Monday, December 3, 2007

sharing chromosomes

I read an article the other day about the arrest of a man who authorities say slipped his pregnant girlfriend abortion drugs, causing her to miscarry. I did not say 'I read about a man who was arrested for slipping his girlfriend abortion drugs.' Because that was the ambiguous part--was he being arrested for something he did to the girlfriend (assault?), or for something he did to the child/baby/fetus (manslaughter, infanticide...homicide?)...or both?

The question can't be dismissed as irrelevant because it says a lot about ones attitudes towards the law, individual liberty, and abortion--the il/legality of it quite possibly being the most contentious moral and political question of our century.

Although there's not enough information to paint an accurate legal portrait of the situation, this does leave the opportunity to explore their complexities--these obscure dusty stories from places like "Appleton, Wis," and "Bolingbrook,Ill" stuck in the far back corners of news papers--as if they were a kind of rare 100 year old soon-to-be-extinct African beetle kept alive in an insect zoo to be examined under a microscope for scientific study.

But really, there's no microscope here, nor is the subject of this article a scientific study, nor is it even an ethics classroom; it is a courtroom. And when it holds a hearing for a case carrying as much weight as abortion does in the eyes of the general public (the way to tell? almost everyone has an opinion on it, and a side they have chosen), there is no shortage of opportunities for prosecutors and defense attorneys to ask both real and theoretical questions using this real-life "case" as the context.

In this particular case, it is not a question of what this man is being charged with, but why he is being charged at all. If it is legal for a woman to prematurely terminate the birth of her child/fetus/baby/whatever scientific theory you ascribe to--(it doesn't really matter in this context), is it not unreasonable to ask, then, why such a right can not be extended to the father, since he is equally responsible--at the very least for his participation in the conception process--for its health and well being. Like a tenant with a leaking roof and a shitty landlord...what can you do?

But obviously there has to be some difference that puts men and women on unequal footing in this matter: the mother has the unique experience of sharing her actual body with her baby so that the two get so tightly enmeshed with one another that it is impossible to untangle them. A man does not have that experience and so the question becomes can he claim the same rights? Because if he can, then his arrest would be unjust, since his rights to terminate his child (and it is equally his child, again, if nothing else than biologically) were violated. As Dr. Phil says, "it takes two to make a marriage work, but only one to end it." If what he was doing (seeking to terminate the pregnancy, albeit against the mother's will) was seen as something morally and civically wrong, why is a woman's decision to do the same treated differently in the criminal justice system? Thoughts and comments welcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no more than forced abortion is ok! it seems you are focused on the rights of the potential child to the exclusion of the woman. how could the man kill the fetus without consent of the woman without also assaulting or battering her in some way? pro choice people believe that a pregnant woman is the only one who must bear the child so she is the one who decides whether to carry it to term. it is equally wrong to prevent her from carrying a wanted pregnancy to term as it is to make her a criminal for abortion. i also don't agree that the choice is either "full rights bearing person from conception" or "kill at will." obviously the developing fetus is not the same as a born child; otherwise we would all mourn miscarriages as we do other deaths.