Why can’t men shut up about abortion?

Why won’t men just shut up about political issues to do with women’s reproductive rights, particularly about the legality of abortion? After all, we (us blokes) are not directly affected by a ban on having an abortion, so why should we get a say in whether someone else gets to have an abortion or not? Furthermore, we are not epistemically qualified to have an opinion on the matter – how can I, as a man, imagine what a woman goes through when confronted by the prospect of becoming a mother against her will? How can I understand the responsibility, the anxiety, even the fear with which the woman – perhaps a confused and terrified teenage girl, or perhaps a traumatised rape victim – may be faced?

And if I can’t understand it, really, viscerally understand it, what gives me the right to open my big mouth about it?

So the arguments seem to go. This has become a popular meme: I’m confronted on a daily basis with claims, whether in the social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, or in the mainstream media, such as newspapers, with the claim that men should simply shut up about these issues and leave it to women to make the decisions. I don’t know how this would work, but I suppose we might imagine a world where men make no arguments one way or the other about the goodness, badness, rights and wrongs, or political tolerability of abortion. Perhaps laws would be enacted only by female legislators, with men abstaining from all votes in houses of parliament and the like.

As it happens, though, I don’t plan to shut up. One reason for that is that I am actually pro-abortion, so I don’t see why I should shut up unless all those anti-abortion men reach a deal with me to do likewise, and there’s not much prospect of that. In fact, any man who took the arguments seriously as to why men ought to shut up about abortion would probably be one who is already inclined to favour legal abortion, so the argument, if it persuaded anyone at all, would probably have a perverse effect, shushing exactly the wrong men – as seen from the likely viewpoint of the argument’s proponents.

I suppose the argument does accomplish one thing. It problematises whether or not men have the experience or imagination to understand why it is so important for women to have abortion rights; and that might, I suppose, make some anti-abortion men hesitate. While it is not likely to shut them up entirely, some of them might ask whether they are, in fact, imaginatively restricted, and whether they are, therefore, not properly weighing the interests at stake. Some might even attempt to stretch their imaginations to try to get a better concept of what it might be like to be confronted with the sorts of choices that women frequently encounter.

As it happens, men often do have pretty good imaginations (with rich experiences of anxiety, fear, inner turmoil, crushing responsibility, and so on, to draw upon), and I’m not at all convinced that we’re unable to imagine something of what it must be like, if we genuinely try. Indeed, some men may be better able to imagine it than many women who have never encountered the situation and perhaps are not sympathetic. If we are prompted to stretch our imaginations, I submit that that’s a good thing.

At the same time, the argument may (here is a second thing) serve the cause of feminist solidarity, encouraging resentment at unimaginative and unsympathetic men who pay little attention to the interests of women. While the argument cannot be taken literally, we might think, it plays a useful role in expressing resentments, attracting solidarity and participation, and rallying women to the political cause.

That’s all fine, but the fact remains that the argument can’t be taken literally. Anti-abortion men are likely to be driven by convictions that will keep them talking no matter how much we tell them to shut up. After all, some may believe that they are carrying out the will of God in opposing abortion. Now, if they’ve read some books about secularism (such as mine!) they just might be persuadable that this does not provide a proper basis for the state to act, but whether they’re persuadable will depend on their deeper theological views. Secularist arguments may appeal to many believers (I certainly hope so, and I think there is a fair bit of historical and sociological evidence that they can), but surely not to all. And even if Mr. Believer thinks that certain arguments should not support action by the state to prohibit, say, abortion, he might still think that they support social or moral condemnation of some kind. In that case, he can take a secularist approach to law-making, but it won’t shut him up about his moral convictions.

Furthermore, many opponents of abortion, irrespective of their sex, can imagine the highest level of anxiety, fear, difficulty, inner turmoil, and so on, for someone who is forced to become a mother against her will, but still oppose abortion. These opponents of abortion are likely to think that abortion is equivalent to murder, or at least something very like murder, in which case they will say that none of the interests of the woman can justify it. However bleak my future may be if I fail to murder someone, that does not usually give me the legal right to do so. There are exceptions for self-defence, but analogies between abortion and self-defence are notoriously tricky and contested.

As it happens, I don’t think that abortion is anything remotely like murder. The trouble is that I don’t see why someone who disagrees with me ought to shut up about it. If he or she holds a contrary position in good faith, and is prepared to back it with arguments, then s/he not only has the legal right to do so, but perhaps also has some legitimate claim on the rest of us to listen (at least if we haven’t heard and considered it all before). And if this (let’s say male) person is truly convinced that abortion somehow harms a fetus much as our deaths would harm us, surely it’s unreasonable for me to expect him to hold his tongue about it. It might be relevant to try to get him to imagine what is at stake for women who contemplate abortions, but even if he tries and succeeds it might not shake his conviction (even though he might, I suppose, come to feel a bit more sympathy and speak with more compassion).

In the upshot, the argument that men should go quiet about abortion may have a role to play if it is not taken literally. That is, if it is used as a challenge to men to use our imaginations or recognise our imaginative limits, and/or if it is used as a way to rally supporters and encourage feminist solidarity. If taken literally, however, it does not have much merit. Anti-abortion men can’t reasonably be expected to shut up, given their likely reasons for the positions that they take and the religious, moral, and/or metaphysical beliefs that their reasons draw upon.

I think there are other problems, too. I doubt that any serious thinker about contemporary politics can avoid taking positions that then entail views on the abortion debate. Keeping entirely silent may not be a practical possibility once you start thinking and talking about almost any other set of fraught political issues. In any event, I won’t go quiet about abortion any time soon. I am one man – obviously one among many – who will go on defending women’s reproductive rights, most certainly including robust abortion rights.

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  1. There are four moral laws from the point of view of understanding why certain acts are immoral:
    1) Stealing, murder, slavery are wrong because God gave us free will.
    2) Lying is wrong because God gives us bodies to communicate with our fellow man.
    3) Divorce and sex outside of marriage is wrong for the sake of protecting children.
    4) Suicide and birth control are wrong because life is good and meaningful.

    Abortion is sinful because it violates # 1, # 3, and # 4.

  2. Ability-to-imagine-what-it’s-like arguments aren’t trivial to deploy, full stop. They can easily end up suggesting some kind of epistemic solipsism and/or personal relativism: you can’t be confident that you can imagine what it’s like to be (e.g.) me, or insofar as you can, my authority overrules yours. And vice versa, of course.

    If you can get past that hurdle, there’s still the question of whose position needs to be up for imaginative sympathy: that of the mother only, or also that of the foetus (which could be of either sex) and even the person the foetus might become if not aborted. In the shut-up-shut-up-shut-UP case an answer seems rather to be presupposed.

  3. Well, re first comment, you’re entitled to put your view on those things. All four sound like non sequiturs to me, but that’s not the point of the post.

