Men should leave childbirth decisions to the child-bearers

Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Copyright © 2011 Sun-Sentinel

Watching men in power speak against abortion reminds me how underrepresented women are, and always have been in our government – by both men and women. Watching women in power speak against a woman’s right to choose highlights how privileged women can fail to acknowledge the challenges their not-so-advantaged counterparts face. And watching anyone impose their personal beliefs upon the will of another person broadcasts how little we as a society understand morality and respect the ability of others to make the best decisions they can for themselves.

For instance, when someone running for the Florida Senate, like businessman Mike McCalister, says he must pray on the right for a woman to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from incest or rape (because it isn’t the fault of the fetus), all I see is pretense. After all, men may be victims of rape or incest themselves, but they will never cope personally with the reality of carrying an unwanted child – possibly linking them to a traumatic assault and placing them under months of physical arrest, and possibly years of worsened emotional trauma. A sexually active male may need to address consequences related to impregnating a woman, but those consequences never involve a complete incursion of his body by a government unwilling to respect that some decisions are intimate, and need not be obstructed or broadcast as a consequence of political maneuvering.

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., recently took the out-of-touch hypocrisy to new heights. She chastised opponent Gov. Rick Perry of Texas about an executive order mandating the distribution of an HPV vaccine proven to reduce the risk of cervical cancer in women, suggesting government should not intrude on the relationship between a young woman and her parents and a physician. I find it strange that she doesn’t apply the same logic toward a woman’s decision, in private consult with her doctor, to carry a pregnancy to term, without government interference. Just because Bachmann has been fortunate enough to choose her own satisfying form of planned parenthood doesn’t mean every woman has the financial resources or emotional support to do the same.

Conception is a biological miracle, and a spiritual blessing. I am the oldest in my family and have watched in amazement as the phenomenon of pregnancy produced one sibling after another, all growing from tiny, dependent infants into wide-eyed toddlers with amazing spirits, then into adults with distinct, independent personalities. My youngest brother is about to graduate from college, and I cannot imagine a day on this earth without knowing each of my brothers and sisters. Yet the idea of forcing a woman who is not ready for pregnancy or parenthood to carry a fetus to term is unconscionable to me.

Men still make most of the rules on behalf of women, yet they simply will never personally experience the physical or psychological realities inherent in pregnancy. And of course, the rules they dictate on unplanned pregnancy are not aimed at all women, just those who don’t necessarily share the almighty moral positions conservatives believe are the birthright of their power, and their drive for political conquest.

Who speaks for the unborn child? The only person who should – the woman tasked with carrying it. As for the right of the father? He should have the right to find a woman who desires to carry his child to term, and raise it with him. As long as men must rely on women to produce and nurture our progeny, and if we respect women as equals, facilitating childbirth must be on a woman’s terms, period. And as long as women must rely on men to speak on their behalf politically, which will be for a long time, men must quiet themselves about issues they can only ever understand anecdotally.

Otherwise, our righteous attempts to find a moral higher ground will always be at the cost of disrespecting women’s bodies as the property of a government built and run by men.

Tony Plakas is the CEO of Compass, Inc. the gay and lesbian community center of Lake Worth and the Palm Beaches.