Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Different Type of Abortion [Clinton Wilcox]

A friend shared an article with me from someone named Catherine Deveny about what she calls "financial abortion", the idea that if a woman can decide she doesn't want to be a parent and opt out through abortion, men should be able to do the same. I didn't know who Deveny is but after doing a little research I discovered that she's an Australian comedian.

The idea behind "financial abortion" is that if a man indicates to a woman before they have sex that he does not want to have a child, and the couple uses contraceptives to try and ensure that she doesn't get pregnant, then if the contraceptives fail and the woman winds up pregnant, he has the right to opt out during the early parts of pregnancy. This means he can essentially sign all his rights, responsibilities, and privileges of fatherhood away, cutting all financial and emotional ties with the child. She says a "financial abortion" is also known as a "paper abortion" or "statutory abortion", but this is literally the first I've ever heard of this idea. I'm left to wonder how there can be so many other people who call this idea by other names. It's certainly not an idea that's gained any traction in the abortion literature. Deveny indicates that the idea came from sociologist Francis K. Goldscheider in 1998. David Boonin, however, has argued that even though (he believes) women have the right to an abortion, it does not follow that a father has the right to opt out of pregnancy since the question of whether or not to have an abortion or whether or not someone should pay child support are two different questions, and a legal obligation to pay child support does not necessarily translate into a moral obligation to pay it (see Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, Cambridge University Press, 2003, 4.11). I may respond to Goldschedier's article in the future, because it rests on very problematic assumptions.

As I have heard it said, if you get your philosophy from comedians don't be surprised if it's a joke. Her article is, as one might expect, poorly reasoned. Comedians have never been bastions of critical thinking, from Rosanne Barr's screed that the pro-life movement is just a bunch of old, white men who want to control and enslave women, to Whoopi Golderg's fallacious rant that pro-life people should shut up and adopt all the unwanted children who are conceived and not aborted, to even the late George Carlin's ridiculous diatribe that pro-life people care about the unborn but "you're on your own" once you're born. Comedians are not critical thinkers not just because they have no specific training in logic and philosophy (although I did catch a recent routine by Jerry Seinfeld that impressively incorporated metaphysics), but also because comedy is based on logical fallacies (most commonly, the fallacy of equivocation). Only those who are not skilled in logic would put forth an argument by a comedian as a serious critique of an intellectual position.

To be honest, I do, at least, think that Deveny's position is consistent. I agree with her, that if you allow a woman to opt out of parenthood through abortion, then it's inconsistent (in fact, one could say it's sexist) to prevent men from doing the same, opting out of having to pay child support and give up tens of thousands of dollars in raising this child. However, it should be obvious that the fact there is child support is a result of schizophrenic thinking on the part of our country, since it does show that parents (namely, fathers) inherently have responsibilities to their children, even though it seems to indicate that mothers don't have an inherent responsibility to their child because abortion is legal. Additionally, allowing fathers to "financially abort" their child raises a moral hazard because it might actually leave a woman thinking that she can't raise her child alone and make it more likely she'll pursue an abortion. So while it's inconsistent, it might lead to fewer abortions by forbidding a man from "financially aborting" his own child.

Deveny starts out by arguing that if a man has not indicated before having sex that he wants to have a baby with the woman, it is fair to assume that he doesn't. Unfortunately, Deveny has it backward here. She's ignorant of basic biology (more on that below), but as sex makes babies, and this has been known from time immemorial, it is quite fair for a woman to assume that if a man has sex with her, and sex makes babies, he wants to have a baby with her. Only by divorcing sex from reproduction can Deveny's argument make sense, but it is logically impossible to separate the two (though it doesn't stop people like Deveny from trying).

Aside from her misunderstanding of the causal link between sex and pregnancy, Deveny's article also rests on another misunderstanding that clouds the issue. She says that women need abortion because they need to have the right to decide when to become parents. It is, of course, true that everyone should be able to decide when they want to become parents, but the time to decide is before having sex -- after sex, if the woman becomes pregnant, the man and woman are already parents, and now deciding "when to become parents" means deciding whether or not to kill their children to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

One section of her article caused me to nearly laugh out loud. Following a paragraph in which she talked about the "what ifs" of technology being able to aid in men having "financial abortions," she wrote the following paragraph:
A topic like this also raises anecdotes about women "lying" about their contraception in order to "trap" men into having babies, and of men who agree to having children then abandoning them. But these "what ifs" muddy the discussion.
Did you catch that? Apparently considering "what ifs" are appropriate when it comes to defending her position, but when it comes to having to deal with legitimate possible criticisms, they should be avoided because they only "muddy the discussion". We should just agree with Deveny, no matter how outlandish her position is. This kind of double-think is all too common among abortion-choice advocates (see Joseph Dellapenna's book Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History for more on the topic of "abortion distortion").

An argument Deveny uses to bolster her case is that allowing "financial abortion" would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child and more empowering for the woman.

