In the wake of the Alabama Heartbeat bill social media has been awash with the abortion debate. With other states moving to limit, or poised to follow suit with Alabama, the entire political and legal structure of the nation seems gearing up for some sort of legal death match on the abortion issue. It seems that the people on the ground are noticing this trend, and the debates in the public forum (a.k.a. the internet) are heating up accordingly.

I have been a largely passive bystander for the abortion debate most of my life. This is not due to lack of conviction on the topic. I am firmly pro-life, and anti-abortion (not the same thing). It has been more due to the experience that minds are not changed online, or at least very rarely. Add to that the level of vituperation in the current round of culture war, and it’s small wonder that I see no advantage, and much disadvantage, in letting myself get sucked into that melee.

That being said, there is one specific argument current in this debate that I do want to address, one that has always been around, but which seems to be getting thrown out more frequently and more fiercely these days than I remember it. These are the variations on the theme of “No Uterus, No Opinion.”

This argument takes a few forms, the most popular that I have seen being, “Why should a bunch of old white men tell women what to do with their bodies?” and “restriction of abortion is all about subjugation of women to men.” In its essence it rebrands abortion as a strictly women’s only issue about which men have no right to have an opinion, since the only possible motivation a man can have for caring about the subject at all is to take rights away from women and keep them oppressed under the patriarchy.

There are a few problems with this argument, however.

  1. It ignores the fact that women are almost exactly as likely to be prolife as they are to be pro-abortion.
  2. Specifically, Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama, expressed her opinion when she signed the bill into law. Is it valid simply because she meets the uterus requirement.
  3. “No Uterus, No Opinion” mischaracterizes the pro-life argument by trying to make it a bodily autonomy issue. It is not, and never has been, a bodily autonomy issue. There are many women’s issues that are, the prime example being contraception. I believe artificial contraception is both wrong and unhealthy. However, I do not campaign against it, because it is a bodily autonomy issue. The prolife position, never (to my mind) adequately answered by pro-abortion people, is that because the human fetus is a separate human life form, it is a human rights issue. That is, bodily autonomy ends the moment you start infringe on another person’s rights.
  4. For the fourth reason I would like to quote in full a comment I read on facebook:

I mean, are you even remotely aware of how difficult it is to be pregnant? Your talking about how the wo lives, mother and child, are completely separate…but they arent, are they? They are attached. And one of feeding off the other. While the baby grows and changes, so does the mother. The mothers body physically changes, and im not talking stretch marks. After each pregnancy, i had to learn my own body all over again. My hair changed. My skin. The food i like to eat. I have seasonal allergies that i never had before. I have 50 lbs PER KID that will simply not come off no matter what i do. I have PERMANENT hemmorroids. Ill stop there, because it gets worse.

Carrying my children felt like i had a tape worm or some other foreign body sucking every ounce of energy i had. I was sick for months, and never felt healthy or “right” the whole time.

Anonymous.

I appreciate the author’s honesty, and acknowledge the truth of what she says. Indeed, she understated her case. Let’s not forget the risk of death, small though real, the risk of eclampsia, and the fact that a woman’s risk of experience domestic violence goes up when she is pregnant.

All of these boil down to saying, “As a man, you don’t understand just how much sacrifice and suffering is involved in being a mother. Therefore, you have nothing to say if I choose to opt out of motherhood.”

This sounds well enough, until you look at the corollary, which is that no woman can ever truly understand how hard it is to be a father.

It is not my purpose to compare who has it harder. The question is both meaningless and irrelevant. My point is that fatherhood and motherhood are reciprocal but separate realities each with their own sacrifices which are not the same as those of the other. A man may, in a sense, enter into his wife’s sufferings as a mother, only if he loves her very deeply, and even then there will still be some aspect of them that he will never fully share. In the same way a woman may enter into a man’s sufferings as a father, if at all, only by loving and respecting him, but they will always remain a little separate.

What does this have to do with abortion? Well, what if a man were to get a woman pregnant and then say, “But it’s easy for you as a woman, you have biology to help. You have no idea how hard it is to be a father, what I would have to sacrifice. Therefore you have nothing to say if I choose to opt out of fatherhood.” Do you think he could say, “No penis, no opinion?” Do you really think that the fact that she cannot fully appreciate his subjective experience renders her “Man the f— up!” less valid?

