Where have all the good men gone? Blame Roe, for starters

Richard Stith, a law professor just up the road from here at Valparaiso, has an excellent piece in the “Opinion” section of the latest First Things entitled “Her Choice, Her Problem: How Abortion Empowers Men” (subscription required until the November issue comes out). It’s an argument that may seem counter-intuitive to some, but it is, sadly, all too true. As Stith writes,

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 personal freedom to women, but it has had the perverse result of freeing men and trapping women. . . .

“Abortion facilitates women’s heterosexual availability,” [radical feminist Catherine] MacKinnon pointed out: “In other words, under conditions of gender inequality [abortion] does not liberate women; it frees male sexual aggression. The availability of abortion removes the one remaining legitimized reason that women have had for refusing sex besides the headache.” Perhaps that is why, she observed, “the Playboy Foundation has supported abortion rights from day one.” In the end, MacKinnon pronounced, Roe‘s “right to privacy looks like an injury got up as a gift,” for “virtually every ounce of control that women won” from legalized abortion “has gone directly into the hands of men.” . . .

That would be why, as Stith notes, “64 percent of American women who abort feel pressured to do so by others. . . . American women almost always abort to satisfy the desires of people who do not want to care for their children.” He continues,

Throughout human history, children have been the consequence of natural sexual relations between men and women. Both sexes knew they were equally responsible for their children, and society had somehow to facilitate their upbringing. Even the advent of birth control did not fundamentally change this dynamic, for all forms of contraception are fallible.

Elective abortion changes everything. Abortion absolutely prevents the birth of a child. A woman’s choice for or against abortion breaks the causal link between conception and birth. It matters little what or who caused conception or whether the male insisted on having unprotected intercourse. It is she alone who finally decides whether the child comes into the world. She is the responsible one. For the first time in history, the father and the doctor and the health-insurance actuary can point a finger at her as the person who allowed an inconvenient human being to come into the world.

The deepest tragedy may be that there is no way out. By granting to the pregnant woman an unrestrained choice over who may be born, we make her alone to blame for how she exercises her power. Nothing can alter the solidarity-shattering impact of the abortion option.

Dr. Stith spends the bulk of the article laying out the various ramifications of this reality, the various ways that it plays out. I would make only one correction to his argument: abortion empowers certain types of men, not all men. Specifically, it empowers the cads, the losers, the irresponsible, the promiscuous, the abusers, and those afraid of commitment. It empowers the worst in human impulses, and thus benefits guys who indulge those impulses, who want to take what they like without paying for it. Those who want to choose fatherhood, who want to take responsibility for their actions and choices, too often find themselves barred by the law from doing so.

We thus have a situation that favors “bad boys” over good people; we have a legal and social incentive to antisocial and irresponsible behavior. That’s a corrupting influence on our society, creating norms that skew young males away from responsibility and maturity, away from marriage and toward “playing the field.” In all seriousness, if young women want to know where all the good men are, one place to look is Roe, Doe, and their progeny; because of them, there are fewer good men than there ought to be.


Posted in Culture and society, Faith and politics, The value of life.


  1. You have a nice summary of Stith's article. I'm also a First Things reader, and I appreciated the author's ability to express so plainly how abortion truly does hurt women. He even points out how paternity support falls apart in this context by saying, "If consenting to sex does not entail consenting to act as a mother, why should it entail consenting to act as a father?" Unfortunately, I don't think Planned Parenthood and the like are willing to see it this way. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Agreed, and thank you. I'm going to have to follow up–one of the bloggers at The Atlantic made a similar point, apparently in ignorance of Dr. Stith's piece.

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