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Mar 07 2006

UK Court To Female Cancer Patient: Male Autonomy Is Sacred, Bitch!

“The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when and if I start a family.”

This is an outraged woman’s argument to some turdpie South Dakota court when she is informed that that her accidental pregnancy is compulsory, right?

Nope!

They are in fact the words of UK fartface Howard Johnston, the sweetheart of a guy who reneged on his agreement to allow his ex-fiancée, a now infertile ovarian cancer patient, to use frozen embryos made with his sperm before her cancer treatment. And guess what! The court agrees! He’s decided he doesn’t want kids, and the court isn’t about to compel a man to deal with an unwanted embryo, even when it’s implanted in somebody else. So they’ve handed down the order to destroy the frozen cell globs, leaving Johnston’s ovaryless ex flapping in the infertile breeze for all eternity.

Let an abortion-seeking woman in South Dakota say “the key thing for me is just to be able to decide when and if I start a family,” and she’ll probably be thrown in prison for not being a sodomized teen virgin.

52 comments

  1. Mandos

    They are in fact the words of UK fartface Howard Johnston, the sweetheart of a guy who reneged on his agreement to allow his ex-fiancée, a now infertile ovarian cancer patient, to use frozen embryos made with his sperm before her cancer treatment. And guess what!

    I’m confused. It sounds like you agree with his right to do so (because you want to extend the same consideration to women), but you call him a “fartface”. Did he say anything fartfacedish? Because it sounds like you’re disagreeing with him…

    Also the comparison doesn’t make much sense since in Britain this guy’s ex wouldn’t be impeded by the law in having an abortion. Also in the US there is an entire lobby of people who would protest, apparently, the destruction of the embryos.

    I understand your point but the example isn’t great.

  2. Aussie Liz

    Oh, the example’s alright.

    Here’s a man who made an appointment with the clinic, arranged time off work, travelled to the relevant building, perhaps using some means of conveyance, entered the building, sat in the waiting room until called, walked in into the little room, concentrated on something appropriate and produced the little sample. How can he have done this without giving his consent?

    Now, we have a man retrospectively deciding not just whether HE will to have kids, but deciding whether SHE will.

    The article isn’t specific, but I’d guess if she’s gone through all that court process, it’s not a matter of whether she’s asking him to pay maintenance. She just wants to implant the cells, and do the work of growing the baby herself.

    There is no further call on his body and no invasion of his body (so the abortion consent comparison doesn’t work). The only question is why anyone in her right mind would want the child of fartface.

  3. Mandos

    Now, we have a man retrospectively deciding not just whether HE will to have kids, but deciding whether SHE will.

    The article isn’t specific, but I’d guess if she’s gone through all that court process, it’s not a matter of whether she’s asking him to pay maintenance. She just wants to implant the cells, and do the work of growing the baby herself.

    There is no further call on his body and no invasion of his body (so the abortion consent comparison doesn’t work). The only question is why anyone in her right mind would want the child of fartface.

    So let’s construct a little sci-fi scenario. Woman A gets pregnant with Man B prior to a breakup. Woman A discovers that the little embryo is a threat to life and limb (or whatever other reason!) and proceeds to have an abortion. Man B is a brilliant scientist and has discovered a way to reimplant embyos in other women. Man B is together with Woman C, and for whatever reason (problems in her own genetic history?), she agrees to take B and A’s embryo and have it implanted in herself.

    It’s no longer in A’s body, but do B and C have the right to bring it to term? I suggest not. In fact, the resulting child is probably very likely to want to make some form of claim on A, since we know that many adoptees and gamete-donor kids do. Should woman A have the expectation of being confronted with her child in the future? Common genetic material does matter, at least at some sentimental level.

    Furthermore, I doubt it would be categorially and legally settled that the child wouldn’t have any claims in the future on the parent that didn’t want it—including in the real-life case.

    So this guy may be doing something that denies the woman in question something she really wants, but it’s possible to have nonmalicious reasons for doing so.

