Note: This post was inspired by some recent media attention that has been given to a Latter-day Saint author for a book in which she talks about how the abortion debate should recenter on “ejaculating responsibly.” I haven’t read the book and therefore don’t have a right to critique its particulars, but here I’m addressing a general argument that one often hears that may or may not apply to her book.
In their ethnographies Promises I Can Keep and Doing the Best I Can, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas interviewed young, unwed mothers (and later, the fathers of their children) in low-income settings, in part to see why they chose to get pregnant or, if they didn’t, what the processes were that led up to them carrying and having a child out of wedlock. It’s an incredibly moving work about the power and pathos of motherhood that is highly recommended.
During the interviews with what can largely be described as deadbeat fathers, when the issue of abortion came up many of the fathers exhibited very pro-choice views. However, the authors pointed out a not-so-silver lining to this belief: by believing in the woman’s right to choose they believe it logically exempted them from the fiscal or emotional consequences of that choice, since it was, in the end, 100% her decision, and that the real decision, that he was not involved in at all, came after conception.
The thing is, their logic is pretty airtight. If the fetus has no more fundamental significance than any other body part; if its removal is the moral equivalent of removing a kidney stone, then the fathers are 100% off the hook ethically and morally if she decides to carry it to term. If I did something to cause you to have a kidney stone, I would have some obligation to help you remove it, but if for some reason you decided to keep it in after I provided the resources and help to get it removed, then that’s on you.
I, of course do not believe this, but to do that requires recognizing that the act of creating a fetus has more moral significance, so that option is only available to people who are at least somewhere on the pro-life continuum. For others who are on the mainstream pro-choice left that refuses to articulate any more moral significance to removing a fetus than removing a kidney stone, the sword cuts both ways, liberating women to make their own choices over that procedure, but also liberating men from having to deal with the consequences of what is essentially her choice.
In that sense the Church’s insistence that men pay child support and help provide for their offspring is a logical corollary of its anti-abortion views. As, in most cases, destroying that child in the womb is a sin, the choice really came in the act of conception, and as somebody who was involved in that behavior, the father is also responsible for its attendant consequences.
And yes, I know that the vast majority of typical people who hold pro-choice views lie somewhere in between the extremes, but here I’m specifically addressing the establishment left on this issue. (e.g. “Shout your abortion,” videotaping abortions while smiling, and removing the “rare” in “safe, legal, and rare” motto), so I’m going to preemptively ask you to spare me the gaslighting that nobody actually believes that! Because influential people do believe that removing a fetus is the moral equivalent of removing a kidney stone, and they are the ones I’m specifically addressing here.