September 18, 2009
Note: Richard Stith is a professor of law at Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana.
This summer, President Obama proclaimed again that we “need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn't end at conception.” In a sense, of course, he is absolutely right. But the problem is that, in another sense, he is completely wrong: Male responsibility really does end at conception.
Men these days can choose only sex, not fatherhood; mothers alone determine whether children shall be allowed to exist. Legalized abortion was supposed to grant enormous freedom to women, but it has had the perverse result of freeing men and trapping women.
The likelihood of this cultural development was foreseen by the radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon, one of the critical voices responding to Roe v. Wade’s extension of the right of privacy to cover abortion. In an essay called “Privacy vs. Equality,” MacKinnon argued that “abortion’s proponents and opponents share a tacit assumption that women do significantly control sex. Feminist investigations suggest otherwise. Sexual intercourse . . . cannot simply be presumed coequally determined.” Indeed, she added, “men control sexuality,” and “Roe does not contradict this.” Read more.