In a recent essay, Catherine Deveny wondered whether men should also be granted the ‘right’ of an abortion, though here only a ‘financial’ abortion; women are still to be granted not only the right of abandoning their child, but of destroying it into the bargain. Her essay is instructive, for a number of reasons, not least because it exemplifies the barbarity of contemporary moral discourse. The first thing to note about her ‘analysis’ beyond its adolescent posture, is its deference to liberalism:
Picture this. A couple has been dating for a few months — having a great time drinking, talking, shagging and wandering through each other’s worlds.They may have even discussed children, and one or both has made it clear they don’t want any. The couple’s use of contraception has also made implicit their desire to not become pregnant.But in the spirit of “Q: How do you make God laugh? A. Tell her your plans”, suddenly, this hypothetical couple is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.After the initial shock, she has decided she wants to keep the child. He, meanwhile, has no interest in becoming a father. Now what?I have recently come to the conclusion that, as a feminist, I support men being able to opt out of fatherhood early in a pregnancy via what is known as a financial abortion.I believe a woman should not be forced to become a mother any more than a man should be forced to become a father. If a man has not said, “I want to have a child with you now-ish”, it is fair to assume he doesn’t, and therefore should be able to legally withdraw from becoming a parent.
I say deference to liberalism here because Deveny believes that the relationship between the parent and child comes into existence only as an act of parental will rather than arising from the biological fact that this parent is that child’s father/ mother. However, she continually undermines this position by characterizing the paternal right as one of ‘opting-out’ of fatherhood which concedes, if inadvertently, that one is already a father by virtue of having created a child, whether one wanted to or not, given that no one else apart from the biological father could ‘opt-out’ of what is implicitly an already existing relationship.
Which leads us to another of her premises which is that the sexual act can be separated from its powers, both unitive and procreative:
haven’t we moved past the thinking that people should be punished [by having to care and educate their own children] simply for engaging in pleasure?
Here, we see her asserting that consenting to sex is not the same as consenting to being a parent. Well, sure, they are indeed distinguishable but are they separable in the typical case? Now, if they were separable there would be no desire for contraception, or of avoiding a typical consequence of the sexual act, a child, through abandonment or destruction, or, indeed, the advocacy of either or both.
It’s deference to liberalism is also indicated by the essay’s excessive emphasis upon rights and its avoidance of any discussion of obligations. For instance, not a moment is spent upon what a father (or mother) might owe their child, at all, in terms of their obligation to look after its best interests, materially, educationally, and spiritually, or to their reciprocal right, a prior claim to their child’s care, custody, and education before all others.
Consequently, no where does the child appear as a person who, due to its inherent vulnerabilities from conception to adulthood is the focus of certain obligations owed to it by its parents. Rather, in a rather revealing passage the vulnerability of the child is only manifest once the child is born, and only so far as to justify government welfare. She writes:
If a woman chooses to continue with a pregnancy she should be able to without having to rely on the biological father for financial and or emotional support. If a child is born to a sole parent in this country, they are, along with the mother, a vulnerable Australian citizen who deserves to be supported by our government if need be.
Quite incredible. The fact that a child’s vulnerability is only manifest once it is born, and not in utero, testifies to its real vulnerability; and, that its vulnerability should be raised only in order to justify government welfare so that a mother can raise a child without the emotional and financial support of its father inverts the focus of child support, which is, to state the obvious, the child, not the mother.
However, all of this is to be expected given the logic of the Sexual Revolution, and her essay bears all its marks.
Picture: The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) by Eugène Delacroix.