Reproductive Choice in Modern America: It’s all on Women
I am an internet surfer and one of the great things about web surfing is that the waves can take you anywhere if you let them, which can often result in seeing something you never would have otherwise. So, with that mind and after clicking from one thing to another yesterday, I found myself somehow, and rather unexpectedly, at the Youtube channel of a guy called Walter Lee Hampton, II, specifically the video you can find here. This video inspired me to write this post. As many of you know, a large part of my law practice is child custody, so I have become very interested in various points of view regarding the conception and rearing of children and human sexuality, and its/their effects, as they are something I deal with on a daily basis. Now, while Mr. Hampton’s video deals with the black community specifically, it made me realize something which applies to all American communities.
It does not take a high school health teacher to tell you that the reproduction of children involves three steps which are essential to every act of reproduction which has ever occurred in human history: (1) the act of heterosexual sex (presuming the child is not conceived using artificial means); (2) the lack (or failure) of contraception; and, (3) allowing the pregnancy to go full term without aborting it.
Now, from my own Judeo-Christian point of view, all three of the above-steps are clearly defined and a joint effort. From the Judeo-Christian view point, sexual relationship takes place exclusively within the bonds of heterosexual matrimony and is the physical expression of the marital love enjoyed and experienced by the couple. The act is mutually entered into by the couple. Men are called to respect a woman’s wishes if she wants to refrain from sex while women are called not to unreasonably withhold sex from a man even at times when she would rather not have sex. It is a beautiful example of self-giving and self-restraint, both in the spirit of love for the other. From the Christian view point, forcing sex is never acceptable in any context. The message is loving self-giving and self-restraint where the man always lovingly respects the “no” and the woman lovingly assents at times even when she’d rather not. The teaching of the Church is clear on these issues: mutual yielding and loving and assenting. Birth control is something many in the Judeo-Christian tradition do not use out of principle but, if they do, it is a jointly made decision in the marriage relationship through loving consideration of one another. Of course, terminating the pregnancy, absent a real threat to the mother’s life, is simply not an option.
Now, Mr. Hampton’s video’s theme was to lay the blame for the multiplicity of children, particularly those millions of children born into impoverished and/or single parent environments, in the black community exclusively at the feet of that community’s women. From my own Judeo-Christian viewpoint, my initial reaction was revulsion as it is the presumption of my own worldview that both men and women are responsible for the act of sex and the children it produces; however, upon reflection, I came to realize that Mr. Hampton’s video really reflects the new sexual reality that has been ushered in by the new secular and/or liberal worldview that is becoming more and more prevalent in America.
In our new secular liberal America, the necessity of marriage before sex is viewed as a quaint, but rather outmoded, cultural standard which has no relevance any longer. Therefore, all of the joint decision making that goes into deciding to have a child, which is presumed and required within the Judeo-Christian paradigm, no longer applies. This observation made me realize that reproductive choice then must largely reside with men or women, but not really both as, per the above, the marriage (or really any) relationship prior to conception can no longer be presumed. While men do still have some “choice”, inasmuch as they can choose not to have sex with women (or use a condom), the reality is that our society, through cultural and legal change, have placed the vast lion’s share of reproductive choice into the lap of exclusively women. As a result, though I, from my Judeo-Christian viewpoint, disagree with Mr. Hampton’s thesis, I can see its logic when I view it through the new secular liberal paradigm which is becoming, if it is not already, the norm in America.
Let’s go back to the three steps I described above: (1) the act of heterosexual sex (presuming the child is not conceived using artificial means); (2) the lack (or failure) of contraception; and, (3) allowing the pregnancy to go full term without aborting it. I will deal with each one (1) at a time below.
