Sunday, September 02, 2012

Men have feelings too!

In certain prolife circles, the usual exceptions for abortion are “rape, incest, and the life of the mother.” This has become a stereotypical expression. I say “usual” in the sense that many prolifers make an exception in these cases. For some it’s just the life of the mother. For others it’s the trio.

Actually, I find the distinction between rape and incest somewhat odd. Isn’t incest a type of rape? I assume those who favor abortion in case of incest aren’t alluding to consensual incest between older siblings.

But let’s consider the politically and emotionally explosive example of rape in case of incest. It’s important, in ethics, to confront the hard cases.

One thing that strikes me about this discussion is how it’s always framed in sexist terms. It’s all about how a woman feels in that situation.

But what about pregnancies where a man’s feelings are involved? Why is that never discussed? Why the double standard?

Let’s take an example. Take a good husband. Maybe he’s balding and overweight. But he’s a loving, faithful husband.

Suppose the wife has an affair. She meets a man who excites her. Makes her feel young again. She has a good marriage, but it’s become routine. Rather dull.

Suppose, as a result of the affair, she conceives a child, and her husband finds out about the affair–as well as the child. Imagine his reaction. He feels a gamut of powerful emotions. His wife has betrayed his trust. He feels violated. Family is where we let our guard down. That leaves us vulnerable. He feels humiliated by the man who stole his wife right out from under him. He’s mad and sad at the same time.

He gave his life to his wife, and it’s too late to start over again as a teenager in high school.

So what should his attitude be towards the child? The child is the emblem of the adulterous affair. Does he therefore have a right to kill the child?

We can sympathize with the man’s outrage. Yet we expect men to exhibit a certain toughness. Life can be very unfair. Life can deliver a gut-punch. But after the initial shock, a man is supposed to suck it up and soldier on. He’s entitled to his feelings, but he’s not entitled to his actions.

Let’s continue this issue from another angle. Many prolifers who oppose abortion in case of rape nonetheless distinguish between saving the child and raising the child. They don’t think the rape victim should have to raise the child. They think it’s perfectly fine for the mother to put the child up for adoption.

And I’m not taking issue with that. But let’s extend that to my comparison. Suppose the cuckold husband takes his wife back. He forgives her. Tries to pick up where they left off.

Suppose, sometime after she gives birth to the child, she abandons the child. Walks out on the marriage. Returns to her adulterous lover. Leaves the illegitimate child with her husband.

What should the husband do with the kid? The kid is a constant reminder of what is wife did to him. A constant reminder of what another man did to him. And the kid isn’t even his kid–unlike rape. There is no preexisting bond.

But the fact remains that someone must raise him. Someone must be a father to the kid. The husband didn’t ask for this situation, but by the same token, the kid didn’t ask for this situation.

Should he put the kid up for adoption? I suppose that’s an option.

But haven’t circumstances made it the cuckold husband’s duty to raise the kid as his own? That’s unfair, but duty can obligate us to do things even under unjust circumstances. The child is still entitled to love, provision, and protection.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations we shouldn’t be put in. But having been put in that situation, however unfair, we still have certain obligations. Indeed, in God’s economy, that’s a way in which God forces us to be virtuous. To do the right thing even when we’ve been wronged.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow. The woman having the affair example REALLY puts this arguement that it is the woman's choice in perspective. I will absolutly be remembering this one the next time I hear "It's a woman's choice" nonsense.

    EXCELLENT article.