The importance of choice

The US talks a lot about freedom and how essential it is to a good life. Freedom may not cure disease, prevent natural disasters or even fix the economy, and yet somehow we realize life just isn’t worth living without freedom.

By which of course many Americans mean their own freedom, not yours. Remember: we were blithering about freedom to the king of England as we imported slaves we didn’t legally recognize as human beings.

When “the rape guys” this year said that abortions should be banned even in cases of rape and incest, the whole conversation felt surreal to me because there was a huge pink elephant in the room that they never acknowledged. I don’t think they even realized it was there. I’m talking about the issue of choice and freedom, and the fact that their proposed solution to someone having her right to choose sex partners violated is that she should also have her right to choose how to deal with the consequences violated.

But, some would argue, the fetus gets no choice at all. This is true. But to assume the fetus would always choose life in hindsight is unfounded. Loads of children not born of rape come to wish they’d never been born, and many unfortunately kill themselves to rectify this. Ending abortion doesn’t give fetuses a choice; it just makes the choice for them. And in so doing, takes away the choice of a born human who is capable of making her own choices. Banning abortion only limits freedom.

When we talk about rape pregnancy, we are talking about human beings who have been turned into baby factories by no choice of their own. You think getting a broken leg that will take months to fully heal, with lots of doctor appointments and surgeries and drugs and a life re-organized around physical therapy appointments is a case oflifeus interruptus? Try being raped and then forced to bring a new human being into the world when you weren’t prepared and maybe never will be.

John Koster cleverly tried to frame abortion as “another violence” upon a woman’s body after she’s already been raped. But he’s wrong – abortion is the choice. Rape was the violence. Having another choice removed would be the further violence, and that’s what Koster and his “rape guy” friends support.

But but but, someone argues. But what? Either freedom is important to you, or it isn’t. If you pick and choose whose freedoms you support, good luck; someday someone may decide your freedom doesn’t matter, and have the power to take it from you. And you would deserve that. You might say you would be asking for it by your hypocrisy today.

What it all boils down to is this, and it’s really nothing to do with rape or fetuses or won’t someone please think of the children. It’s that women having freedom of choice threatens some men in the same way that gays marrying threatens the deeply insecure married heterosexual: if everybody else has my option, then what is my option worth? Some people doubt their own ability to distinguish themselves with success or good works, so they instead try to make sure they possess things (material or otherwise) that others do not, and get judged by the stuff they have.

We see this pattern replayed over and over in gender politics. If women could vote, then what was so special about men voting? If women could hold the same jobs as men, then suddenly men’s jobs weren’t so special. And if women could choose not to be burdened, limited, tied down or psychologically or physically harmed by the fruits of their reproductive systems, then suddenly the male ability to flit irresponsibly through life, experiencing sex as an unfettered good time without consequences, wasn’t so special.

I talk about abortion and rape a lot because I find it especially hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t make an exception in that case. But the truth is, these men don’t care about fetuses. They are just so distressed by the idea of women being able to casually divest themselves of parental responsibility in the same way men have been allowed to do.


  1. Palaverer says

    “if everybody else has my option, then what is my option worth? Some people doubt their own ability to distinguish themselves with success or good works, so they instead try to make sure they possess things (material or otherwise) that others do not, and get judged by the stuff they have.”

    This is so well phrased.

  2. Amy McCabe says

    I have an EXCELLENT way to stop victims of rape and incest from aborting their fetuses: Let’s fucking stop rape and incest.

  3. says

    Amy McCabe, at this point maybe it’s appropriate for someone to bring it up: studies indicate that something like 6% of men are rapists. And that’s studies where you describe rape behavior and ask the guy if he’s ever done it and he admits it.

    Most of these guys are not convicted. They are as likely to vote as anyone else. They are as likely to go into politics or become hugely wealthy CEOs who can afford to steer politics.

    Maybe, just maybe, this is a big part of why our government has never shown must interest in eliminating rape or incest – they’re more interested in shifting the blame for these crimes to the victims, and they’ve been very effective so far.

    That’s why the voting out of the “rape guys” gave me some hope. For the first time, voters have sent a clear signal that on the whole we do have sympathy for the victims and don’t want to see all the consequences falling on them instead of the rapists.

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