  4. Kaka Mak

    The example is dead on:

    Taking the pro-lifer’s stance that life begins at fertilization: Why does an embryo, in a lab somewhere, have any less right to life, than one in a woman’s body? Why does the court have no problem not giving life to this human being waiting to happen in a lab–by a man’s request, nonetheless–but will not extend this same right to an unwanted embryo in a woman’s body?

  5. Mandos

    Taking the pro-lifer’s stance that life begins at fertilization: Why does an embryo, in a lab somewhere, have any less right to life, than one in a woman’s body? Why does the court have no problem not giving life to this human being waiting to happen in a lab–by a man’s request, nonetheless–but will not extend this same right to an unwanted embryo in a woman’s body?

    Because it’s in a different country where the law extends the same right to the woman. This is in the UK, not the US. As far as I know, the UK has far more liberal abortion laws and the law wouldn’t impede a woman from having embryos like this removed forthwith.

    So these embryos had no different right to life either way. Unless I’m misunderstanding UK law which is quite possible.

  6. deborahL

    No no no my dears! That’s not it at all—

    You see, Mr. Johnston voluntarily agreed to the creation of these embryos with the expectation that one day one or more of them would result in little Johnstons. But now he’s saying, “Hey, that embryo I helped make, well I don’t really think it’s such a hot idea now and I’d like to cancel.” This is **exactly** analogous to a woman deciding to have an abortion, right? The point is that if a man cannot be compelled to continue a pregnancy that he started (and a frozen embryo is for all intents and purposes a pregnancy in suspense), then how can anyone argue that a woman can be so compelled? And the REALLY BIG question is, how would this case have been adjudicated in South Dakota, huh??? Or for that matter, in any bloody red state?

  7. Mandos

    You see, Mr. Johnston voluntarily agreed to the creation of these embryos with the expectation that one day one or more of them would result in little Johnstons. But now he’s saying, “Hey, that embryo I helped make, well I don’t really think it’s such a hot idea now and I’d like to cancel.” This is **exactly** analogous to a woman deciding to have an abortion, right? The point is that if a man cannot be compelled to continue a pregnancy that he started (and a frozen embryo is for all intents and purposes a pregnancy in suspense), then how can anyone argue that a woman can be so compelled? And the REALLY BIG question is, how would this case have been adjudicated in South Dakota, huh??? Or for that matter, in any bloody red state?

    Yes, that’s the point, but Twisty confused the issue in her judgement of Johnston, and other posters confused the issue still further by deciding that Johnston should not have had the right to make this decision.

    I suspect, though, that the answer to your question is not as clear as you might think. In the “red states”, it’s conceivable that it may tackled in the same way that stem-cell research is tackled. “Snowflake babies” and all that.

  8. deborahL

    >>it’s conceivable that it may tackled in the same way that stem-cell research is tackled. “Snowflake babies” and all that

  9. deborahL

    Hmm, that didn’t seem to work. Let’s try again.

    It isn’t a question of abandoned embryos (stem-cell lines, **swowflakiness**). It’s a question of compelling parenthood. Would the red, patriarchal state compel parenthood on the man? I would really like to see a court case that tested this question!! I personally think it would not and would then show itself to be completely biased.

    Suppose the case were tested in South Dakota, to be consistent, the court would have to hold that the right of the frozen embryo to be born supersedes the rights of either the man or the woman to avoid becoming its future parent.

  10. marie

    The reason that this guy is a soi-disant fartface is that he agreed to do this, and is now reneging and the ex can’t get knocked up again. It is kind of like a woman saying she’ll go through with a pregnancy, changing her mind and aborting after the man finds out he has can no longer reproduce. . . except and this is a big except, this UK scenario would have no effect on fartface’s body. So it is a mean-spirited but I can also see the point. Would you like your ex to have your kid? Creepy.

  11. Mandos

    The reason that this guy is a soi-disant fartface is that he agreed to do this, and is now reneging and the ex can’t get knocked up again.

    Yeah, that’s sad. But it’s possible to have perfectly valid reasons to do so.

    It is kind of like a woman saying she’ll go through with a pregnancy, changing her mind and aborting after the man finds out he has can no longer reproduce. . . except and this is a big except, this UK scenario would have no effect on fartface’s body.

