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Specious Sloganeering

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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The other day I noticed a picture on Facebook of a young (white, middle-class, Tea Party-supporting) man that I know proudly/happily holding a sign which reads: Men Regret Lost Fatherhood.

To state the obvious: are there men who regret not going onto fatherhood after an abortion occurs? Sure. Of course there are.

However.

This pithy sloganeering is not just some pseudo-sympathetic, vaguely passive-aggressive acknowledgment. It is part of a larger, mendacious narrative.

It is the fundamental willful ignorance of who is having abortions. These signs are about That Woman. That Woman who is selfish. Who had sex with a Nice Guy and is cruelly going to abort his child. She probably tempted him into the sex, too. It's about That Woman--the one MRAs have built up into being Every Woman: she has no age or individuality or circumstance. Note: this is the same woman who "traps" a man into fatherhood and having to pay child support. Occasionally she is also the same woman who upfront refuses to give her partner what he wants in regards to children.

This sloganeering ignores, entirely, the fact of reproductive coercion. The cynical side of me reacted to the slogan wondering if all those regretful dudes are the same dudes poking holes in condoms or hiding his partner's birth control:
Overall, rates of reproductive coercion among family-planning-clinic patients are surprisingly high: about one in five women report their partner having attempted to coerce them into pregnancy.
Did I say cynical? I meant realistic. The slogan shoves reproductive coercion to the side, under the rug, out of sight--as if it doesn't exist. Which it doesn't, to them. Not really. It's not "reproductive coercion", it's a man asserting his rights to achieve his great and good desire to be a father. The man is the sympathetic character, the woman? Well, she is That Woman.

So it it really about regretting "lost fatherhood" or lost control? Hmmm.

Also, it's not just a slogan lamenting what about the menz?! and how men should be able to have control over the medical decisions made by another person, as if that wasn't obnoxious and morally reprobate enough.

It's the partner slogan for a campaign--yes, a campaign--to force the idea into our collective societal consciousness that "Women DO Regret Abortions", as I discovered when I googled the "Men..." version. Are there women who regret having an abortion? Sure there are. Women are individuals with individual reactions and circumstances. To say that no women, ever, regret having an abortion would be folly. However, is more than folly, it is an outright lie to assert that Women, all of them, who have abortions feel regret. According to the most recent (Jan '11) publication from the esteemed Guttmacher Institute (.pdf):
Another comprehensive review of the scientific literature, conducted in 2008 by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, likewise found that “the highest-quality research available does not support the hypothesis that abortion leads to long-term mental health problems. Lingering post-abortion feelings of sadness, guilt, regret, and depression appear to occur in only a minority of women.”4(p. 449)
Guttmacher notes that relief is the most common emotion experienced.

But back to the fatherhood thing. You know, I do know a couple men, personally, who have expressed regret at their own lost chance at fatherhood. Neither of them were talking about abortion--they were talking about their own behavior. Their own neglect or abandonment of their children. But that sort of regret doesn't make for a pithy protest sign, does it? ads
 

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