The Latest Ersatz "Right"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An article arguing for "preglimony", by Katie Roiphe of Slate, would be an uproarious parody were its subject matter not so serious, and our culture so debased that the notion it touts will be taken seriously. The idea behind the neologism is that a woman who wishes to bring a pregnancy to term may force a man to pay for the expenses associated with the pregnancy regardless of his wishes.

Just observe the context-dropping in action in the following series of quotes:

Once you admit that the father is responsible to a woman carrying his fetus, you are halfway, at least in an imaginative sphere, to admitting that the fetus is a "life." ([Shari] Motro chooses her clunky word "preglimony" carefully to avoid any implications of "child support" but the intellectual connection, the implication that there is a child, and not just a cluster of cells, is there.) [bold added]
Well, yes: For the father to have any financial responsibility for the decision of a woman to carry a pregancy to term, it would have to be true (although it isn't) at a minimum that the embryo or fetus is a full-fledged human with individual rights. (And, since a woman has the right to abort, his prior agreement would also be necessary.) Notice the missing modifier -- human -- in the bolded portion of the above. Roiphe is right that arguing to force a father to pay for a pregnancy regardless of his wishes undercuts the argument that a woman has the right to end a pregnancy. But that's not going to stop her!
[Allison Benedikt] wrote: "casually and publicly assigning human attributes to not-yet-human embryos--including an avocado-size embryo in the family portrait--does not seem like the best way to argue against measures that seek to treat that avocado like a member of our collective American family.

To right-thinking liberals this may seem true, but it may also be true that the argument for reproductive rights needs to seek out more modern terms, terms that accommodate the new and emerging technologies and uncomfortable ambiguities of the avocado-sized entity. [bold added]
Roiphe even tells us she wants to have her cake and eat it, too!
I don't actually think it is in the interests of feminism or the pro-choice movement to cling so rigidly to outdated notions of "life." It no longer helps our cause to try to argue that the fetus is not "life."
Notice the now-missing indefinite article.

Apparently, the fetus being "a [human] life" is no longer a relevant criterion. Just being "life" is enough to justify slavery -- I mean "preglimony". (Of course, since human beings don't own each other, even the fact that something is a human life doesn't and can't justify slavery.) Roiphe either fails to notice that this might usher in a whole host of new ethical problems, or she has planned a whole series of columns about the ethical dilemmas of killing cancer cells, which are also "life".
Can we say "embryos" and "fetuses" do represent some form of "life" without conceding a woman's absolute control over the womb that bears them? A person who has had an abortion knows, and in fact has always known, and experienced very intimately this charged ambiguity: An unborn fetus that is wanted is a "baby," and an unborn fetus that is not wanted is a "fetus."
Contrast this blathering to the clarity of the following passage, by Ayn Rand, on abortion:
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

Abortion is a moral right--which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?
For the same reason that nobody has the right to force a woman to complete a pregnancy, there is no right to force a man to pay for a woman to do so.

Roiphe, I am sure, enjoys convincing herself that she is a nuanced and sophisticated thinker. However, she is merely sloppy, and obviously wants a fetus to be a fetus when it suits her -- or a baby when it suits her -- the rights of men and (actual) children be damned.

On second thought, Roiphe also undermines the case for a woman's right to have an abortion, and threatens to further erode the rights of men in the process. So I guess I should have said that Roiphe wants whatever she wants, everyone's rights be damned.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we try to force others to pay for what we conceive... or not.

One would think that it would behoove a woman who wants a man to support her progeny, to have entered into an understanding (otherwise known as a contract, relationship, marriage) before the act rather than using the big stick of the state to coerce him after the fact.

But as you said, Roiphe's thesis can be best summarized as "I want what I want, everyone else's rights be damned."

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

Yeah, but it's easier to just make men into slaves than to look for one with a sense of responsibility -- or to have one oneself...