Michael in Russia writes,
Got a question for you. I am a pro-abortion man (or even more generally a pro-death man since I support capital punishment too). You strongly oppose the former. I'm not going to repeat all familiar pros and cons. Rather, I've got one peculiar premise which I have never met in discussion of the issue and which I take to be the first step in dealing with it—namely, I hold that we, men, should have no voice at all in this business. Since no man has ever known what it is (like to be a bat) to conceive, to bear, and to give birth, and it appears that no one is going to, I maintain that this issue must be decided on strictly by women whatever the outcome. It's utterly undemocratic, but I'm not a fan of egalitarian democracy. So, what do you think of this: no voice for men in abortion debate, that's strictly women's business?
Thank you for reading, Michael, and thank you for writing.
It warms my heart to hear that you are pro-death - - when it comes to capital punishment. You are probably aware of my arguments for the latter's moral justifiability in some cases and in some venues. (In a place where the justice system is unfair, I would be inclined to support a moratorium on the death penalty.) I also maintain, pace the late, great Nat Hentoff, that it is logically consistent to be for capital punishment and against abortion.
My view in one clean sentence: Abortion is morally prohibited in most cases while capital punishment is morally required in some cases.
Now on to your question: Ought men have a say in the abortion debate? Here is my short answer:
Arguments don't have testicles!
But that bumper sticker wants unpacking.
An argument for or against abortion is good or bad regardless of the sex of the person giving the argument. And similarly for race. One doesn't have to be black to have a well-founded opinion about the causes and effects of black-on-black crime. The point holds in general in all objective subject areas. For purposes of logical appraisal, arguments can and must be detached from their producers and consumers.
Here is an argument. "Infanticide is morally wrong; there is no morally relevant difference between infanticide and late-term abortion; therefore, abortion is morally wrong." The soundness/unsoundness of the argument cannot pivot on the sex of the producers or consumers of the argument.
Suppose someone argues that repeat-offending rapists should be be chemically or in some other way castrated by the state. Would the fact that men and men alone would bear the burden of the punishment be any reason to maintain that women have no right to a say in the matter? No.
It is also clear that one can be a competent gynecologist without being a woman, and a competent specialist in male urology without being a man. Only a fool would discount the advice of a female urologist on the treatment of erectile dysfunction on the ground that the good doctor is incapable of having an erection.
"You don't know what it's like, doc, you don't have a penis!"
What's it like to be a pregnant woman?
In objective matters like these, the 'what it's like' made famous by Thomas Nagel is not relevant. One needn't know what it's like to have morning sickness to be able to prescribe an effective palliative. I know what it is like to be a man 'from the inside,' but my literal (spatial) insides can be better known by certain women.
What's more, we white men can have a sort of knowledge by analogy of what women and cats and blacks feel. For example, men and women both urinate and defecate, and typically a certain pleasure accompanies these activities. I know by analogy what it is like for a woman to micturate and feel relief and a modicum of pleasure even though my modus micturiendi is somewhat different.
Defecation triggers orgasm in some women. I have never experienced that, but I can imagine it. Similarly with menstrual cramps, morning sickness, and other miseries of pregnancy. I am a sympathetic and sensitive guy as everyone knows. To be honest, I am a bit womanish in this regard, and I don't intend 'womanish' as a term of derogation.
I don't know what it is like to be a bat, and I will grant that bat qualia are beyond our ken even analogically; but I have some sense of what it is like to be a cat inasmuch as cats manifestly feel analogs of such human emotions as fear, surprise, annoyance, etc.
I have no idea, however, what my cat Max Black feels when he retromingently takes a leak.
Do I know what it is like to be black? Well, I know what it is like to disrespected. So I know what it is like to feel the hurt and the rage of a black motorist who is stopped by a cop merely for 'driving while black.'
But do I know what it is like to be a slave? About as well as contemporary blacks do in the West none of whom are or have ever been slaves.
"But you have never faced the prejudice blacks experience." Not that particular prejudice, but plenty of other kinds.
At this point tribalism enters the discussion. The more we tribalize, the more we shrink the space of objectivity, reason, and argument. The more we tribalize, the more we reduce ourselves to mere tokens of racial, ethnic, and other types. The more we do that, the more we miss the person, the free agent, the rational being.
There are blacks who would say to me, "You have no idea what it is like to be black!" I say, "Bullshit! You have incarcerated yourself in your tribal identity." Same with women who feel (that's exactly the right word) that abortion is a women's issue exclusively. Well, it is not. It is an objective issue that affects both males and females. Stop feeling and start thinking.
That should be obvious. Among those aborted are males and females. So abortion cannot be solely a concern of women.
So let us set our tribalism aside and approach the question as rational beings on the plane of reason and argument where no testicles are to be found.