    Well, yeah. But I suggest that this is symmetrical with the fact that in no jurisdiction (including SD) can a man force a woman to have an abortion, and rightly so, and it’s not comparable with the fact that he’s allowed to dispose of his own genetic material when her body is not at stake. The lack of effect on his body shouldn’t really change the moral status of this situation. The only limiting factor is the effect on her body—and here, there’s none.

    So it is a mean-spirited but I can also see the point. Would you like your ex to have your kid? Creepy.

    Yep. How far can we expect people to be neutral about having children that they didn’t want, even if they weren’t pregnant with it?

  12. deborahL

    The main point in this case is that the man first agreed to create the embryo and then only later decided against it. Had they gone about this the conventional way and he had made her pregnant, then he could not have compelled her to have an abortion and he would have been forced to accept fatherhood even though he later had second thoughts. What this court decision does is give him the power to **pre-emptively** abort her desired pregnancy by denying her access to their joint embryo. In this case, veto power over parenthood is exactly equal. Here’s a question: is that what we really want?

    Personally, I empathize with the woman whose embryo is being held captive by her deadbeat ex-boyfriend. His role is exactly analogous to the deadbeat dad who runs out on his kids and leaves his wife holding the bag with no child support. Where is the moral difference between backing out on the explicit agreement to have a child before it’s born vs. after? If it’s OK to deny this woman her chance at offspring just because the man had a change of heart, then why is it not also OK for a standing father to run off and dump his actual kids? In both cases, it’s not a question of whether one wants to be a parent. That decision was already made. The question is, are you going to live up to the important committments you make in life or not?

  13. Ann Bartow

    Anyone who is interested can access the legal docs here: http://feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu/?p=202

    I think it’s sad for everyone. Because this is her only shot at having biological kids, I guess were I the judge, I’d have found for the woman. The man can have others if he chooses, and it is probably possible to insure he bears no legal responsisbility for kids he didn’t want in this situation. I’m not without sympathy for him, but dang, this is what they agreed on, and this is it for her, now or never.

  14. Mandos

    Personally, I empathize with the woman whose embryo is being held captive by her deadbeat ex-boyfriend. His role is exactly analogous to the deadbeat dad who runs out on his kids and leaves his wife holding the bag with no child support. Where is the moral difference between backing out on the explicit agreement to have a child before it’s born vs. after? If it’s OK to deny this woman her chance at offspring just because the man had a change of heart, then why is it not also OK for a standing father to run off and dump his actual kids? In both cases, it’s not a question of whether one wants to be a parent. That decision was already made. The question is, are you going to live up to the important committments you make in life or not?

    Well, suppose the tables were turned. Like I said, let’s say he has a willing new wife/girlfried/friend in whom the embryos can be implanted. Should he be able to claim them?

  15. Miliana

    The part that is twisting my insides into a knot is that “everyone” either has an opinion or an instinctive reaction (me included, so help me) on/to a bunch of cells. Bunch of cells, people.

    We have one ex-fiancee, currently infertile by way of deadly ovarian cancer, who for one reason or another still wants to use the embryos placed “on ice” that she and this man, perhaps lovingly, set aside in 2001 for future implantation.

    Howard now says no. Whatever sentimental agreement might have existed during their special in vitro moments in 2001 no longer apply in his mind. He, however, is able to make one simple dorky argument that he doesn’t want to go through with any future pregnancies and immediately, suspicously uterus-lacking judge rules in his favor.

    His statement ““The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when and if I start a family.”, shouldn’t be any less important if she were making it. If this isn’t Blaming the Patriarchy, well, then I’ve been reading Twisty quite wrong over these many months.

    It begs the question why on earth this woman still has an interest in the embryos/genetic material of this man. But then I can imagine that if she is that desperate to have a biological child genetically linked to her, this could be her last hope, what with the indifferent ovaries and all.

    There’s so much wrong with this situation it almost defies the ability to parse. And yes DeborahL in your first and subsequent comments.

    Oh hit the blame button already.

