New Bill Will Require Men to Pay Fines for “Unregulated Masturbation”
House Bill 4260 requires that men be fined for “emissions” that occur due to masturbation, and requires them to be examined physically before they are allowed to buy Viagra or vasectomies.
The bill shocked policy analysts from both sides of the aisle and has been condemned as draconian.
The bill states that the intention behind its requirements is to “express the state’s interest in promoting men’s health.”
State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, filed the legislation.
The bill is most likely satirical, but Farrar finds it politically and morally significant in that it will show pro-life advocates that anti-abortion measures are equally draconian.
Farrar evidently believes that to the same extent the bill is criticized, so too should anti-abortion measures for women.
The idea is that if you are against fining men for masturbating, then by parallel reasoning you should be against pro-life measures, and you should be against state regulations on abortion.
“Women are not laughing,” says Farrar, “at state-imposed regulations and obstacles that interfere with their ability to legally access safe healthcare, and subject them to fake science and medically unnecessary procedures.”
Farrar’s bill is called “A Man’s Right to Know Act,” alluding to a Texas law passed 2011 that requires women who want abortions to first have a sonogram in order to understand what the embryo or fetus looks like. That Texas law was called “A Woman’s Right to Know.”
The point Farrar is trying to make turns on the assumption that sperm cells have the same ontological status of a developing fetus.
The fetus is quite objectively unlike a sperm cell or ovum, and so ultimately the analogy breaks down. In addition to the difference in ontological status, the developing fetus is also being deprived of his or her future, but for a sperm cell and an ovum there is no subject for whom a future is possible.
Most debates on abortion can be reduced to the question of how one ought to characterize the unborn child. Typically those on the pro-life side will say that it’s a human person, while those who are pro-choice will say that it’s not. While most religious believers think the fetus is infused with a soul, secular pro-life advocates argue that abortion is wrong regardless of whether a soul is involved.
The general assumption shared by both pro-lifers and advocates of choice is that it would be wrong to kill an innocent human person.
This forces pro-choice advocates into the awkward position of maintaining that the fetus is merely a collection of cells and cannot in any way instantiate human personhood.
Most people who look at fetuses, though, are struck by the impression of a human person developing.
When a person is killed and thus deprived of his or her ability to have a future like ours (with goals, passions, desires, and beliefs), then that person has become a subject of great moral harm.
The fetus is arguably being deprived of such a future. In most cases of abortion, were it not for the killing, the fetus would have been able to have a future like ours (as adults).
Thus taking its life might only be permissible in atypical circumstances, such as if it were threatening the life of another person (the mother). In most circumstances, however, killing it would be morally unjustifiable.
In light of this logic, some pro-choice advocates will admit that indeed the fetus is being deprived of its future and abortion does constitute a case of killing a human person.
But, they say, even though the fetus has a right to life, the mother also has a right to autonomy, and so we must respect the mother’s right to autonomy above the fetus’s right to life.
This is a stronger argument for abortion, and may have more plausibility in rape cases, for the woman did nothing voluntarily to give up her right to autonomy.
But in cases of consensual sex where contraception is avoided despite knowledge that it can prevent unwanted pregnancies, it is difficult to see why the fetus’s right to life should be vetoed by an adult’s right to autonomy. Especially if the adult chose to have unprotected sex and knew the risks involved.
That said, requiring that the State force women to undergo medical procedure seems to be unjustifiable as well. As the State has done great harm to women throughout history, including unethical medical experimentation, rape, and forced sterilization of thousands of women of color, there is no reason to be confident that the State has women’s best interests in mind.
It leaves open the question of whether there are better and more reasonable methods to ensure that women’s rights to autonomy and fetus’ rights to life are both respected as much as possible.
This is something that is unlikely to be solved by politicians and laws, but must be thought out carefully by compassionate people and built from the ground up.
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