“But You Don’t Tell Men What to Do With Their Bodies…”


[Today’s guest post is by attorney Sean Cahill. She says: “Because it changes the way my voice is heard when it comes to life issues, I feel compelled to state that I’m a woman, despite what my name suggests.”]  
Often regarding the issue of abortion, from the pro-choice
side, I hear rallying cries along the lines of “but we would never do this to
men and their bodies!” Often these claims are reinforced by satirical
suggestions to regulate men’s erectile dysfunction medication, choices to
undergo vasectomies or countless other aspects of male reproductive health. (A
couple examples are here
and here.)
I understand the point they are trying to make and these would be persuasive if
Viagra or vasectomies were at all comparable to pregnancy. In actuality, these
comparisons, while clever, fall short of being persuasive and devalue our (biologically
female) anatomy and the potential our reproductive systems hold.
They attempt to compare the incomparable. Women get pregnant
and men don’t! There is absolutely no way, no matter how hard one tries, to
force the female experience of pregnancy into the mold of the wombless male
default. No aspect of a biologically male’s existence comes close to the
experience of carrying and sustaining another human life. Instead of claiming
this as an asset or even accepting it as a distinct difference, pro-choice
feminists continue to try to speak in male terms, as if female existence is
only valid, in the ways it can be analogized to the male experience.
A choice such as whether to undergo a vasectomy is obviously
incapable of comparison to a woman’s decision whether to continue her pregnancy
and to make the comparison devalues what pregnancy is and the work of pregnant
women. A vasectomy involves a man’s decision whether to reproduce. When we’re
talking about a pregnancy, reproduction has already occurred, a human life
exists. While
there may be a philosophical debate about when that life becomes valuable, a
human being is present
. Therefore, the difference between a vasectomy and
an abortion is apparent: one ends a life and the other doesn’t. (Not to mention, women are free to take advantage of female-oriented sex aids and tubal ligation, the actual female counterparts to Viagra and vasectomy.)
I would passionately defend a woman’s reproductive rights
but in fact abortion does not concern a woman’s right to reproduce or not to
reproduce (rights all women should have), abortion concerns a mother’s rights
once she already has reproduced and a new human being has come into existence. To
continually downplay what pregnancy is, by comparing it to Viagra or a
vasectomy, belittles our biology and the way our bodies work. This just makes a
vicious cycle. Because pregnancy will never be truly appreciated as long as
people view it as a mere “reproductive” choice, equivalent to Viagra or a
vasectomy, instead of the sustenance of a new human being, women will continue
to “need” abortion since their pregnancies are not appreciated and
seen as inconveniences to be terminated. As long as abortion is “no big
deal”, the work of pregnant women will also be “no big deal.”
Men are not the benchmark, and we do not and should not need to define our
existence on male terms to be taken seriously. Whether pro-choice or pro-life,
we need to be clear about this: Pregnancy is distinct and different from
anything a man experiences and we must refuse to devalue and re-define what
pregnancy is, in order to deal in male terms.  

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