Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Abortion Contradictions

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Abortion is a procedure with a dark past. For a very long time, secret abortions performed without the necessary medical competence was the norm, and as a consequence women died or were maimed for life. An absence of safe, legal abortions is still the case in many countries around the world, which is something I vehemently oppose.

I believe that every country that hasn’t already done so should have their abortion laws reformed, so that abortions can be done legally and with complete medical support. I fully support legislation that allows for free abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with a possibility of granting an extension as long as the fetus isn’t old enough to be able to survive outside the womb.

However, I do not support the view that once free and legal abortion is in place we have reached the goal of reproductive freedom. It’s true that free and legal abortion bestows reproductive freedom, but only upon half the population. We’ve liberated women by making available abortions that are safe, legal and in many cases included in medical insurances or government funded health care. Men however, have no rights and no freedoms  whatsoever vis-à-vis abortions.

Men and Abortions

If a woman becomes pregnant, then the woman can choose to have an abortion, even if she and her partner had agreed beforehand to have the baby. Similarly, if a couple has agreed to get an abortion in case of an accidental pregnancy, the woman can decide to keep the child and make the man pay child support for the next 18 years! No method of contraception is 100 percent safe, so accidental pregnancies do happen regularly.

These facts lead to a scenario where the woman has all the power, all the rights and all of the freedom. The woman’s decisions are the reproductive destiny of the man, in a very real sense. Every man is expected to trust a woman 100 percent, whether they are carefully planning to have a child, or if the couple is instead trying to avoid a pregnancy. 

How can we motivate men to be responsible fathers under these circumstances?

Here’s a breakdown of what pregnancy means for a man nowadays:

  1. Prenatally, the mother has all the rights. She can keep the child or have an abortion, even if that goes against what the couple had decided beforehand.
  2. Once the child is born, fathers are expected to take on 50% of the responsibility, and even if the man never wanted the child he will be forced to pay child support.
  3. In case of divorce, the woman is usually favored by the courts and women win the majority of custody battles.

This is a very confusing situation for men, to say the least. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; you cannot expect men to be responsible if men are not awarded any rights, yet this is exactly what we expect of men in relation to pregnancy.

What’s the Solution?

In my mind abortion is actually one of the “hard” problems of the gender field, i.e. a problem where there is no obvious solution and no obvious way to improve the current situation. I don’t believe in removing the woman’s legal right to decide when and if to get an abortion, since I cannot conceive of how that could be done in a satisfactory way.

Instead, I think we need to focus on cultural values, and how we discuss abortion in society. Instead of saying things like “my body, my choice”, I think we need to propagate the idea that men and women should make conscious agreements on how to handle accidental pregnancies, and then respect those agreements. If no agreement has been made, the potential mother and the potential father should sit down and discuss what needs to be done, from the perspective of all the affected parties.

Abortion is not about the woman having rights and simply doing whatever she feels like doing, even if she’s legally entitled to do so. It’s about taking all the affected parties into account, which include the fetus, the potential mother and the potential father.

What Is Discrimination?

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Discrimination is a word that is used extensively in discussions about gender issues and gender inequality. However, the word discrimination is often used indiscriminately these days, so there is a real need to reclaim the correct definition of the word.

How is discrimination defined? Discrimination simply means judging someone by their race, gender, religion, sexuality, age, etc – instead of judging them for their competence. If you apply for a job where you are the most qualified candidate, but you do not get the job because you are gay, then you are being discriminated against. This kind of discrimination, which we can call authentic discrimination, is something that has no place in an evolved society and legislation should make sure that this kind of action is illegal.

Nowadays we sometimes hear the claim that women are being discriminated against because they don’t have as many positions of power in the public sphere as men do. As we all know, women are generally underrepresented in corporate management, political positions and leadership positions in general. However, we cannot automatically draw the conclusion that women are being discriminated against simply because there are more men in these domains! Doing so represents an incorrect use of the word discrimination.

If we want to determine whether women are being discriminated against, we need to investigate how the positions we’re interested in were filled. Was the most competent and suitable candidate for the job hired? If this is the case, then there has been no discrimination, period. We can have 70 percent men in a certain workplace, or 80 percent women in another workplace, without having discriminated against either gender. As long as the most competent and suitable people are being hired, we’re rewarding excellence and dedication, and those factors are gender neutral.

In many countries, feminist lobbying is influencing policy makers to support affirmative action for women. One example is Norway, where recent legislation has enforced that 40 percent of board members in corporations should be women. Spain has passed a similar law, forcing companies with more than 250 employees to appoint women to 40 percent of board seats within six years. While these kinds of actions may be seen as efforts to promote gender equality, they are actually a form of discrimination.

If a company that needs to recruit a new board member already has 60 percent men on the board, it will have no choice but to hire a woman, regardless of whether it’s a woman who’s the most qualified candidate. This means that the laws that are now in place in Norway and Spain, and that may spread elsewhere, can actually discriminate against men. Furthermore, the women on those boards will not know whether they got the job because of their qualifications or because the company simply needed another woman to avoid breaking the law. If I were a woman I’d detest being in that situation, I would much prefer knowing that I got the job (or not) based on my qualifications alone.

The rationale for having affirmative action for women is the claim that women have a hard time being taken seriously in competitive careers. Regardless of whether this claim is true or not in a certain country at a certain point in time, the answer is not affirmative action. The solution to a gender problem can never be to make discrimination legal, and affirmative action means legalizing a subtle form of discrimination. If stereotypes are hindering women from succeeding in the workplace, or if stereotypes are preventing men from developing close connections to their children, then the solution is to transcend those stereotypes, and promote a worldview where each individual is allowed to make his or her own choices, regardless of gender.

We need to create a society where every child and every person is given the opportunity to pursue the career or family life of his or her dreams. This means transcending stereotypes that expect every man to be a certain way, and every woman to be a certain way. But it does not mean making discrimination legal, however alluring that option might seem.