I was recently trading ideas with a “progressive” friend of mine. During our conversation, she continually referred to a woman’s “reproductive rights.” As I have thought about our conversation, this term has come into focus as a bit misleading.
Admittedly, it has been some time ago but, I took an anthropology class in which we discussed the rights of adulthood in a variety of cultures. Invariably, sex was a “privilege” of responsible adulthood, not a right of anyone who wished to participate. Our progressive American culture seems to be changing the way in which sex, at least for women, is viewed. Is it appropriate that we do so or, does it require a little more thought before we completely turn the corner?
There are obviously several issues which immediately come to mind but first, I would like to ask a question. If women have reproductive rights (defined as the right to have control over their own bodies including sex without consequences) do men also? I suppose that many women would say that men already do yet in today’s world of “no means no” men are required to wine and dine and persuade to earn the privilege. Men are also required by law to be responsible in providing support for any children born as a result, even in situations where they have little say in birth control decisions. It would therefore, appear that for heterosexual men, now even more so than in generations past, reproduction is not a right but remains a privilege of responsible adulthood.
With sex comes many difficult decisions requiring careful consideration with wide reaching impacts. These decisions include, birth control, marriage, relationships, family and even potential abortion. Due to the seriousness and the impact that these decisions have upon partners, the family and even the community, it would appear to me that reproduction or, sex, is properly within the limitations of responsible adulthood. Reproduction should remain a privilege granted to responsible adults not any woman with a libido. So I would argue that the term “reproductive rights” is misleading in that it denies the serious responsibility that comes with sex. It diminishes the impact that poor sexual decisions can have upon individuals and upon our society.
That brings up the next question, how serious is this responsibility? Other adult, American privileges include, driving, credit, home ownership, voting, military service, etc. Somehow these privileges, while needing to be taken seriously, just don’t seem to have the same impact as bringing a life into this world. The only other privilege of adulthood in our American culture which might rise to equal consequences, at least to me, would seem to be implied in owning weapons that can easily end a life; the American adult privilege to own and to carry a gun. The Supreme Court of the United States would seem to agree by concluding that same-sex marriage has constitutional merit. In so doing, the court has elevated the privilege of sex to more closely align with the second amendment right to own guns.
Think it through, begin life; end life. Both have far reaching impacts on self, family, friends and even community. I think the analogy is valid. The question I would like to pose to my progressive friend then is: shouldn’t the requirements for each be similar? What would it look like if we treated reproduction and gun ownership with equal respect?
Do both responsibilities require an age restriction? Should we encourage through media and hedonistic rationalization that all who are capable participate? Should there be a limitation on the amount or type? Should there be consequences for the misuse or should we strive to mitigate any natural occurring consequences? If there is an accident is there any difference in accidentally killing a friend versus abortion? Should there be a disparity in the punishment for any such accident? Should there be a background check before gaining either privilege? Are only mentally stable individuals allowed to participate? Should brandishing have the same consequences and flashing? Is open carry any different than immodest dressing in public? Can I point an unloaded gun at anyone or, if I use birth control can I have sex with anyone? Should the government be required to provide free contraception and also free access to shooting ranges? If sex education is required in school curriculum should gun safety also be taught?
Progressives want sex without responsibility while they would do away with gun ownership. Conservative evangelicals would have us well armed but forego all non-biblical and casual sex. Should reproduction have the same restrictions and legal constraints as gun ownership? Should we have the same easy going attitude toward gun ownership that the term “women’s reproductive rights” seems to imply toward sex?
Many of my readers are probably in convulsions at this point. Some from humor but others I suspect out of revulsion and incredulity. Nevertheless, I love this analogy. The more that I give it serious thought, the more that I feel it could provide a certain “check and balance” in our attitudes and toward gun ownership and reproductive rights. So please, get your emotions back in check, think it through and let me know where this reasoning breaks down. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Samuel Waen Jensen