Friday, 5 October 2007
Right, a while ago, in fact, maybe a few months ago, there was a conversation on the SSP online forums about something pertaining to reproductive rights. As this was quire boring, since pretty much everybody agreed with each other, the conversation gradually branched out to the question of whether a man should be expected to provide for his biological child if he had made it clear during the time that the mother was pregnant, that he did not wish to be the child's father and would have preferred the mother to terminate the pregnancy. Obviously, the ultimate choice over whether there is an abortion of not belongs to the woman, never mind what religious nutjobs who care about the "rights" of the father want to believe. But after the child is born, is there a convincing argument to support the idea that the biological father should have any kind of legal responsibility to the child and also, is this argument constructed on a moral basis acceptable to socialists?
I think not. I believe that the way one approaches the right of women to choose determines to a great extent their attitude to this issue as well. As a socialist, and a Marxist one at that, I do not support the right to an abortion because of any metaphysical notions of any kind, but because of the very objective, material reality that it is only the woman who suffers the physical costs of pregnancy and therefore it is only her who has a moral right to decide whether she will, or will not suffer them to their full extent. The father's ("father" is a rather shaky notion in itself, but I might discuss this in another post) moral right can only be restricted to expressing an opinion on the matter. For me, this is pretty straightforward stuff where notions of life (I don't consider an unborn child alive anyway) need play no part.
But after the child is born, that is, leaves the woman's body, the woman ceases to have a physical connexion to it and its fate is thus no longer a matter of physical self-determination. From the moment the woman, exercising her right to choice, decides to carry the child to term, she also of necessity accepts the implications and responsibilities this choice entails (this does not mean that the mother should necessarily keep the child after it is born, but that it will be born and that it will be up to her to choose what to do with it, should the biological father have forfeited his rights over same). The attitude of the biological father must necessarily be one of the variables the woman considers when she chooses to keep the child. If she doesn't care about what the biological father thinks and wants to have and keep the child anyway, then fair enough, she should receive support from the state to raise the child as comfortably as possible. If she agrees with the father but believes that "killing babies" is wrong then that's also ok, she can have the child and then give it up for adoption. If she absolutely wants her child to grow up with its biological father when he does not to be one, then the rational choice is to abort.
Forcing the father by legal means to maintain any short of relation to the child would essentially be a violation of physical self-determination similar to what we want to prevent by defending women's right to choose. Forcing someone (man or woman) to direct their physical activity in the form of labour, or the fruits thereof, towards something they do not want to is, social norms aside, in essence no different to forcing someone to carry a child to term (indeed, pregnancy lasts 9 months, supporting a child to maturity lasts at least 18 years) and is actually the same alienation of labour we as socialists claim to stand against.
The above was a quite stream of consciousness-like post, so I would appreciate comments from everybody, especially those of you who happen to be female and more well versed into the issues surrounding reproductive rights than myself. Cheerio.