Recently, a student asked me whether I had a right to speak out on abortion given that I am a man and could never experience pregnancy. I countered by asking him whether arguments have testicles. The question drew laughter from other students who were listening to the exchange. But my point was serious and worth addressing at length.
The idea that men are ineligible to speak out on abortion has at least six flaws, each of which should be understood and articulated by men who desire to speak on the issue. Those argumentative flaws follow in no particular order of importance:
1. The argument is sexist towards men. There have been 26 million males aborted in America since Roe v. Wade. Men have every right to speak out on behalf of those millions of males who were victims of violence at the hands of women. To accept that men cannot speak up for them because they could never choose to have an abortion would have dangerous implications. Could a woman not speak up for a young female rape victim because she could never choose to commit a rape? Would they be prohibited from speaking because they were not members of the gender ultimately responsible for carrying out the crime? Surely not. Furthermore, the argument reinforces the dangerous idea that rights belong to groups and not to individuals.
2. The argument is sexist towards women. We must also consider the effects of male anti-abortion advocacy on unborn women. An unborn woman has a right to choose simply by virtue of the fact that she is a woman. Or so the argument goes. If a woman is persuaded to let her unborn female child live then she too can hear the evidence on both sides of the abortion debate. If she dies, she is not at liberty to hear arguments on either side of the issue from either a man or a woman. And she cannot make a decision concerning what to do with her body if she is dismembered in the womb. Ironically, a woman’s so-called right to body autonomy, when exercised, defeats another woman’s right to bodily autonomy (in roughly one out of every two cases of pregnancy).
3. The argument defeats Roe v. Wade. Feminists would like to see the two dissenting Justices in Roe v. Wade silenced because they are men. But the same argument would silence the seven Justices who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade. They were also men. In other words, if a man’s opinion on abortion is invalidated simply by virtue of the fact that he is a man then Roe v. Wade would also be invalidated.
4. The argument would also apply to other medical procedures. Women usually decide to let their male offspring live. When they do, they usually have their male offspring circumcised. As Francis Beckwith points out, a woman can never know what it is like to have a portion of her penis removed. So how can she be allowed to participate in both the abortion and circumcision decision while a man is excluded from the former?
5. The argument assumes the male pro-life speech is directed toward women. People simply assume that the pro-life male is trying to control women when he argues against abortion. But oftentimes he is not even speaking to women. He is often motivated by a desire to change the hearts of men. This is because he knows that men often coerce women into abortions by threatening to leave them if they have the baby. Therefore, by entering the debate, the pro-life man may be reducing coercive control over women’s bodies. If women are better suited to speak to women, then it stands to reason that men are better suited to speak to men.
6. The argument also applies to slavery. No one could reasonably argue that abortion only affects women. A better argument would be that it affects women disproportionately. But that does not mean women are the only ones who can address the issue of abortion. Historically, slavery has affected blacks disproportionately. But it does not lead to the conclusion that non-blacks are disqualified from commenting on a moral issue that clearly spills over to all segments of the human population.
Liberals are constantly trying to reduce the marketplace of ideas by reducing the number of voices that are eligible to participate. They have already silenced 52 million voices with the blade of a sharp knife. We cannot let them do further damage with dull ideas. Sharpening arguments requires vigorous debate. And vigorous debate requires acceptance of the idea that arguments are not gendered. Neither is the right to speak on matters of profound moral consequence.