Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 558, February 21, 2010

"Voluntary servitude has consequences."

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Envies of Various Sorts
by Kathryn A. Graham

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

This article is meant as discussion related to L. Neil Smith's article entitled "I Told You So," Steve Lyne, Sr.'s response to same in Letters to the Editor, and L. Neil Smith's rebuttal article "Of Blue Eyes and Bambi." The topic is abortion, never an easy subject, and our society's extremely emotional attitudes toward it.

Mr. Lyne appears to believe that those women who support the legal right to abortion are just slavering at the mouth to run out and murder babies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For any sane woman, abortion is an extraordinarily difficult decision, requiring much agonized thought and moral consideration. There are other kinds of women out there, I grant you, but they are not among my friends, and I don't much care what they think. Repeated abortions for birth control purposes are very painful and can easily prevent a woman from ever being able to bear children, so the penalties for irresponsibility in this regard are literally built into the procedure itself. Given the difficulty and dreadful emotional consequences inherent in this type of decision, the typical woman who decides to go ahead with an abortion procedure has overwhelming reasons powerful enough that she is most definitely going to find an abortion—any abortion, legal or illegal—and condemning her to the use of back alley practitioners and/or even wire coat hangers is just putting two lives at risk instead of one.

This debate has always been a nasty one, giving rise to ugly personal attacks in a way that political disagreements should never, never do, along with a significant number of brutal murders of doctors and abortion clinic staff. I believe that this irrational response arises from our patriarchal notions of what a society should be. Historically, matriarchal societies, where descent and inheritance were traced through the mother, were generally free from jealous attempts to control the bodies of women. After all, there was seldom any doubt concerning maternal parentage, and the identity of the paternal parent was often treated as a matter of little importance and for the family alone. In a patriarchal society, such as we have today, things are very different. Only if he has absolute and complete control over a woman's body at every hour of every single day can any man ever know with certainty that his sons are truly his very own and entitled to his parental love—and entitled to his property and/or titles when he dies. This is the fundamental basis of the most suspicious and irrational type of jealousy, as well as all the "submission" excrement that many men still use to con women into believing that their religion requires slavery of them.

Worse yet! If we are talking about paternal inheritance, every man is completely dependant on a woman for progeny, and he is taught from birth that progeny is the only sort of physical immortality he can achieve. The need to procreate is written into our genes, but it can be enhanced with very destructive results by society. If a man raised in our society succeeds in getting any woman pregnant, he is naturally unwilling to allow her to terminate that pregnancy, whether they are married or unmarried, and regardless of the personal or physical cost to the woman and her physical or emotional health. I can certainly understand that father's pain, and I am not even unsympathetic toward it—but ultimately, a small collection of cells cannot be considered any sort of baby, with "rights" of any kind—I mean, where would you draw the line? At the very best, such cells constitute only a potential baby, not yet a real one, and as such remain under the moral and legal control of the woman whose body is inhabited by said cells. If any woman chooses to forego the joyful possibility of one day having a baby to love and raise, we should respect her reasons and her suffering, not castigate her because our own choices might have been different. Roe vs. Wade does not mandate abortion. It simply mandates choice, guaranteeing a woman's freedom to choose. It is up to the woman to choose responsibly, and if she does not, it is certainly not the fault of that Supreme Court decision, made to uphold freedom in all fifty states.

Again, I wish to stress that I do fully comprehend the misery and helplessness that any man must feel if he truly wants a child, learns that his partner is pregnant, and thereafter learns that she wants or needs to terminate his pregnancy. Of course he wants the law to prevent it! No sensitive person can avoid sympathizing with that level of suffering, and many women have actually borne unwanted children because they also sympathized with the father's pain—and those children were somehow always the ones who suffered most. Those women who ultimately chose the abortion path either did so because of overwhelming personal, financial or health reasons—or, bluntly, because they never cared all that much for the father or his feelings in the first place. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact, grounded in biology, that it remains solely the woman's right and her choice whether or not to bear a child. If a man does not want to grant a woman control over his sperm should she conceive a child, and thereafter for the duration of gestation, he should just leave her body strictly alone and go find himself a woman he can trust with such decisions. It is ludicrous to suggest that women are more often irresponsible about sex than men. Nor is birth control the sole responsibility of the woman. Why should it be? Men have been known to lie about vasectomies at least as often as women have lied about the pill and/or IUD.