  4. Talking Philosophy « New Evangelist, David Roemer - pingback on September 23, 2012 at 11:16 am
  5. Anthony Juan Bautista

    I don’t own a dog. Does this mean I am not allowed an opinion regarding animal cruelty?

  6. How commonly is it said that men should just shut up on issues to do with women’s productive rights? I mean, I know that it is said sometimes, by some women (and some men). But I doubt very much indeed that it is a widespread view. And it is certainly not a significant contender in philosophical discussion. The worry is that by taking an extreme example of unreasonable discourse you end up creating a straw-man or straw-woman version of much subtler or more moderate claims.
    The much more moderate version of the claim that “men should just shut up about women’s reproductive rights” would be something like an expression of severe apprehension about the fact that political policy relating to women’s reproductive rights is so frequently determined by political bodies that are so overwhelmingly male that women’s experience is marginalised within them.

    There is rightly a preoccupation on this blog (and in internet forums generally) with the poor quality of internet discourse. This means that very poor arguments, very implausible views, are made objects of critical discussion (as of course they should be). But there is a need to be quite clear about the terms on which these views are brought into a philosophical discussion. “Men should just shut up about abortion” enters into the conversation only as an example of what might be called degenerated discourse, for want of a better term. It is not a statement that should be treated as if it were a truth-contender in a philosophical discussion. To treat it as such seems something like a category error — setting a piece of philosophical reasoning up against something that is not a piece of philosophical reasoning but is instead something like a cry of fear about the bodily intrusion that current legislative tendencies (in the US at least) seem to threaten.

  7. A fiery but ultimately disappointing discussion on abortion from a Northern Ireland perspective. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/northernireland/ethics/rss.xml

  8. I’d like to make a similar point about claims of epistemic privilege more generally. I imagine that in internet conversations on issues connected with feminism men quite frequently get a response along the lines of “What can you know about it, really? You are a man. You just don’t get what it is like.” And clearly, that is frustrating and hurtful (if it wasn’t clear to me before, it would have become clear to me from reading a couple of relevant posts on this blog).

    But that simple discussion-thwarting accusation made by some individual feminists isn’t the same thing as the carefully argued claims of feminist epistemology. So it seems important not to seem to be taking a stance on feminist epistemology when you are in fact just expressing frustration with poor-quality discussion strategies of some individual feminists. Otherwise, again, there is a danger of setting up straw-man versions of feminist positions.

    I must say that having in the past talked only on a predominantly female forum I do feel rather uncomfortably conscious of the largely male nature of this forum (not in any way that reflects badly on any poster at all, but rather because of some essential problems that probably lurk around the discussions). Probably there is a whole blog post to be mined from that discomfort!

  9. Vagina? If there’s any bilogical restriction on opinion on abortion shouldn’t it be those with experienced wombs?

  10. Oh, yes, I’d missed the image when I read the post. I thought this site was for discussing philosophical views? That image represents such a grotesque caricature of any mainstream philosophical viewpoint that it makes me question whether I should post here, to be honest. I fully accept that it represents a view that is held by some people outside of the ethos of what is presumably intended to be something like an online philosophy seminar. But to have it hovering over what is meant to be a constructive discussion of reasonable viewpoints is not helpful.

  11. Please don’t tell me to shut up. That’s so very disrespectful.

    Until women can reproduce by themselves (they still need a man, right?), there’s no such thing as “women’s reproductive rights”. It’s “reproductive rights”, period.

    And men, as they are still involved in the reproductive process, have a right to be included in the discussion.

    And, even though I’m a lowly man, I believe in the right to choose. So there.

  12. Claire, Over at Feminist Philosophers there are routinely posts that identify “really dumb stuff” in the media. I suppose Russell’s post is in the same spirit, except Feminist Philosophers are constantly looking at instances of dumb sexist stuff, and Russell’s looking at an instance of dumb feminism. The fact that these things are outside the spectrum of respectable philosophy doesn’t seem like a reason to ignore them.

    Of course you could think it’s worth noting dumb sexist stuff, but not worth noting dumb feminism. Why bother taking notice of dumb feminism, considering that feminism is on the whole a good thing, and there are lots of admirable feminists? I’ll let Russell take that up, if he wants to.

    If you start questioning whether to post here I will be sad! Your posts are terrific, and I’ve been pondering (as reviews editor at TPM) how we can get some of your writing into the magazine too. Hope you will stick around!

  13. Claire, thanks very much for your thoughts.

    There’s definitely a rich post to be written on the subject of how philosophers ought to deal with, essentially, cultural criticism. In particular, philosophers and sociologists will come to passionate disagreements over whether or not we ought to even bother taking degenerate discourse (i.e., memes and tropes) seriously.

    Mind you, I would prefer to live a life of never having to take tropes seriously. The conversations rarely go well, for reasons that are easy to imagine.

    Yet I find myself duty-bound in doing so, as a citizen who is trying to engage with the political culture. If the culture itself is degenerative, this is perhaps all the more reason for philosophers to double down in their efforts to engage with it.

  14. Following that argument where it leads might bring you to a dark place. It’s a variant of ‘ it’s up to you’ that marvellous cop-out for men. As a ‘disgusted father of three, Ballydehob’ I reject it and all its works and pomps.

  15. Thanks, all. I’m sorry I was touchy. (Apologies to Russell in particular.) I think I’m still attempting to get a feel for what the site is all about and am perhaps a little tone deaf for some of its utterances. (And thanks very much Jean for your kind remarks about my posts.)

  16. Claire, not at all! I think you were extremely clear about your reaction, and that your reaction is totally understandable and appropriate. And to be sure, the content of the site seems to be constantly changing or evolving, depending on the whims of the authors. I’m constantly experimenting, for instance — from irritatingly long-winded academic prose, to cartoons, to New Yorker style, to Prezi presentations, to shout-outs. So the sense of disorientation may be a feature, not a bug!

    That said — like you, I’m frequently put-off by the fact (and it is a fact) that most regular commenters here are male.

    This has manifested in feeling alienated from my own comments threads from time to time. e.g., on “Four Kinds of Philosophical People”, readers evidently felt that it was an appropriate use of their time to repeatedly berate me on the use of the feminine pronoun as a default. It was a trivial stylistic choice on my part, so I was more amused than offended. But I can imagine that if I were in a slightly different position I would have found it jarring — and, I think, appropriately so.

  17. B.L.S. Nelson:
    It was a trivial stylistic choice on my part, so I was more amused than offended.

    Confusion is never trivial in a philosopher.

  18. The question is: What is it like to be woman? Is there a what it is like’ness to the consciousness of a woman? This is a deep question. Is there such a thing as female qualia? Is there inversion in the moral spectrum so to speak? These are bold speculations which led philosophers and others to perhaps consider whether women were ready for the onerous task of voting and the grave responsibility that property brings in its train. You can’t be careful to whom you allow free speech.

