Weekend Open Thread: The Best ‘Forced Birth’ Analogy I’ve Seen

[Author’s Note: This started off just dealing with the analogy mentioned in the title — and then went way further.]

I found this in a post by Dr. Hercules Real, brilliant mate of equally brilliant Eric Altman, a political consultant whom many of us remember from his time with OCCORD. The title of the story below is mine, not the original author’s.

Three justices would not be required to foster unwanted newborns. Congratulations to the other six! And yes, those are crying babies, and not — as it sort of looks like — tiny raging Donald Trumps!

The “Just Give It Up for Adoption” Scenario Revised for a Post-Roe World

Pro-Lifer: Well the mother should just give the baby up for adoption if she doesn’t want the baby
Me: So who will adopt the baby?
PL: I don’t know there’s lots of couples who want to adopt
Me: Do you know any couple who is waiting to adopt?
PL: Um well not personally but like I know there’s lots of people waiting to adopt.
Me: Do you know what a domestic adoption costs?
PL: I don’t know. $15,000 maybe?
Me: The average cost of domestic adoption in the United States is $70,000 if you go through a private agency.
PL: Oh I didn’t realize it was that much.
Me: Yep it’s really expensive. It can be more if you want a newborn straight from the hospital. Up to $120,000.
PL: Well all life is precious.
Me: it really is. I’ve adopted through foster care and am currently a licensed foster parent. Would you be interested in becoming a foster parent yourself?
PL: Oh no I couldn’t do it.
Me: Why not?
PL: It would just be too much for me right now.
Me: Why is that?
PL: It would be too hard to handle all the issues that came with it. I’ve heard horror stories.
Me: Yep it can be extremely difficult. But what if I told you that you were required by law to become a foster parent? PL: what?
Me: what if you had to become a foster parent by law?
PL: they would never do that. That would never happen.
Me: Well, if a woman is forced to bear a child she doesn’t want, and she goes ahead and has that child, someone has to care for the child either through adoption or foster care. You have to do one of those two things.
PL: But I don’t want any more kids.
Me: So you don’t want someone forcing you to have a child in your home that you don’t want or aren’t able to care for?
PL: no, that’s not my job to raise someone else’s child.

There it is, folks. Have the baby, but we don’t want anything to do with it afterwards.

Creator: Wavebreakmedia Ltd.

Nice — but it doesn’t go far enough!

I propose that President Biden, using his powers as Commander-in-Chief, create a new branch of the Armed Services to be known as “Foster Corps” (or, if he prefers, the “Invade Your Space Corps”), which will draft persons over the age of 13, as needed, to become mandatory foster parents. (Drafted teenagers must be supported by their parents.) They will then before responsible for hosting and providing for newborn babies that the mothers do not want until age 18.

As with the military draft, those to be inducted into the Corps will be chosen by lot — sort of like in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” but not so imminently fatal.

As with the military draft, as many people will be drafted into the military as there are slots that we need to fill.

And hell yes, women (and teenagers of all genders!) will be eligible for this draft.

As with the military draft, certain exemptions will be available, including:

  • Of an age that actuarially, means that you are not expected to survive past their present age plus 17.5 years
    • but you may still have to pay for care by someone drafted who is insolvent
  • Verifiably suffering from an imminently terminal disease — not bone spurs! — but you will still be drafted to babysit
    • and you will also have to post a bond in case you don’t die
  • Incarcerated, but only for such time as actually behind bars — and no, “Club Fed” doesn’t exempt you
  • Suffering from a mental condition so significant that you are not allowed to drive, have a professional license, determine your own affairs — or vote
  • You are Christine Blasey Ford

    And also possibly, subject to equal protection laws, to whatever extent they still exist:
  • Believes that the pregnant ciswoman*/transman in question should have had the right to an abortion
  • Each federal or state judge who has denied a woman or women the right to abortion immediately gets twins
  • Each federal or state justice who has denied a woman or women the right to an abortion immediately gets quadruplets (mix-and-match is acceptable) and has to do all of the bottle-feeding and diaper-changing themselves. ALL OF IT!
*(I’m using the term “woman” to be inclusive of both; if you want to attack me in comments, use your real name)

(This list subject to revision as more good ideas occur to me. And possibly some bad ones too.)

As I’ve written before, opposition to abortion is generally “cheap morality,” in that it demands sacrifices from others rather than from oneself. (And if you’re willing to bear your unexpected child, it’s not really the same sort of sacrifice.) That is not at all typical of religious teachings, aside from some types of Satanism. This proposed military draft — “military” in that it involves protection of the civilian population, but of course those drafted into this Corps would not receive veterans’ benefits unless otherwise qualified, just as pregnant women forced to serve as mothers do not receive them on that account — would fix that injustice. In the immortal words of Justice William Douglas: “Let those blasted hypocritical bastards suffer!” I await the response of President Biden, as well as the Medal of Honor of his choice.

But Before I Leave, Let’s Get Real (or at Least Less Surreal)

This analogy only addresses one aspect of women’s right of self-determination — the less controversial one, in fact, which involves the financial and other personal implications of having to raise a child. But honestly, that’s not all reproductive self-determination is about. It’s also about not having to go through the trauma of not having to give away an unwanted baby of one’s own and face a debilitating lifetime of loss, regret, shame, and apprehension.

