A man's right to choose, take three

Yet another look at Dalton Conley's call for men's rights in abortion decisions.

Published December 3, 2005 12:46AM (EST)

I've just gone through the many lovely and sensible letters Salon readers posted in response to my partial defense, yesterday, of Dalton Conley's call for a greater role for fathers in the pregnancy decisions of mothers. In case you missed it, I argued that a man deserves the right to call for his partner's abortion when the woman wants a kid and he does not. It was, to say the least, controversial -- and several letters stopped me cold. "So when do we start herding pregnant women onto armored trucks at gunpoint?" asked one reader. I have to say, it's a good question.

Because on reflection, I'm not sure I really meant what I said. While reading the letters, I kept wondering, What the hell was I thinking to say that men should have the right to compel women to have abortions? Did I actually say that? Because isn't that insane?

Yeah, it is a little bit insane. Because what I should have said was this: It's really unfair that men don't have more rights in matters of disputed pregnancies; men should, I think, have some say when the woman wants the kid and he does not. Probably most men -- myself included -- would want to have some input in whether or not they become parents. But I also should have noted that there's something impractically nutso about the idea of compelling a woman to have an abortion if she wants the kid and he doesn't, and that even if I espoused that position, I'm not sure how serious I could have been.

Maybe, as many readers said, this is one of those problems with no good solution. I still think Dalton Conley was right to point out how unfair things are today. But life's unfair, some readers said wryly. When a woman wants the child and the man does not, or vice versa, that's a puzzle you're not going to solve.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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