February 5, 2003

The Birth Contract: Feminist regression

By: Jonathan Watson

Before modern times, and then very far back, there existed first social structures, then legal structures, that allowed men to escape consequences of their actions with women rather easily. Lack of political power on the part of women combined with lack of scientific tests allowed some men to get away with more than a few crimes, anywhere from abandonment of pregnant mothers to rape.

Meanwhile, better men were forming birth contracts with their wives. In the perfect sense this is an unspoken agreement between a married woman and man to raise their children in accordance with their mutual values, and each filling a different (but not exclusive) role in the child’s life. Just as none of us is perfect, so none of these tacit agreements were flawless. However, with hard work, communication, and prayer, more than a few couples successfully stayed together and raised their offspring. So continues this to the present day.

The early feminists fought for a place for women in society. Through their efforts, women gained the right to vote, to own and dispose of property as married women, and to enter into contracts. One of the most important rights gained during this period was the right of a woman to child support, a protection against the aforementioned “some men.” Previously, a woman who had a child out of wedlock had no chances for assistance from the father unless he was an honorable man. With new laws and scientific developments, a woman could compel the father through court to take responsibility and provide support for her in raising the child. Even now, the child-support system is not perfect, and it is not a substitute for the birth contract, but it has helped many women to raise children on their own where before it may have been impossible.

The advent of new feminism and an almost unthinkable, unthinking, and overwhelming support for abortion has brought both the birth contract and child support system under attack from the women’s side. Women, say these feminists, no longer need the permission of their fathers or husbands in order to have an abortion. Many states have already enacted laws that stipulate precisely that. Now we have liberated ourselves entirely from man, say feminists, and need no longer worry about their control over our lives and reproductive identity. But they have not thought their actions through to the terribly logical conclusion.

Within a few years or months, a case will come before some court, somewhere, involving a young, pregnant, unmarried woman. She will have decided to keep the baby (her choice, the feminists will cry). Since the man is not the type with whom she would even want to form a birth contract, she will be asking the court for support. The judge will turn to the defendant’s lawyer and ask for comments. The lawyer will simply apply the logical conclusion to current abortion laws and thought and make a few connections for the judge. And the judge will declare that the woman will receive no support for her baby. (She should have had an abortion, the feminists will cry).

And in the silence that follows that decision, many women will weep. In that moment of judgment, the nouveau-feminists will realize that losing any power of control in a matter means absolution of any responsibility. Quite suddenly, all the legal and scientific structures designed to help women against men who would take absolute advantage of them will not matter. Abortion laws, designed to “protect” wives and daughters from their husbands and fathers will give an unmarried woman only one real option against men who are neither: to have an abortion. For which evil man will step up and take consequences for his actions when he is told by the very women whom he violates that it is quite unnecessary?