  19. That is ‘too careful’ of course.

  20. Michael:

    The meta-irony might be confusing to those who are new to the circus.

  21. Swallerstein:
    The part of the circus I love is when the clowns drive in with haughty expressions. Then the door falls off, followed by the wheels and the bonnet.

    You are right about irony. If it were to fall into the wrong hands……..

  22. In the US, the Congressional panel that met to discuss whether healthcare laws should include birth control pills under the heading of preventative care, had only men testifying. Some of them were religious leaders. Sandra Fluke wanted to be added in, but was not allowed to testify until a different hearing was convened. Rush Limbaugh’s comments regarding Ms. Fluke seemed to imply that he thought someone (such as Ms. Fluke’s lesbian friend) who was taking 365 birth control pills a year must be having a lot of sex. Bill O’Reilly has said things that seem to be similarly clueless about that The Pill is taken daily, not just when one has sex, and not extras when having sex twice a day. Some legislation proposed in US states in the last year seems to handwave away the possibility of ectopic pregnancy, and some inclines towards treating all miscarriages with suspicion. In my opinion, people who do not understand how the birth control pill is taken or how common early miscarriage is or what the rate of ectopic pregnancy are not qualified to write legislation on this topic. I think most of the anger in the US is aimed at ignorant men in power who like to meddle.

  23. Phew! I’m glad that got sorted out.

    Claire, the post is about a popular meme – as I said, I keep seeing variations of this every day, so it seemed worthwhile discussing it. I actually thought that I went to some trouble to identify what merit I thought the meme might have, while ultimately stating why it is problematic.

    Anyway, I’m glad that I haven’t pissed you off enough for you to leave Talking Philosophy, as I’ve liked your contributions very much.

  24. Now, I could certainly understand if some of the misogynist comments we seem to get from time to time made you throw up your hands in horror and wonder what you’re doing here. Let me just say for the record that some of what Michael Reidy says upthread is, as far as I’m concerned, abhorrent and only to be taken seriously as an indication of the sort of sexist mentality we are sometimes up against.

  25. Every once in a while, especially when faced with a question like the one dealt with in this post, it would be well to be reminded again what Philosophy is good for.

    The point of Philosophy is established in the fact that, though we human beings (also read *I*) live lives (*a life*) existentially isolated from other beings, we (*I*)none the less have a form of contact with other beings our experiences (*my experience*) suggest(s) are compellingly similar to us (*me*). If you are not God himself EVERYTHING you think you know is interpreted out of the sensory experience piped in to a brain in a dark box of flesh and bone.

    This process of isolation and community presents extraordinary challenges to the thought of anyone who really intends to assert that the “community” is “real”. One of those things is when the other isolates we consider to be like the experience we have in ourselves gains access to the assertion of co-reality. In a society that exerts considerable political will in support of a concept of non-human “animal rights” this is no trivial philosophical challenge.

    Russel’s title question, were it to be found to have real argumentative sway, calls into question one of Philosophy’s fundamental roles- to help us understand the extent to which I can claim to be a valid part of a “we”. If, as a man, I have no right to take up the part of a being that is genetically fully human, is sensible of pain, sound,and touch, and can be shown even to be forming memories, what right have I to take up the part of any being in any other circumstance? Will there not ALWAYS be some exclusive aspect of the experience of the “other” that demands similar exclusion from advocacy?

    As a man can I really consider the humanity of a female? As a white man can I really consider the humanity of a black man, an Inuit, or an Asian? As me, and only me, with only the highly suspect witness of senses to inform my mind, can I really attest to the validity of YOUR claim to equality of sentient stature with me?

    Indeed, if you can really remove my claim to such consideration you attack the very foundations of Philosophy itself.

  26. By the way, I do recognize that the enterprise of Philosophy extends far beyond the personal and interpersonal existential questions, but it can’t really get by with failing to consider them.

  27. I see this sentiment expressed quite often among my pro-choice friends. It always rubs me the wrong way. Brains, not reproductive organs, are required for thinking about important social issues. And I’m with Russell: as a staunchly pro-choice advocate, I have no intention of shutting up about it just because I happen to be male. I don’t even have to worry about reproduction at all, being that I’m a gay male. But my moral opinion is because I think reproductive freedom is the right thing to do, regardless of whether I will be personally affected. I don’t generally take ethical positions on matters that only directly affect me personally. I don’t know many people who do.

    Furthermore, there are plenty of pro-life women, and if you oversimply this debate as a black and white gender war, you are not only dismissing your pro-choice male supporters, but handing some power over to female pro-life activists to play their own gender card and win support with it.

  28. Claire, I think your comments were strong and important. I almost feel like copying and pasting them into countless other internet arguments, simply amending the subject each time. I hope you won’t leave TPM but will work from the inside to promote better gender balance. Don’t forget that there are more people reading you on here than are commenting.

  29. I agree with smhll above. You do wrong to strip this graphic from the context in which it is deployed. I also agree with Claire that there is a failure to recognize and account for different levels of discourse, in a way that is very telling.
    Those who are talking large about the universality of human experience are, by straining at this gnat, proving their own failure to fully absorb the concept that women are human.
    Do you enjoy getting copious amounts of unsolicited advice about your personal decisions, particularly from people who think they are entitled to control your behavior? If you’re like the overwhelming majority of the human race, probably not. Would you enjoy being reminded that people with the power to make laws about what you can do with *your* reproductive organs have only the shakiest grasp of how those organs work? Would you enjoy the spectacle of your government soliciting advice on what you should be allowed to do with your body from people who explicitly believe that your gender is not capable of making important moral decisions?

    Rejecting “helpful” unsolicited advice from others who want to control you is a perfectly normal and *psychologically healthy* reaction.

    Lee Jamison writes:

    “As a man can I really consider the humanity of a female? As a white man can I really consider the humanity of a black man, an Inuit, or an Asian? As me, and only me, with only the highly suspect witness of senses to inform my mind, can I really attest to the validity of YOUR claim to equality of sentient stature with me?
    Indeed, if you can really remove my claim to such consideration you attack the very foundations of Philosophy itself.”
    No, those who are wading in and slapping the hands of people who are having a perfectly human and psychologically healthy reaction to toxic unsolicited advice and outright threats to bodily autonomy, demonstrate that they in particular are unable to consider the humanity of a female.
    I have to ask, did the pro-choice men who were offended by seeing this graphic in their facebook feed try the simple experiment of responding “I fully support a woman’s right to choose”? If you think such a response would be unwelcome to the vast majority of women posting this graphic,then either you do not understand human beings at all, or you fail to consider women fully human, with all the complexity that implies.