Her argument that it would be more empowering for women is that she would have sex with a guy in full knowledge of what his intentions are (despite the fact that she brushed away possible objections that a man could deceive her into having sex with her as "muddying the discussion"). As I've argued time and again, abortion is not empowering for women. In fact, it treats women as less than human because we don't hold her responsible for her actions (i.e. conceiving a child), and it allows men to treat women as sex objects and then get "rid of the consequences" of their sexual exploits. So arguing that this would be empowering for women is completely off the mark (and surprising for someone who considers herself a feminist).

Her argument that it would be less traumatic and disruptive for the child is that abandoning the child early in life would "surely" (another "what if") be less traumatic and disruptive to abandon the child early in life than later in life. Disruptive, sure, as the father who abandons the child later in life is abandoning all the child has worked for and done in school, sports, band, etc. But she offers no evidence that it would be less traumatic for a child to be abandoned early in life than later in life. Also, to say something is "less traumatic" is not to say that it is not traumatic at all, so shouldn't it be seen as morally obligatory for a father not to traumatize his child at all?

The section after this one contains the most laughably poor reasoning in the entire paper (and that's saying something). She wrote that when she put this idea out on Facebook, the response she received was "surprisingly archaic" (not "progressive"). What is this "archaic" view? The fact that since sex creates babies, whoever engages in sex must take responsibility for the children that result. Of course, anyone who understands biology knows that there is a causal link between sex and pregnancy: The man and woman have sex, this results in the male ejecting his sperm into the woman, the sperm meets the egg in the fallopian tube, an embryo is conceived (as a single-cell zygote), the tube pushes the embryo along with tiny hairs called cilia, and the embryo ends up in the uterus and implants itself there. Why am I having to explain eighth grade biology to a grown woman?

Deveny commits not one, but two logical fallacies in this section: First, poisoning the well by dismissing this point of view as "punishing people for pleasure," and two, chronological snobbery, the idea that because this is an "old" idea, it is therefore wrong and we should "move past it". But as Chesterton says, saying that truth is dependent on what year it is no less arbitrary than saying Christianity is true on Monday, Islam is true on Tuesday, and atheism is true on Wednesday. She might as well say "isn't the belief that the earth revolves around the sun an archaic position, and we should move past it?" Sex has not changed in the long history of human interaction. Sex created Pebbles when Fred and Wilma had it, and sex created Deveny when her parents had it. Sex creates children, and engaging in an act that creates children grounds an obligation to care for those children. Deveny doesn't even attempt to give a good argument here, just dismissing people like me as "backward cavemen" (though not in so many words). In this case, Fred and Wilma have the intellectual upper hand.

Additionally, it would be nice if every child was wanted and every parent was willing. But unlike Deveny and many abortion-choice advocates who repeat this mantra, I don't believe in killing unwanted people.

Her next section is arguing against the "archaic notion" (her words) of men providing for women. I think she's mistaken in this section, but it's not critical to my response to address it.

Deveny's following section is regarding whether or not abortion is dangerous to women. She starts off with a logical fallacy, the hasty generalization by pointing to herself as having had an abortion that didn't damage her, so abortion is not inherently dangerous. Aside from being fallacious, there are many documented cases of abortion being dangerous for women. Of course, she doesn't back up any of her claims so we should take them with a grain of salt. However, her section here does highlight the danger of focusing on abortion's effect on women as a pro-life argument (rather than just something to bolster the idea that there is something wrong with abortion). All the abortion-choice crowd has to do is produce women who haven't been damaged or emotional scarred by women and you lose the whole impact of your argument. At any rate, it's not critical for me to support the idea that abortion harms women, because I believe we need to stay focused on the real reason abortion is immoral -- it intentionally and directly kills an innocent human being.

Of course, Deveny continues harping on the idea that a woman can choose what she wants to do: abort, adopt, joint parent, or sole parent. This shows that she, like many abortion-choice advocates, is not focused on what's best for the child (for let's face it, abortion is never best for the child). The only equation Deveny cares about is who is going to parent, not about what the best situation is for the child to be raised. The best thing for children is to be raised by both parents in a low-conflict environment. If Deveny cared about children, sole parenting wouldn't be in her equation as to how a woman might choose to parent (and that's, of course, ignoring that abortion should never be on your mind if you care about what's best for the child).

Deveny ends her piece by saying that her life is much different than women who have come before because she had the "freedom" to decide when to become a mother. Of course, that is true -- but as should be blatantly obvious, "different" does not equate to "better". Society is worse off because they are killing innocent human children, and women who support this idea are not only supporting a cause that goes against their very nature, but also a cause that gives men more freedom to treat them as sex objects. This is unbecoming a feminist, and it's unbecoming a human being.


  1. In regard to what sex is naturally ordered toward, I like a certain line in "Line Through the Heart," which I'll paraphrase: a man who says that his having sex means nothing is more like a man who says, 'I want you to live,'but is choking you. His body contradicts that and says, 'I want you to die.'

  2. If the baby doesn't exist until birth and birth is a decision for the mother alone to make -- that is, the man has no part in it, which is the legal situation -- then the man shouldn't be held in any way responsible for the baby's existence.

    Of course, this is sick and stupid but it follows from pro-abortion arguments.


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