(1) Sex: it probably goes without saying that a man will have sex when given the opportunity; women, not so much. Sure, a man can choose not to have sex with a woman if he wishes not to have children, however in an era where requiring sex to be exclusively within marriage where reproduction is a joint venture is viewed as something from the dark ages, choosing not to have sex with women closes a heterosexual man off from the act of sex entirely. In fact, I would go on to say that, in the modern American cultural milieu, society views a man who elects to refrain from sex as weird, a loser (how many jokes are made at the expense of an older virgin?), and/or a deviant, among other things; not to mention, of course, the absolute saturation in our society of sexual imagery, references, expectations, and prevalence. So, do heterosexual men in this context truly have a free “choice” not to have sex with women? Women are ultimately the gatekeepers to whether men have sex with them. The law, as it currently stands, makes it clear that the act of sex is the choice of women. We have all heard that “no means no”, right? Who says “no”? Women do; not men. When a woman says “no”, sex will not occur regardless of whether a man says “yes” (absent rape of course). Indeed, from a man’s point of view in America, there is no concept of “a man’s ‘yes’ means yes'” (as this is likely rape) and there is certainly no concept of “a woman’s ‘no’ means ‘yes'” (as that is certainly rape). In fact, rape almost always one directional: men forcing women to have sex. Although there are cases of women raping men, the overwhelmingly vast majority of rapes are when men rape women. Women are the sexual gatekeepers; it is a woman’s choice not to have sex regardless of the choice of the man she is with at the time. In fact, it just occurred to me, this is also virtually always the case with artificial (unmarried) pregnancies as well. There are a multitude of stories of women going to a sperm bank to have a child as a single mother; this may date me, but I think of the “trail blazing” of Murphy Brown in this way over twenty (20) years ago. I cannot think of a single story of a man going to an egg bank in order to become a single father; can you?
(2) Contraception: Men certainly have the choice to use a condom during sex, but there is no public policy which suggests condom use is somehow valued or required in American culture. Public policy, when it comes to female birth control, is far far different; public policy favors female contraception availability/use. Under secular liberal public policy, employers and health insurance companies must provide birth control to women regardless of their choice to refuse it. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, female contraception is largely free; therefore, a woman has no excuse not to use contraception if she does not want to conceive a child as she has been given almost every advantage to secure and use it. Furthermore, a man has no control over whether a woman uses or does not use contraception. The use of a condom is pretty obvious. A woman cannot be fooled into thinking a man is using a condom when it is not and, as the sexual gatekeepers (see above), a woman can refuse sex without (or indeed with) a condom. Therefore, the ultimate control over condom use is in the woman’s hands. A man has no choice as to whether a woman decides to pop a birth control pill and a man is at the mercy of a woman to trust her when she represents that she has used birth control when, in reality, she has not.
(3) Abortion: This is the big one. If a woman decides to have sex and not use contraception, she may conceive a child. Once a woman conceives, public policy is very very clear: the decision to carry the child to term or abort the pregnancy and kill the baby is exclusively within a woman’s control and choice. The man who provided half the genetic material for the baby and participated in his/her conception has no choice as to whether the baby lives or is aborted. Indeed, neither the woman’s doctor nor the woman’s family nor her religious community nor the state can choose for the woman to abort the baby or allow the baby to live. The choice to give birth to a conceived child lies absolutely only with a woman. Not only that, public policy now, through the Affordable Care Act, dictates that heath insurance must provide abortion as part of its coverage, which only facilitates a woman’s “choice” to abort – apart from a man’s – even more than before.
Based on the above, I think it is pretty clear: from the secular liberal point of view, while men have some choice, when it comes down to it, women have the overwhelming and, indeed, the ultimate choice to have children. The sexual relationship, and especially as it relates to the reproduction of children, is not at all an equal one. If women believe it was unequal in the past (favoring men), the pendulum has swung the opposite direction where it is now entirely unequal in favor of women. We, as a society, need to reacquaint ourselves with, and apply, the Judeo-Christian principles I described above if we want sexual/reproductive equality and, indeed, to improve our society (though that is a topic for another post). All of the dysfunction and perversion of the sexual relationship and reproduction of children described above all comes down to the lack of application of Judeo-Christian moral principles. The choice to have a child is truly the choice of a man and woman in a marriage; any other context of sex and child conception is disordered and suffers from the entirely confused, destructive, and disordered logic that liberal secular society has to offer as described above. As sex is now socially acceptable in practically any context – and divorced from marriage and commitment – the man is no longer under any obligation to protect a woman from her own body (i.e.: conception). I use this term “her own body” intentionally as abortion advocates constantly remind us that no one can tell a woman what to do with “her own body.” Under the liberal secular worldview, we are all now lone wolves out there doing our own thing and it is up to to the woman to protect herself and we, as a society, have given her all the tools to do it over that of a man: (1) the ultimate trump card (i.e.: “no”); (2) free contraception; and, (3) the right to unilateral abortion.
To be clear, the conclusions I reach above are those which are the logical conclusions of the secular liberal worldview, to which I am fundamentally opposed. Until we, as a society, can reclaim Judeo-Christian sexual morality, women are now in almost absolute control of human reproduction in America and, therefore, they are to blame for the multiplicity of children being born into impoverished and/or single parent households, and other similar social ills relating to reproduction of children. You cannot blame men: they did not have a choice.