  30. I do take on board that there is some value in addressing “tropes and memes” even when these are strawman-versions of positions that might reasonably be adopted. But it would be lovely if we could also have a blog post that stated and discussed more reasonable and more widely adopted versions of the claim that Russell’s post addressed – both for the sake of balance and for the sake of the intrinsic interest of these more credible and widely adopted views.
    I’m just wondering how such a post might go. In place of “Men should shut up about women’s reproductive rights” the opening claim for discussion might be something like “There should be women-only conversation about reproductive rights.” This is clearly ambiguous between a strong claim – “All conversation about women’s reproductive rights should be women-only,” and a weaker claim that “There should be women-only conversations about women’s reproductive rights as well as mixed-gender discussions (or as well as mixed-gender discussions and man-only discussions.”
    (The strong version of the claim is Russell’s opening claim minus the personal abuse (“shut up”).
    That strong claim – “All conversation about women’s reproductive rights should be women-only,” is very likely to fail, I imagine. It entails that all subject-matter relevant to delineating reproductive rights should be women-only (including e.g. specialist medical discussion of empirical matters that influence decisions about the point at which the foetus becomes viable outside the womb), and also that all platforms/forums for discussing the issues should be women-only (so that , e.g., male National Health Service managers would leave the room when discussion turned to the distribution of scarce resources between abortion and other medical procedures; male guests at a dinner party would withdraw to the sitting-room when discussion turned to abortion, much as women used to have to withdraw when the men started on cigars and politics). As such, this strong claim would very likely fall prey to a reductio ad absurdum, as well as pragmatic impossibility, and unfairly onerous restrictions on men.
    The weaker claim, though (“There should be women-only conversations about women’s reproductive rights as well as mixed-gender discussions — or as well as mixed-gender discussions and man-only discussions.”), has intuitive plausibility. I don’t really want to defend it here because I’m trying to be programmatic to stop the comment getting too long. One line of defence would be to say that for contentious moral issues, social policy requires that citizens be as fully-as-possibly engaged in a public discussion, and that some women would feel less than fully able to participate and develop their views in some respect without some time in female-only discussion (and ditto perhaps for men).
    So then we get to the interesting meat of the matter. If some but not all discussions should be women only, then which? And how do we decide which? And what is the relationship between the women-only and the other conversations? How do they complement each other, etc? And even more interestingly, are there, in fact, any available principles that allow us to state the answers to those questions unequivocally? Or is the whole matter rather particularist in character?
    The sometimes-limited availability of fully-determining principles for moral decision (moral particularism) actually seems like a possible locus of a non-offensive version of epistemic privilege – not the epistemic privilege of women over men tout court, or any group over any other group tout court, but that of whoever is blessed or cursed with the relevant kind of embeddedness in a context of moral decision, and with the sensitivities that embeddedness brings with it. (I’m thinking of the reasoning in Martha Nussbaum’s Love’s Knowledge,).
    And, bringing those considerations to bear on the question of reproductive rights, most women share one kind of embeddedness (the capacity to become preganant, the experience of being possibly preganant when pregnancy is unwanted, etc) that confers insight. Men too might have an embeddedness that is fertile for their moral thought – e.g. close partnership with a woman who went through abortion, or chose not to, etc; the presumably awful powerlessness involved in feeling deeply engaged with the fate of a foetus carried by a woman whose rights they have to respect, etc. But there is one kind of embeddedness that, as a group, men lack (the capacity to beome pregnant and the fears etc that attend on that capacity).
    Epistemic privilege is a shifting thing on this account – we all have it in certain respects depending on the concrete circumstances we face or have faced. (I would feel very reticent indeed about expressing judgement on any particular woman’s decision re abortion because I haven’t actually faced that decision. I really do feel like I lack a relevant “qualia,” and that the mere knowledge-of-principle I possess is unequal to the case.)
    But in some cases a class of people (in this case women) might lay claim, just prima facie, to a particular shared embeddedness that perhaps places a prima facie duty of reticence on others (in this case men) in at least some contexts of discussion, without of course remotely obliging men to “shut up”.

  31. It is a strange position, philosophically, to expect someone to silence their own beliefs. It is based on an idea that people should only express opinions which they have the direct possibility to experience. By that logic only men should say that men should not express opinions about abortion because women will never be a man and never be able to know if or how abortion affects them. But of course there is no real movement to apply this philosophical principle broadly, no movement to say only people in the military should have a voice in war policy, only tax payers should have a voice in tax policy. It is strange that this principle, which is so obviously flawed in other cases, would be so common in this one issue.

  32. Sorry I cross-posted with you, Flora. You make some really good points.

  33. But is it a common view, really, Michael (that men should “shut up” on this issue)? I can honestly say that I have never come across this claim. Facebook memes can spread in a flash. And as Flora implies, this one is an expression of anger and despair and should be heard as such.

  34. I’m not too keen on this idea that there should be women-only discussions of abortion, as by the same principle, there should be discussions that exclude childless women. After you’ve had a child, you know far more about what pregnancy and childbirth are like, so know more about what girls & women are put through, if they can’t end their pregnancies. On the other hand, if you’ve had a child, you’ve probably spent more time thinking about fetal development, so know more about what is being aborted at any particular point in pregnancy. You’ve also seen, first hand, what the product of a pregnancy is–i.e. a child you love. So you’ve got better access to all sorts of data that the childless woman doesn’t have. Still, still … no, there’s no way I’m going to keep childless women out of the charmed circle who get to debate abortion. They have imaginations, they can work on understanding all the relevant factors. Same goes for men. If they try, they can get the whole picture.

    Here’s who does need to be excluded–people who think abortion is entirely about fetuses, and not about women at all. The problem they have is not really their own gender, whatever it is, but the way they’re conceptualizing the whole abortion problem. I think this can be cured through education–they need to study articles like Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous violinist article carefully. So–we need to think about abortion in a way that highlights a woman’s centrality to the problem, but it’s another question who should be doing the discussing. Some of the best philosophy articles on abortion have been written by men.

  35. The weaker claim, though (“There should be women-only conversations about women’s reproductive rights as well as mixed-gender discussions — or as well as mixed-gender discussions and man-only discussions.”), has intuitive plausibility.

    I’d like to bolster your point by providing an example. There is at least one conversation which I am not equipped to be a part of, namely, the conversation over the strict meaning of “feminism”. As a cis-male, my deference to women on this issue occurs by default. I say this in the same spirit that I defer to the community of astronomers over the definition of “planet”. It is not my conversation to have.

  36. Women’s voices have been silenced, shouted down, bullied and ridiculed by men for so long and in so many spaces, although not in all spaces, that it is understandable that many women feel more comfortable and more capable of expressing what they think and feel about a subject as touchy as abortion without male presence.