It is no more valid for a woman to opt out of motherhood than it is for a man to opt out of fatherhood. To be clear, I am well aware that I am equating absentee fatherhood with killing children in the womb, and I stand by that comparison. In fact, I believe a priority for pro-life men should focus, not specifically on anti-abortion legislation, but on pro-fatherhood cultural change. It has been a very long time since we have seen a world full of fathers. I wonder if it ever does happen, will we suddenly find that it is spontaneously also a world without abortion.

In the last three months I have formally rucked 50 miles. I say “formally” to distinguish these events from casual hikes with the family in which I have been carrying a rucksack, +/- a child. While those are fun, enjoyable and far more valuable (for reasons I will get into at the end of this), they are informal in that there is no set distance, and no attempt at speed, intensity, or any other specifically physical challenge.

These formal rucks were conducted on the #resolutionrun courses in Ft. Steilacoom. The first was a 5-miler on January 5th. Kathleen did the 5k option on that one (I can’t smile for selfies, it seems).

The second was the 10 miler on January 26th.

Then the 15 miler on February 23rd.

Then the 20 miler to cap it off on March 23rd.

You’ll notice my average pace got slower and slower with each race.

Let’s finish this blog up quickly since I have to get Ellie up from her nap in a few minutes. What did I learn from this race series?

  1. I am not as young as I used to be.
  2. I am older than I used to be.
  3. I am not as good at rucking as I used to be (not necessarily related to #’s 1 & 2 above.) Simply put, I am out of practice. The 15-miler was by far the most painful of the lot. Breaking past ten miles was where I first ran into electrolyte issues. Turns out that when I burning >1000 calories per hour, right around two hours I start to go hyponatremic (that is, my sodium is low from sweating out electrolytes). I did not bring along enough water or snacks on the 15-miler, because I had got used to sprint events (comparatively) where I would just go for speed and be done before I had time to hurt. In the old days I would never start a ruck, regardless of the planned distance, with less than 6 liters of water, at least half of which would be filled with oral rehydration salts to replenish my electrolytes, and I would start replenishing early, right from the start so I would not get to the sodium crash. I did better on the 20-miler, with some pedialyte in my camelback and 5 snickers bars, but I still crashed hard and slowed to 20 minute miles, and I swelled up so bad that I retained 16 lbs of water (yes, I did weigh myself before and after). So, yeah, my technical skills aren’t what they used to be. Lesson (re-)learned.
  4. A gut check is important. I’ve written before about the “man-maker” and what the rucksack means to me. I started the 20-miler in the right place, terrified to death of the suck that I knew was coming, but determined to see it through or get injured, but never to quit.
  5. I have also written about the fight against the Dad-bod. I still take a theological view of the body, in that (in the ordinary scheme of things) the body is the symbol of the soul. At least it ought to be. As a husband and father I do not want a flabby body because I do not want a flabby soul. I do not want to give the impression of a flabby soul. I cultivate a warrior’s body as I cultivate a warrior’s soul, for my family. I protect them, I provide for them, I serve them as a man, and as a warrior. I have no patience with men who say, “but I am a lover, not a fighter.” Bull$—t! Forgive the expression, but in this world, if you are not a fighter then you are a $–+ lover. In this world we live in a war, a vast war against principalities and powers. Sometimes that spills over into the world of physical violence, or physical illness (my specialties) but it always exists in the world of mental, emotional and spiritual violence. If you are not willing to do violence to your own weakness for the sake of your family, you will never be willing to spend the time in prayer, sacrifice and worship it takes to protect them from the world, the flesh and the devil.
  6. Finally, rucking is a great opportunity for prayer.

That’s my thoughts on the matter for now. I will probably come up with more later.

For 9 months and 20 hours she bore Eve’s ancient curse,
On her via dolorosa through the still
Hospital halls, from Tabor to Calvary Hill.
Then stripped, and flogged with spasms from bad to worse
And stalled far short of crowning, she felt her worth
Fall with the fetal heart tone’s slowing trill.
Compelled to accept not ours, but Our Father’s Will:
“Father, into your hands we commend this birth.”
Cruciform on the O.R. bed she lay
And one of them opened her uterus with a scalpel.
At once there flowed out blood and amnios.
“Behold your daughter!” In my arms there lay,
Screaming, slimy, blue and palpable
The Love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.