With a slew of red states passing tough new abortion restrictions, pro-choice activists are lamenting the laws to the point of hyperventilation.
“Abortion bans aren’t just about controlling women’s bodies. They’re about controlling women’s sexuality. Owning women," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. "US religious fundamentalists are working hard to outlaw sex that falls outside their theology."
That's only true if you think sex for men has been outlawed for the past 40 odd years. With rare exceptions, women in Alabama, Missouri, Ohio and other states that have passed strict new abortion bans will have just as much choice after the laws go into effect as men have had in the years since the Supreme Court made Roe v. Wade the law of the land in 1973.
When it comes to becoming a father, men have always had choice — we've just had to make the choice before we have sex. That’s true whether we are wearing a condom or she says she’s on birth control. Pregnancy is a risk men are choosing to take each time we have sex. If a baby is conceived, we have no more legal choice in whether we become parents.
It isn’t the end of the world that millions of women are finding themselves in the same boat. After a while, you learn to be careful and responsible while recognizing that each time you have sex, the result might be a baby you have to take care of — or, at least, pay child support for — for decades.
Lawmakers put responsibility on the wrong party
So it is infuriating that Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio are not including exceptions for rape and incest in their restrictive new abortion laws. It is one thing for a woman to decide to have sex and then later discard the obvious consequence as if a unique human life had no value. It is quite another to be forced into sex and then have an abortion to protect yourself from the life that comes as a result of someone else’s violence.
Backers of the new abortion laws' pitiless approach to rape and incest victims argue that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of their fathers.
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Some men and women who were conceived as the result of rape agree. Ryan Bomberger says he believes “in the radical notion that we all have equal and irrevocable worth regardless of how our lives began.”
True enough, but women who abort babies conceived through rape or incest aren’t denying the value of unborn children; they’re protecting their bodies from the continuing consequences of an act of violence. It is surely immoral to kill a baby conceived through violence, but that sin doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the rapist’s other victim; that death falls on the shoulders of the rapist.
There is no simple answer
Nothing about abortion is ever easy. That’s the natural outcome of the clash between two fundamental American values — individual autonomy and the right to life.
Anyone who has read the decades of confusing abortion polling knows that the public’s answers depend on how the questions are asked. That’s because the public is trying to be as pro-choice as possible while remaining fundamentally pro-life. But when it comes to an exception to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest, the polling does show that it is an easy choice. Nearly 80% back the exceptions, according to Gallup.
Pro-life lawmakers who pass stringent abortion restrictions will have me and much of the public behind them only as long as they recognize that choice is an American value. Pro-lifers can’t toss autonomy aside with the casual aplomb the abortion industry applies to the remains of an aborted baby.
David Mastio is deputy editorial page editor of USA TODAY. Follow him on Twitter @DavidMastio.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Even after new state abortion bans, women will retain the same choice men have always had