If women have a right to get right of a baby, why shouldn’t men? This radical idea has been kicking around for about 20 years, but seems to becoming more popular. In 1998 Brown University sociologist Frances K. Goldscheider floated the idea of a “financial abortion” in order to achieve true gender equality.
Earlier this year the youth wing of the Liberal Party in Sweden adopted the idea. Up until 18 weeks of pregnancy, it argued, men should have the right to relinquish all rights and responsibilities for their partner’s child. Unsurprisingly, the proposal went to the same place as the Young Liberals' proposals for legalizing necrophilia and consensual incest -- nowhere at all -- as it sounded absurdly sexist and anti-feminist.
But dyed-in-the-wool Australian feminist, comedian and author Catherine Deveney has revived the idea. The litmus test is simple:
Is it fair for people to be forced to become parents against their wishes? If it's not fair for a woman to be forced to bear a child or have an abortion, it follows it's not fair for a man to be forced to become a parent.The idea becomes slightly more plausible in the light of the slogan “every child a wanted child”. What if a man does not want a child? How can you force him to love his wee sprog?
“I believe every baby should be wanted, and every parent should be willing,” writes Deveney. “When we consent to having sex, we do not automatically consent to becoming a parent. If, when a cis male and cis female have vaginal sex, their contraception fails, it doesn't mean both people have to become parents. The options are abortion, adoption, parenting together or sole parenting.”
The most obvious objection is that a man should be financially responsible for the child. But, says Deveney, “this kind of thinking is founded in oppressive heteronormative values and belongs in the 1950s.”
When there’s talk of border crossings and illegal Mexican migrants, my thoughts used to turn to the ugliness of Donald Trump’s dream: "I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border.”
But after reading a remarkable feature in California Sunday Magazine, I’m trying to think about 66 Garage instead. The name of Mr 66 Garage may not ring a bell with you, but to be fair, it doesn't ring one with him either. He is an undocumented migrant whose truck overturned on a border crossing in June 1999. He hit his head and never woke up.
Ever since 66 Garage has lived in a persistent vegetative state in a San Diego nursing home where he is given round-the-clock care. What a country America is: it produces a politician who treats illegal migrants as if they were cockroaches and nurses who treat them as if they were their own family.
Anyhow, this 18-20-year-old man had taken the “undocumented” part of his journey seriously. He could not be identified and the nursing home christened him 66 Garage, although some of the staff protested that it was undignified. A wonderful woman named Paula visited him every week for 15 years and wondered who he was.
There are thousands upon thousands of missing migrants and their relatives are desperate to find them. A photo of 66 Garage has been shared more than 300,000 times on Facebook. Earlier this year a friend of Paula’s took an interest in the case and 66 Garage was finally fingerprinted. A match led to his sister in the southern state of Oaxaca. Now she can wave at him over Skype on his birthday.
It’s a remarkable story about vulnerability, dignity, blood ties, and American generosity. Read it.
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