A few men who cannot deal with these unfortunate situations and their own feelings of rage and helplessness have lashed out and murdered abortion doctors and clinic staff all across this country in recent years. Please do call that exactly what it is. It is murder, the brutal murders of sentient human beings, not the removal of a few non-sentient cells that might one day have the mere potential to become a human being.

As Neil so rightly points out, this is all a very slippery slope. For women to even consider giving up the absolute right to determine the medical care for their own bodies is the first step on a road leading right back into the nightmare of slavery for 52 percent of the population. My own mother, in 1956 AD—hardly the Dark Ages—was forced to go into a Texas court and have the legal right to sign contracts and conduct business without her husband's signature actually granted to her by a state judge—and it was no easy thing to obtain in that day and age, even with my father's presence and his enthusiastic and eloquent support. Before you even ask, she was most definitely employed in her own right and earning her own income. Do we really even want to consider going back to that medieval sort of society? If you do not believe me, research the term "Texas Disabilities of Coveture" on the Internet. These laws were lifted a few years later, when I was still a small child, but I do remember them clearly, and so do other Texas women my age and a little older.

For myself, I grew up in the very early years of feminism, when every woman had to struggle bitterly every single day to assert her rights as an intelligent and capable human being. I was told from earliest childhood that I was denied the right to be an astronaut, an airline pilot, a fireman or a policeman—as well as just about anything else requiring brains or outside of strictly menial office or clerical support. I was literally told—on many occasions—that my menstrual cycle would make me too unstable for any work requiring emotional steadiness or courage. During those years, those first brave women who did choose, like my own mother, to assert their human rights were often accused of a lack of religious belief or faith (sounds like the Christian Taliban to me) and/or the final catchall term of "penis envy" by the men who most wanted to enslave them. If you had known my mother, far more feminine and gentle than I will ever be, you would laugh heartily at that. And I am deeply grateful that my father genuinely saw her as an equal and brilliant partner, and also respected my own abilities once I began to exercise them, because his support and example helped me to achieve my own personal goals without excessive resentment or hatred of the other men that I had nasty confrontations with during those difficult years.

I most assuredly do not accuse every man on the planet of trying to enslave women. Since my father's example, over the last three decades and more, I have loved and been loved by several wonderful men and enjoyed every single moment of those relationships, both in and out of bed, and in my professional life. The difference appears to lie in confidence, in a man's comfortable belief in his own abilities and virility. And why not? Much of the world's unpleasantness is caused by unacknowledged insecurity. Why should this be any different? My partner as a private investigator for some years was a strong and courageous man I would trust with my life anytime or anywhere, supremely confident in himself and in his own remarkable talents—and he also freely granted me the same trust and respect in many difficult and very dangerous situations that actually ranged from flying an airplane in dicey weather to facing down a bad guy with a revolver of approximately the apparent dimensions of a Naval cannon. That said, I also have had enough—thankfully brief—run-ins with men of the other sort, especially in the earliest years of feminism, to rapidly teach this particular gal to exercise extreme caution in her romantic and professional relationships.

And, yes—before you ask me, Mr. Lyne—I do find that I frighten some men right out of their boxers. I also find that the ones who are the least bit frightened or put off by me would most definitely not be men I would ever want in my bed—or in my life. So perhaps that is a good thing in the final analysis.

Upon lengthy reflection concerning the psychological basis for the deep-seated need that some men feel to control women, I do wonder if it could be that Mr. Lyne is actually suffering from an unacknowledged and undiagnosed case of "uterine envy" and regretting that Nature did not grant him the ability to bear his own children.


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