    That does not mean that men never should be present when abortion is discussed, only that we, males, might give women the chance to get together and see what they think and feel without our opinion.

    Perhaps after sufficient time to think about it and discuss it, women will decide that in the future they want men to participate in all their future conversations about abortion.

    Perhaps not.

  37. To Jean, I certainly wouldn’t want to think in terms of “the charmed circle who get to discuss abortion”, (what a horrible idea![EDIT: I mean, what a horrible idea that charmed circle is, not “how horrible to introduce the idea in the discussion” — I get in daft agonies, in online conversations, about being possibly misconstrued as hostile, because it is so hard to replicate nuances of face-to-face talk.]) and in fact I don’t imagine that there is very much scope at all for women-only discussions (I suppose I had in mind forums for women who had had traumatic experiences, but in any case I was just pondering the direction that an argument might go in). I suppose the picture I had in mind was a complex set of intersecting conversations, in each of which different individuals and groups would bring to bear particular resources and would accordingly achieve a differing degree of centrality versus reticence. I also imagine that whatever the claims of moral particularism might be, there is also massively fertile discussion of abstract moral principle in which our particular experiences are incidental, and in which the identity of pareticipants(their gender and any other fact about them) is incidental. Completely agree of course that men contribute excellent stuff! — in fact they contribute by far the greatest amount of excellent stuff since there wouldn’t be many philosophers without them.
    I just wanted to think about how certain arguments might go, rather than endorsing them

  38. in fact they contribute by far the greatest amount of excellent stuff since there wouldn’t be many philosophers without them.

    This point is more than a little pertinent. Socialist feminism, for example, would be a very different beast – if it were a beast at all – without the contributions of Marx and (particularly) Engels. I’m not sure what socialist feminists would make of Ben’s claim above that “cis-males” aren’t equipped to be part of definitional discussions (though I guess that depends on exactly what he means by “strict meaning”).

  39. Hi Flora,

    I have to ask, did the pro-choice men who were offended by seeing this graphic in their facebook feed try the simple experiment of responding “I fully support a woman’s right to choose”? If you think such a response would be unwelcome to the vast majority of women posting this graphic,then either you do not understand human beings at all, or you fail to consider women fully human, with all the complexity that implies.

    I can’t say, not having seen this one in my feed. But I certainly have had all kinds of conversations in this genre, so I think I have enough experience to comment.

    I do see a lot of nonsense thrown around by my friends, and sometimes I do reply with direct refutations. Usually, these refutations are not noticed as such, or are broadly ignored. Fair enough, and no harm there.

    But I do get a nasty reply every so often. Usually, however, these sorts of replies come from friends-of-friends — people who are not in a position to trust me enough to know that I do not mean them harm, and hence who construe a narrow criticism as a broadsided and wholesale attack. Trust is a thing that so much turns upon.

    So it’s not at all outside of the realm of possibility for someone to act in the way you suggested, and for the response to be less than sanguine. If you suck most of the trust out of the air, some very peculiar things happen.

  40. Re:-BLS Nelson September 23

    “It was a trivial stylistic choice on my part,”

    As the prime berater in that matter my advice to any young philosopher intending to make a career in that business would that he or she play it safe, and use the feminine pronoun in preference to the masculine. They will it seems not be criticised for so doing, by anyone of consequence to them; but good old “he/him” may well cause many eyebrows to be raised, by those they would not wish to discomfort.

  41. Does the OP really think this graphic is arguing for censorship of men’s opinions? Really?

    Here’s the thing. My choice of who to include in my own personal discussion of what I should do with my own personal body can include or exclude anyone I damn well please, on any criteria whatsoever. If your political position is that women should have reproductive choice, then you will respect that. If you choose to equate my refusal to hear your opinion as censorship, that’s on you.
    Yammering on about “laws enacted only by female legislators, blah blah blah” is a deliberate kind of obtuseness here. If the rabble who yell and intimidate women outside of clinics regularly needed escorts to ensure their safety, maybe you’d have some kind of point.

  42. Don, I’m not going to say anything else about this episode, apart from what follows.

    As the prime berater in that matter my advice to any young philosopher intending to make a career in that business would that he or she play it safe, and use the feminine pronoun in preference to the masculine. They will it seems not be criticised for so doing, by anyone of consequence to them; but good old “he/him” may well cause many eyebrows to be raised, by those they would not wish to discomfort.

    The only technical advice I’ve gotten as an undergraduate from an instructor (and this was a long time ago) was to alternate between genders. The advice is fine in principle, but it can be confusing in practice. In my opinion, most other options are just as inelegant. “He/she” and “him/her” is usually fine, but clunky when prefixed: “him/herself”, for instance, annoys me. And gender-neutral pronouns like “ze” and “hir” have not caught on yet. So I chose “she” and “her” as a default — me, me, autonomous me.

    And obviously it grated the “political correctness gone mad” types. (And yes, even the opinions of these critics do matter to me, since I’m an egalitarian philosopher type; everyone is worthy of consideration. I just happen to think the arguments were terrible.) So if you think that an alternate use of pronouns will also be grating, then all things considered, you ought to infer that there’s no such thing as ‘playing it safe’ in this context.

  43. Flora Poste, what do you mean by censorship? Of course I don’t think there is any suggestion by anyone that it should be made illegal for a man to express an opinion on women’s reproductive rights. Where so I say anything even remotely like that? I discuss what merit the meme might have and why it can’t be taken literally – and particularly not by pro-choice men like me. There is absolutely nothing in the post that pertains to censorship.

    As for whether you are interested hearing my (pro-choice) views about women’s reproductive rights, and, if it comes that, about related bioethics matters such as stem-cell research, etc., it is quite open to you to ignore them. Perhaps you will miss out on hearing views and arguments that you’d find useful, but perhaps not. In any event, it’s up to you to take that risk if you think it’s desirable.

    But again, where do I even remotely suggest anything to the contrary in the original post?

  44. For what it’s worth, Ben, I tend to use “she” and “her” a lot in my writing, lectures, etc. (and have been doing this for over 30 years now!) – though it wouldn’t have been appropriate in this particular post. I don’t think it hurts to give a small reminder that many of the people affected by whatever it is we discussing are women, and if some of us do this it’s a small counterbalance to the traditional use of male-gendered pronouns to include women and girls.

    I don’t feel especially strongly about this, but I do think it’s a gesture that has its value, and it avoids some clumsiness with “they”, “s/he”, “he or she” and so on.

    Just my view of the matter – not something where I’d claim to be able to persuade somebody who starts out with a strongly different view.

  45. I feel really appreciative when writers use the female pronoun as a default, or alternate between genders. I think it is pretty much the norm now in philosophy publications and that editorial conventions tend to urge it? Some writers stick with the male pronoun but that seems fine as part of a wider practice in which there is overall balance.

