Guest Editorial: Whose rights?
by Chris Gore
Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey was conducted again this year and, perhaps not surprisingly, the results have demonstrated that America is split in terms of moral values. As a whole, the nation differs virtually down the middle on issues such as abortion and assisted suicide. In a highlight of Americans view on marriage, most believe adultery to be immoral, but consider divorce and other sexual immorality to be acceptable.
But what was most startling from the poll was not the apparent drifting morality of the nation, but came from a closer look at the numbers concerning abortion. According to the poll, men are more convinced of the morality of abortion than women. Forty-one percent of men believe abortion to be morally acceptable, while only 36 percent of women do. And these results are not new. Since Gallup began tracking opinions on abortion around the time of Roe v. Wade, women have consistently been stronger opponents of abortion than have men.
What makes this interesting and saddening is that abortion is often couched in the terms of women’s rights. However, according to the polling data, it is men who are the most eager to allow women to have the option of abortion should they so choose.
The numbers are shocking and surprising, but what might be more insidious is what lies behind the numbers. Why would men be such strong supporters of a right and practice they by definition cannot participate in, one where in all the rhetoric and jargon, they are very rarely mentioned?
One option is that the men polled were just afraid to sound anti-women’s rights, so, lest they appear chauvinistic or misogynistic, they checked their support for abortion. But this was, of course, a secret poll. Anonymity would have masked any fears of reprisal from the opposite sex or any reason to be less than honest about their opinions.
A second option is that men actually do support the moral position of abortion and have no qualms about showing that support via the polls, that they are strong supporters of the rights of women and see no problem in providing reproductive freedom. This option would be surprising considering it would be saying that men are actually more “pro-women” than women themselves are. Have fun convincing feminists of this.
A third, and unfortunately more likely, option is that many men support abortion, not because they believe in women’s rights, but because they want free sex, that is, sex without the fear of consequences.
The Gallup data actually supports this reasoning, and the numbers are telling. Let’s look at some of the other numbers that might help us understand what is really behind the polls. In terms of sexuality in general, men support premarital sex more than women. Sixty-three percent of men believe sex before marriage is acceptable, while only 56 percent of women believe the same. So men are wanting to have sex outside of marriage. Add to this a secondary, but by no means incidental, number and the picture fills out more. Men actually are less approving of having babies outside of marriage. Fifty-five percent of women think having children outside of marriage is morally acceptable, but only 52 percent of men do. What do these numbers show us? That men want to have sex, they believe in having sex outside of marriage, but they do not want to have babies. Abortion falls in line with those desires, providing a final solution to that hope.
The idea of men supporting birth control methods of every kind in order to liberate their sexuality is nothing new. In an article on the possible release of a male birth control pill, one doctor noted that it was this view of sex without consequences that drives their research and their reasoning for even thinking about creating a new form of birth control.
“Men are often interested in having sex and not being fathers,” a doctor, who is himself a man, said. So businesses worldwide are recognizing and investing in the fact that men want sex but without the fear of any negative effects.
And men’s worries are not just biological either. The financial ties of having children weigh heavily in the minds of men who hear the words, “I’m pregnant,” especially out of wedlock. Recent numbers show that fathers who pay child support give 15-25 percent of their paychecks per child. And defending against a birth claim is difficult for men. In some U.S. states, a father cannot even present DNA evidence to disprove the paternity of a child, a startling fact considering more than 10 percent of children are not the offspring of the expected father, the one typically paying the child support. The onus of child support payments grows even more when you consider that there is a current trend toward extending child support payments beyond the age of 18. And with child support enforcement becoming more effecting and far-reaching, the notions of a delinquent dad are becoming far less possible. In an age where money matters, for men, having a child can bring a crippling financial burden. Abortion can again help alleviate that worry and offer an out to a father who wants pleasure but not the financial burdens that can arise from his carnal decision.
These numbers don’t prove anything, they are very close. But they should make us think. Next time we hear a proponent of abortion argue that abortion is really about reproductive freedom or women’s rights, recognize that behind her and behind the rhetoric stands not just a group of women as they would have you think, but rather a larger cadre of men who might have ulterior motives in supporting abortion, men who will be willing to do anything and support any measure, even abortion, so they can have sex without fear of consequence—sex for free. Maybe that’s whose rights they are really fighting for.
Chris Gore is pastor of Beggs, First and a columnist for the Baptist Messenger.