Yes, “shame.” I’ve known plenty of women who’ve gotten abortions and a considerably smaller number who have given them up for adoption. It’s rare — not only in my experience, but in the results of studies on the topic — that someone who had an abortion remains anguished about it. In most cases, after all, we’re talking about a first trimester embryo or fetus, after all — which halfway through that trimester is the size of a pea at the end of which is about the size of a peapod — which lacks the brain development necessary to feel pain, let alone anything approaching sentience, despite the repulsive attempts by the anti-abortion movement (“Silent Scream,” anyone?) to use camera tricks to convince women otherwise. So there’s nothing to be missed about that fetus other than a lost opportunity, and frankly there was usually no shortage of other opportunities beside the one(s) that led to abortion.

Neither I nor my first wife regret her abortion; we were not yet financially able to have a child. (Nor was she scarred by it; when I asked her how she wanted to recover the night after she had the abortion; om fact, she made me go out dancing — meaning that I was the one scarred for life.) For her, it was the choice between that child (had she gone to term) and what has been a successful and meaningful academic career; for me, it led to my second marriage and a life as a paterfamilias of a delightful set of step-descendants. When I cleared with her my writing about this, she reminded me of a speech given by now-Professor Barbara Ransby, when we were all doing graduate work at the University of Michigan, saying that she was proud of having had an abortion when it was not the right time to have had a child and proud to have had a child when the time was right. (Her daughter Asha is now co-founding chair of a significant non-profit.) That’s what “choice” means; that’s what it’s called “Planned” Parenthood.

What “forced birth” means is taking away the choice of a pregnant women to avoid the wrenching choice of whether to give away an unwanted newborn, with which biological and psychological forces impel her to bond — a choice that is frankly more stark and impactful than any choice most of us men will ever have to make. Some women will give in and allow their lives — and often those of their other existing children — to be disrupted both financial and in terms of the resources that, especially, a single mother has in short supply, such as time and attention to those children, let alone to a career. This is intentional: religious conservatives can’t pass a law to keep women out of graduate programs and the subsequent top-level jobs they will compete for — but they can make their lives hell for trying. They can’t pass a law saying that women may have to put up with sexual harassment and even assault because they can’t risk the chance of losing their ability to provide for their children. They can’t pass a law to ensure that the supply chains of children to become unwilling troops (often due to the “poverty draft”) or sex workers (often but not always due to coercion), remain full — but they can do their part to instill the financial desperation that leads to both.

Others won’t keep the baby — and if you haven’t heard the stories of longing over having given up a child, over not knowing whether that child is doing well, and over not knowing whether that child might show up someday unexpectedly and perhaps damaged or deeply hurt or angry — well, you need to get a better sense of this issue. If you want to oppress women because you think it’s what God demands of you, at least own it — and recognize that that will be found to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion over time. Recognize also that it debases your religion until then, because this is not a decision that should be made by a smaller entity such as the state, the city, the neighborhood, or even the family, but by the smallest division of the population we can make: by the woman herself.

I spent about half my career teaching a private, mostly Christian, colleges. More than half a dozen came to me — as a relative outsider, who promised and delivered confidentiality — for advice, sympathy, and assistance when they found out that they were pregnant. Here’s the series of questions I asked when, at their request, I advised them on whether I thought that abortion was a goof choice for them:

  1. Do you believe that abortion is taking a human life, a opposed to ending a potential human life? If you don’t , then your moral beliefs don’t tell you that you’re committing murder. I would then help as requested with arranging logistics and offering psychological and emotional support.
  2. If you believe that you are taking a human life, do you believe that you have a moral justification for it? The obvious moral justification for abortion would be “self-defense.” If this sounds odd to you, you may want to bear in mind that former President Ronald Reagan believed that abortion should be available in cases of self-defense — if a woman’s life was in danger from a pregnancy, if she was likely to suffer seriously bodily harm from it, or (less clearly, but I’d still buy it) if it was so psychologically painful to her that she had concerns about her ability to live in such a situation. If she could provide a moral justification — not because I felt the need to hear it, but because I felt that she needed to hear it from and for herself — then here too I would help. I never wanted to help anyone who commit what she thought was premeditated and unjustified murder. And I would tell her that if she was so wracked by this that she was considering serious self-harm (as was usually the case — then I said that that was sufficient for me to help her, because I was convinced that she was acting out of self-defense, and that I was helping to safe her life — and that I hoped that she would never come to hate me for helping her. (No one I talked to has even contacted me stating that they do.)
  3. And if you believe that you would be committing murder with no moral justification (as outlined above), which I think happened only once, then I told them that it didn’t sound to me that they would be happy with themselves if they had an abortion. I gave her contact information for Planned Parenthood (even if only for its gynecological services) and helped her find an outlet for adoption. I don’t actually know how that one turned out in the long term.

The underlying point here is that, because giving up a baby is so traumatic, we’ll likely have many fewer babies put up for adoption in the post-Roe era than this clever analogy suggests. Many fewer people will have to be drafted in the Foster Corps then we likely expect. And that is not necessary a good thing, if it leaves behind broken lives for both unwilling mothers and their fully sentient children. Removing abortion protections intentionally creates unnecessary risks of sex in order to use restricted access to sex as a means of social control. Worse, it’s being done by hypocrites who freely participate in non-procreative sex themselves, often outside of marriage — and if we’re going to allow “private rights of action” in this area, any woman should be able to sue a man who has taken a stand against abortion but nevertheless has sex with a woman without using birth control, verifying with certainly that the woman is using effective birth control, and perhaps putting up a bond for child care in case she gets pregnant anyway.

Oh, and one more thing: if any man is opposed to women’s abortion rights on the grounds that abortion is murder, and tries to convince a woman whom he may have gotten pregnant to have an abortion, he should be prosecuted for attempted murder if she had an abortion, or solicitation to commit murder, if not, regardless of her own views. If they want people not to have recreational sex, they can start (and I hope end) with themselves. Good luck with that!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)