    Although it can sometimes be distracting, just because it is relatively new, I’m sure it will pay dividends over, say, a hundred years or so and that we will lose the notional background image of the philosophical subject as somehow male (if there is such an image: I guess people vary in that respect).

  46. Re:- BLS Nelson September 24

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to my last post. I must stop nudging these discussions into areas having little or no relationship to the matter under discussion although I must admit some interesting comments have emerged therefrom.
    So far as The shutting up of men is concerned It seems to me that the production of a new human being needs a male and female both to provide their own genetic material out of which in time, emerges a new human being. Out of this, joint ownership of the neonate seems evident. On those grounds alone both parents must be allowed to express an opinion, concerning the welfare and well being of the child and this, even in its prenatal state.
    The amount of work and effort in production of a child is on the part of the male virtually insignificant compared to that of the female whose mind and body are devoted constantly to the task in hand. By virtue of this alone when the matter of abortion is considered responsibly the final decision should be that of the female regardless of whatever view the male may have. Hopefully in a loving relationship, a mutual decision will be made.
    This does seem to prevail against all attempts to block abortion legally. The onus is on the female parent to make the final decision.
    There are of course problems still remaining. It is not uncommon for the male in order to prevent abortion to claim basically that an object of which he has joint ownership is to be destroyed without his permission. He may also introduce religious arguments in this connection. I am not sure how such claims have been dealt with legally.
    So far as I am concerned I can see no argument whatsoever on religious grounds alone, which could effectively legally ban abortion. Some religious groups do not hold with blood transfusions but I do not think they agitate for this belief to be universal and backed by law. Why cannot the same hold for those groups who oppose abortion? So in that connection male protesters should shut up; but of course they won’t

  47. I really appreciate the clarity of Claire Creffield’s discussions in this matter, though the tendency to philosophical jargonizing can get old. The point I would make in response to her discussions is that they seem to take for granted that all the significant experience in abortion happens on the outside of the womb. THAT is what is really in dispute, though.

    As a man I really can’t speak to the experience of women in pregnancy, wanted or unwanted. What I can speak to that no woman can, though, is that I was once a male in a woman’s womb. I can remember very early childhood dreams of the comforting sounds of a heartbeat. Perhaps that memory gives me psychological contact with a powerless population of which I was once a part.

    When we are assigning validity to the existence of another it is easy to ignore what is behind the curtain, and even to raise curtains when it is convenient to do so.

  48. On the more general point of epistemic privilege and first-hand experience, I suspect there are certain kinds of claim that are open to refutation (or something close) on those grounds. Were i to argue that unwanted pregnancy or childbirth is not actually very burdensome or traumatic at all, I would have no complaint were someone to ask how I could possibly know that. Or at least, how could I be well enough placed to know that as to feel confident in arguing with someone who has personal experience. In the absence of any objective means of ascertaining the extent of suffering, we have little choice but to rely upon the first-hand accounts of those who experienced such things.

    So for some sorts of discussions, first-hand experience probably is a necessary condition for meaningful participation. But to that I would add two caveats. First, the corollary is not that first-hand knowledge is a sufficient qualification to hold forth on other people’s experiences. Anti-abortion websites love stories of women who became pregnant in dreadful circumstances, kept the pregnancy and now enthuse about how it was absolutely the right choice. While of course they have privileged insight into how it felt to be pregnant/raise children themselves, it doesn’t obviously follow that they have anything very useful to say about how some other women might feel in superficially analogous circumstances.

    So while someone who did find X traumatic is well placed to testify that some people find X traumatic, someone who did not find X traumatic cannot give reliable testimony that X is never traumatic. And someone who has never experienced X can’t offer much on that point at all, beyond recounting other people’s testimonies.

    Second caveat: of course, there are other aspects of the abortion debate to which one’s gender doesn’t really matter one way or the other. Either foetuses of a certain age are sentient, or viable, or they are not; personal, first-hand experience doesn’t illuminate the answer to such questions (unless, of course, anyone actually remembers being a foetus!). Potentiality either matters, or it doesn’t. Etc.

    That said … as a law person, I am wary of advocating any law that will affect other people’s lives, but which will never impact directly upon my own. The reason, I think, is the very real danger that my insulation from those effects will lead me to underestimate the extent of that impact.

    Of course, this happens all the time. Rich, older people pass laws that will overwhelmingly affect poor, young people; that’s true of practically the whole of the criminal law for a start. (Or very large chunks of it anyway.) And that’s not always a bad, or even an avoidable, thing. But I suspect that a slight discomfort in so doing is probably a healthy instinct to cultivate in such circumstances.

  49. With relation to abortion as a man I can only say that it is not men’s position to pontificate, but nor is it women’s or even mothers. It is only the right of individual mothers of their individual unborn child or children.

    It can only have the medical and utilitarian imput of a medical expert and a father in cases of possible death to both that or either of the mother or child at childbirth.

    During the pregnancy the only viable issue regarding abortion is the timing of a termination not whether or not an individual mother has the choice within such boundaries as to whether to have an abortion or not.

  50. ColinGavaghan,
    You state:“… as a law person, I am wary of advocating any law that will affect other people’s lives, but which will never impact directly upon my own.”
    Doesn’t that caution apply ESPECIALLY to laws made by people who can’t remember when they were in the womb, but are extinction itself to those people who are?

  51. LeeJamison: the conclusion would be valid if I agreed with the premise that foetuses are ‘people.’ For reasons I’ve discussed on other parts of this site, I don’t think they are.

  52. Claire Creffield was initially reluctant about “Setting a piece of philosophical reasoning up against something that is not a piece of philosophical reasoning.” But what sort of philosophers are we if we refuse to apply the grid of reason to an honest opinion because we see it as a rant? Russell Blackford asks “Why can’t men shut up about abortion?” and later answers his own question by claiming “I doubt if any serious thinker about contemporary politics can avoid taking positions that then entail views on the abortion debate.” He therefore quite reasonably protests “I don’t see why I should shut up.” He goes on to reject both faith-based and female epistemic privilege, while merely providing assertions, not argument: “I am actually pro-abortion … I don’t think that abortion is anything remotely like murder .. I will go on defending women’s reproductive rights, most certainly including robust abortion rights. But – I don’t see why someone who disagrees with me ought to shut up about it.”

