Healthy families depend on healthy society
Published on Wednesday, October 22, 2008Two years ago, South Dakotans rejected a legislative measure that would have banned virtually all abortions in South Dakota. Polls showed that, had a couple of exceptions been added to the measure, it would have passed overwhelmingly.
One might have expected our state legislators to immediately propose a new abortion bill, this time including the exceptions that would have ensured voter approval. But that's not what happened. “Give the issue a rest,” argued many. “It's too soon to take it up again.”
And they had a point. Keeping the abortion issue on the front burner makes it very, very hard for us to be civil to one another. For pro-lifers, killing unborn babies is a lot like - well, it's a lot like killing babies. And if you've ever watched ultrasounds or listened to the heartbeat of a developing baby or held your own newborn, well it turns your stomach to think of what people do to so many of these little ones. Unless you shove the whole issue into the background and pretend it isn't happening, it is very hard to be civil.
It helps, however, to place the abortion controversy in historical perspective and to look at the reasons that many societies have accepted, not just abortion, but outright infanticide.
Infanticide, while an occasional practice in some cultures, becomes commonplace mostly in societies where men assume little or no responsibility for raising families or supporting the children they father.
In contemporary America, insistence on an abortion option for women likewise corresponds directly to male abandonment of family responsibilities.
We used to have no use for men who didn't marry the women they seduced and who refused to support the children they fathered. We called them cads. But “cad” is such a quaint and old-fashioned word it has lost its sting. We need something stronger. My students suggest that, in the name of gender-equity, we ought to call promiscuous males sluts. I think we need a combination of the slut/cad image: we should start calling irresponsible men “cluts” or (perhaps better) “scads.”
Now suppose a woman was counting on the support of her partner if she became pregnant. He turns out, however, to be a scad. One has to be sympathetic: If he can walk away, why shouldn't she be able to too?
The trouble is that, when a society accepts birth-control abortion, it's giving its tacit approval to the scads. Early feminists hated abortion, viewing it, not as a boon to women, but as a convenience for unscrupulous men. And they were right.
If abortion is legal, what exactly is a man's responsibility toward his pregnant partner? His half of the couple of hundred bucks it takes for an abortion - and that's all. If the woman wants the baby, well, that's her decision (choice), but leave me out of it.
Unfortunately, that's really the way many men have begun to think: We're getting scads of scads.
And here's the problem with the rhetoric of “choice.” Accepting abortion on demand changes society in fundamental ways. It alters profoundly the relationship between men and women, changing the whole pattern of courtship and marriage - and not just in those situations where there is an unplanned pregnancy. Marriage gradually moves toward obsolescence, baby or no. What good is “choice” if the option one would like most is not an option any more?
If one really wants healthy families, Measure 11 is a good start. It leaves plenty of room for choice and promotes a return to the kind of society where the choices available are more likely to be good ones.