?!? No, conking your head against the headboard is an “accidental outcome” of sex. Pregnancy is a completely predictable and natural outcome of sex.
“Many of my male students (in Miami where I teach), who come from low-income immigrant communities, believe that our punitive paternity policies are aimed at controlling their sexual behavior.”
Good! I *want* laws that “aim at controlling” irresponsible behavior, sexual and otherwise! …
We really do live in a degenerate age.
We must have equal freedom, and we must have it now! What do I mean by “equal freedom”? The phrase is James Kalb’s, and here he explains that “equal freedom” is the goal of contemporary liberalism:
By liberalism I mean the view that equal freedom is the highest political, social, and moral principle. The big goal is to be able to do and get what we want, as much and as equally as possible.
That view comes from the view that transcendent standards don’t exist–or what amounts to the same thing, that they aren’t publicly knowable. That leaves desire as the standard for action, along with logic and knowledge of how to get what we want.
Desires are all equally desires, so they all equally deserve satisfaction. Nothing is exempt from the system, so everything becomes a resource to be used for our purposes. The end result is an overall project of reconstructing social life to make it a rational system for maximum equal preference satisfaction.
That’s what liberalism is now, and everything else has to give way to it. For example, traditional ties like family and inherited culture aren’t egalitarian or hedonistic or technologically rational. They have their own concerns. So they have to be done away with or turned into private hobbies that people can take or leave as they like. Anything else would violate freedom and equality.
This is why we are to deplore any law that stands in the way of expanding sexual freedom for all, and support government programs to ameliorate the consequences.