    RB’s hurling of a spanner into the abortion debate seems to me adequate foundation for argument in comments. But the core issue is whether men should make judgements on whether a woman should or should not abort a foetus growing in her body. Does it make us good philosophers to stray so far from this core question that we haggle over issues only marginally related to it, such as he/she usage in academic texts? Claire Creffield later takes the question seriously, and marks off groups of people who might conduct a discussion on abortion, including mixed-gender groups. I propose that Medical Ethics panels comprising males and females from different backgrounds and standpoints are such group, and to be respected. Yes, all the panelists have epistemic privilege – as abortion clinicians, nurses, psychological advisors, women who have aborted, fathers of foetuses aborted against their wishes, lawyers and anti-abortion figureheads. Each puts forward a relevant argument, and personally I trust this group to eventually supply a framework for just legislation. Epistemic privilege at this level is valuable. No panelist can expect to dictate justice on their own terms, but input from the whole panel provides data on which to base final judgement. Current time limits for abortion (in the UK) have been little challenged except by those who claim foetal rights from conception. The free speech of these last has proved vital in compelling a cut-off point for foetus viability and sensibility.

    And the rest of us? Why does Colin Gavaghan say “… as a law person, I am wary of advocating any law that will affect other people’s lives, but which will never impact directly upon my own.” ? If all lawyers and politicians acted on this principle most laws would be framed by people of biased judgement, tainted if not dominated by personal experience.

    For what my view is worth, men should not shut up about abortion. But it would be good if they – and women – read the reports of ethics panels before holding forth.

  53. Hi Margaret,

    Does it make us good philosophers to stray so far from this core question that we haggle over issues only marginally related to it, such as he/she usage in academic texts?

    It does, if the contribution is relevant to the conversation, raised cooperatively at the right time and in the right way, and not tarried on for too long given the context. And in this case, it was intended as an illustration of something Claire said, and I shut down talk about it when I thought closure was needed. So, yes.

  54. Margaret,

    ‘If all lawyers and politicians acted on this principle most laws would be framed by people of biased judgement, tainted if not dominated by personal experience.’

    No, because I went on to say that

    ‘And that’s not always a bad, or even an avoidable, thing. But I suspect that a slight discomfort in so doing is probably a healthy instinct to cultivate in such circumstances.’

    So I’m not suggesting that we – those of us without first-hand experience – shouldn’t legislate in such circumstances, only that we should pause and think about it before doing so, to at least try to imagine how it would feel to be on the sharp end of that legislation.

    The medical ethics panel is an interesting idea, but I wonder who would be representative of, say, ‘women who have aborted’. There are such broad ranges of opinion and experience within that broad categories, from women who bitterly regret their choice to those who found the availability of abortion to have been a blessed relief, while in the middle will be a whole array of conflicting emotions. It’s vital that any decision-maker be informed about the existence of such a spectrum of views and experiences, but I’d be wary of letting any of those women represent the whole set.

    And much the same could be said of clinicians, lawyers, ethicists or any other group with specialist knowledge. I realise this may seem to conflict with my earlier statement about those without first-hand experience, but I guess I think there could be dangers in both directions: in giving too much influence to those who have never experienced X, or in giving too much influence to those who have experienced X, and assume their experience is typical.

    Case in point: here in New Zealand, we have a cabinet minister responsible for social welfare who was herself a young single mother. While this does give her first-hand experience, this is not manifested in greater sympathy for other teenage single mothers, but in a tough ‘if I can drag myself up by the boot-straps, anyone can’ approach to ‘beneficiaries’. Does this suggest that her personal experience has enabled her to make more informed decisions? Or that she is viewing an atypical (and maybe very lucky) experience as typical?

  55. Ben –
    Well … I do read a large number of the philosophy blogs flagged up by tweets and emails, and I find that quite often while reading the comments I’ve had scroll back up to the blog to recall what we are meant to be talking about. There was really nothing personal in my comment, and I feel privileged to share discussion with world-wide high flyers. It’s just that as a philosophy undergraduate I was ‘lucky’ to have it forcefully drilled home that remarks from personal experience, red herrings, discussion hogging, ad hominem snipes and anecdotes have no place in philosophical discussion (thanks, Nick Nathan). It is also a rule of debate to address ‘The Motion’, or risk being halted by the chairman. I simply felt that here and there Russell’s blog was being sidelined after he had been put down for not being philosophical enough.

    Colin –
    You make an excellent insight when you say that people “without first-hand experience … should pause and think about it before doing so, to at least try to imagine how it would feel to be on the sharp end of that legislation”. This gets right to the heart of the issue that riles RB; that it is assumed that men do not have the imagination to do this. RB is right to claim that some men may be more acutely imaginative (and empathic?) than some women.

    Re your point about the Medical Ethics panel and the uneven first-hand experience not only of females who have aborted and think their experience is typical, but of all the other experts, male and female, I suggest that what I called “biased judgement, tainted if not dominated by personal experience” (and this must with due respect include your NZ cabinet minister) really is in the end evened out by discussion. I don’t know how legislation is arrived at in other countries, but you only have to look at UK bills drafted without prior recourse to a broadly expert panel to see – and suffer from – some crack-pot political disasters.

    Russell –
    Thank you for your blog. Keep blowing the whistle!

  56. Margaret – having spent the vast majority of my life in the UK, I know exactly what you mean about the crackpot legislation, though if anything, things can be even worse under NZ’s ‘less talk, more action’ approach. And I agree entirely about the assumed inability to empathise/imaginatively engage with others.

    This actually relates to another bugbear of mine: the ‘you wouldn’t say X if you were/had Y’ retort.

    ‘You wouldn’t oppose the death penalty if it was your child’, or even ‘if you were a parent.’
    ‘You wouldn’t be taking that line if you had been the victim of crime/unlawful arrest.’

    Etc. (Mike LaB probably has a name for this sort of reasoning.)

    I’m never sure if this is a claim for epistemic privilege, exactly; are these people claiming that I would attain some greater insight or knowledge were I a parent/crime victim? Or merely that my moral priorities would change? If it’s the latter, that does seem like quite a good reason not to implicitly trust the perspectives of such interested parties.

  57. Colin – Yes, I think a direct appeal for empathy, as if their personal experience proves a universal rule, is the kind of claim for epistemic privilege which is not valid in argument and can have a negative effect on others’ imaginative engagement. Even on an ethics panel it would not be the right way to put forward one’s conviction (although some people would do so).

    But there can be no growth in discussion – as many of the comments in this thread have shown – without different opinions, even if these stretch right across the spectrum from the faith-based http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/49732 to the feminist http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2007/10/abortion_still. There is plenty more to be said on “why men can’t shut up about abortion”, but not by me. I am now off on a week of internet-free holiday.

  58. Hi Margaret,

    It is also a rule of debate to address ‘The Motion’, or risk being halted by the chairman. I simply felt that here and there Russell’s blog was being sidelined after he had been put down for not being philosophical enough.

    Ah, that’s fair, though I’m not sure that the conversations have to follow that structure.

    Still, supposing it ought to follow the debate structure in this conversation, we have somewhat different interpretation of the way it played out here. I consider my first post in support of Claire as part of the discussion portion of debate. Suppose that Russell’s initial motion was “Be it resolved we cut this trope out”. I suppose that Claire made two interjections: one, a point of order against the philosophical validity of Russell’s motion, and two, a point of information about the nature of the discussion. While I thought her point of order ought to be overruled (since philosophers should be able to wrangle with tropes, just as Socrates ought to wrangle with Gorgias), my subsequent remark on the subject of pronouns was expressed as part of an answer to her point of information.

    Also, I don’t think a wholesale ban on the use of personal anecdote would make sense in this context. And in my experience the use of anecdote isn’t the sort of thing that Chairs will shoot down.

    I do consider the subsequent (very brief and civil) digression with Don was me rising on a point of personal privilege. If the Chair were to cut me off on that, I think they’d be doing me a wrong, and if I had enough fire in my belly, I might even challenge the Chair (pointing extravagantly to a copy of Robert’s Rules!)

  59. My wife and I are 45 yrs old on returning from a fishing trip she said she’s pregnant and having an abortion I said ok is that what you want we hav 2 sucsesfull adult children I said why didn’t you tell me she said she didn’t Wana wreck my trip stuff my trip she was 21 wks that’s right 5 moths 1 week she had treatment that morning she said they put things in her vagina and had been giving drugs she can’t read so they gave her a little book say 5 pages how brutal man I said it’s to late instead of coming home to my wife to make love and talk about my holiday there she was scared confused with our dead baby inside her waiting to becsucked out as she put it man I’m angry they spent 1 hr telling her the process she didn’t understand that this was a baby and that I could xplain it better they don’t no her Iq 26 yrs mate they butchered my wife and murdererd my baby at 21 wks that’s a baby our baby when you go full turm you hav to go to all the meeting s at the birth cut the cord man we are great parents you would think all these xsperts would think they could make sure I was told and give her support she had none she was scared I understand womans rights but a man must b told and 1 hr is not enough to explain what is Gona happen to her body and mind my little boy I will never meet go fishing hunting hug him love him so don’t tell me it’s all woman it’s a team and my clan and I’m sad mad and want revenge 4 my poor little angel and you no what we get the baby bonus but it’s not a baby it has to be murder 🙁

  60. Few things disgust me like someone contriving to appear to have an IQ of 80 in an effort to smear those who sincerely believe a human being, even one at 26 weeks of gestation, deserves to be accorded some very basic human (or even animal) rights.

    I had a cousin who was born as a result of an abortion to save the mother- at 27 weeks. This was in 1935 and survival in such cases was virtually unheard of. She became a very remarkable woman, earned a Ph.D. and was a leader in the education of the blind and sensory deprived. For 13 weeks Ouida Fae Morris was an air-breathing fetus and the only particular reason she had human rights was that she had been aborted and failed to expire.

    Now, especially Colin Gavaghan, I’d love to see on this thread why a fetus (foetus) qualifies as something on one side of a curtain of flesh for which it qualifies not on the other.

  61. vikram kaamlajith

    Exactly!!! Was asking a friend(male) of mine who was on debate frenzy on the subject the same question.

  62. I think this blogis really sexist to men and claire how do you feel about females having abortions at 20,21,22 and 23 weeks.I would like to make an example if a criminal were to kill a pregnant women around that trimester he will charged with two counts of murder whereas a if she had an abortion it is not considered a human may I ask.Many feminist are sexist and hide been being ‘equal’ why is it called feminism and not equalism it’s just a man-hate group.I will never support feminism in anyway.The benefits they bring to men is exactly the same as the benefits poor organisation bring to rich people

  63. I am writing a book that discussed options for resolving an unwanted pregnancy—abortion and carrying pregnancy to full term. I am interviewing both men and women on both sides of this decision. At this time in the writing process, I am looking to interview men whose spouse/girlfriend has had an abortion. Is there anyone out there who is willing to dialogue with me?
    Thank you.

  64. JM,
    Is there a way of guaranteeing the privacy of a possibly unwilling second party in such an exchange?

  65. JM, I would suggest contacting Lauren Enriquez. I believe she is writing a similar book. She writes for several websites and a magazine. She has had experience listening to many stories from men about their stance on abortion and their involvement.

  66. “You against slavery? Don’t own any slaves, Shut up then.” I won’t shut up opposing abortion for the same reason I wouldn’t shut up opposing slavery. Unborn children are h slave class of this time.

  67. Isn’t this entire post just one big ad hominem? How is this even an opinion that any allegedly rational person can hold?

    The sex of the person making the arguments has absolutely no bearing upon the validity of the argument. If I think abortion is wrong then I AM going to speak up about it. I genuinely can’t follow this specific line of ‘reasoning’.

  68. Hey Richard,

    I think you are exactly correct, but this is what rationally follows if the “lump of cells” within a woman’s body are not held to be a human being. If it is held to merely be some kind of developing part of her body that is not necessary for the woman to keep living, then it should simply be the woman’s decision.

    (Think of telling a woman that she is under obligation to shave her legs. Of course not, so men should also then just shut up about her getting rid of the growing “lump of cells” within her.)

    That’s why I always hate framing everything under “women’s issues” as it really only gives men another reason to abandon women during something they have just as much part in making come to be.

    Take Care!

  69. I have read so many posts on the topic of the
    blogger lovers except this piece of writing is genuinely a good article,
    keep it up.

  70. I think the woman should look at this from a scientific stand point. 23 chromosomes of that fetus comes from the woman and 23 comes from the man. Each set of the 23 has both DNA genetic history and the baby is a new innocent creature. Personally, I think it is horrible for a woman to make that decision because the offspring she might bring forth could very well become the hope of the world, or, perhaps, a detriment to it! But, any way you look at it, I think, yes, it is murder and very wrong!

  71. But the problem is that it’s really just a rank ad hominem. If someone says, “I think killing a fetus is taking a life and thus unethical” and the response is “You’re a man, you don’t get a voice!”, then it is, by very definition, an ad hominem and thus fallacious.

    If the argument is that one can only have an opinion about things that would directly affect them, then wouldn’t that rule out a woman who has had a hysterectomy or was simply born with an inability to reproduce? I mean, it will never affect her either.

    I think you bring up some good points about empathy and how that might play a role in considering “what it would be like”, but I’m not a black man and I can “consider what it would be like” to get pulled over by the police more than a white person. And, more to the point, it seems that the assumption is that simply because I’m a man, I CAN’T understand what it would be like, but I’m a fairly empathic person and I think I just might be able to understand (or give it a good go).

  72. Thank you, and you know that this algorithm was intended for those who want to put the practice of abortion back in the back alleys. It was a ‘joke’ of sorts, being as most men that have an opinion about abortion seem to have a negative opinion that demeans women and the access to safe medical treatment. Thank you for your honest feedback. KA

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