  16. Mandos

    The question is, are you going to live up to the important committments you make in life or not?

    Hmm, I think that this is the key, and the trickiest part. It’s a moral question apart from the legal question. The American Right makes a claim related to this one when they lay claim to women’s bodies, for instance. Forgive me, but it’s hard for me not to see this analogy. Of course, the difference is that it’s more directly one of bodily autonomy.

    So perhaps this guy is breaking a promise. But when relationships end, well, all sorts of important promises in life get effectively broken too, don’t they? And often very sadly so.

  17. Mandos

    Personally, I empathize with the woman whose embryo is being held captive by her deadbeat ex-boyfriend. His role is exactly analogous to the deadbeat dad who runs out on his kids and leaves his wife holding the bag with no child support.

    Actually, this statement too is really important. How can it be an analogy? The deadbeat dad is, in that case, leaving an actual growing child, who will now continue to live, but suffer economically. He isn’t leaving one this time: he’s trying to stop that situation before it happens. She’s not being left holding the bag with anything—that’s the problem, in point of fact.

    Even if it is her body that will be pregnant, she isn’t pregnant yet. So how is he a deadbeat?

  18. Angus

    DeborahL writes that “it’s not a question of whether one wants to be a parent. That decision was already made. The question is, are you going to live up to the important committments you make in life or not?”

    Except that under UK law, as described in the article, “permission from both parents is needed at every stage of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process.” So in the law’s eyes, allowing the embryos to be created isn’t a commitment to allow them to be implanted.

    And I’m not sure that it’s a bad law. After implantation, it’s obviously the woman’s decision whether to bring the pregnancy to term. But before? Seems reasonable to require that both parties agree.

  19. Jodie

    I know that sperm can be frozen. Can unfertilized eggs be frozen and used later? I am under the impression that unfertilized eggs don’t freeze well, but I don’t know that for a fact.

    If this is the case, and the only way for a woman to preserve genetic material is to fertilize her eggs, then perhaps the court should rethink this.

    I am pretty sure that if the guy were infertile, and had previously fertilized his wife’s eggs but didn’t save any sperm…and this were his only way to ensure “carrying on his line” which (at least historically) has been a pretty big deal in England, that the judge might very well have found for the guy in that case.

    If a woman’s unfertilized eggs don’t freeze well and the only way for a woman to preserve genetic material is to fertilize her eggs, then the court should rethink this matter.

    I’m blithering. It’s been a very, very bad day.

  20. Nyx

    Sorta thinking aloud here, I have so many reactions to this.

    We don’t let men decide to what happens to embryos in utero, why should it change because it’s a petri dish? Should fertilization be the end point of a man’s right to choose, as it is naturally?

    Perhaps men would give more consideration to flagrantly fertilizing frozen eggs if they couldn’t have a choice in the matter–that’s what S. Dakota is trying to say, except to women of course.

    Isn’t it “punishing” a man to force his offspring into the world?
    My head is spinning.

  21. deborahL

    Angus correctly points out that it IS the law in the UK that both parties to IVF must continue to agree on implantation until the deed is actually done. Which is ridiculous! It uses contractual law to govern family affairs, which, as we have all too often seen, is not the right paradigm.

    Parliament made a law either without sufficiently considering the consequences or while foolishly trying to improve on the laws of nature. These tragic and unforeseen consequences just bear out the fact that legislators are all daft.

  22. deborahL

    Mandos, I argue that he’s a deadbeat only because he had already agreed to the procedure and willingly contributed his gamete, while reassuring the lady that he would love and support her and the eventual child (see legal brief). By backing out now, even though the intended child does not exist, he is just as morally culpable as the deadbeat dad—simply because he is reneging on the most important committment one human can make to another.

  23. Mandos

    We don’t let men decide to what happens to embryos in utero, why should it change because it’s a petri dish? Should fertilization be the end point of a man’s right to choose, as it is naturally?

    But that’s only because there’s a woman attached to the uterus. When there’s no woman currently attached to the situation, where should there be a difference in rights?

    Mandos, I argue that he’s a deadbeat only because he had already agreed to the procedure and willingly contributed his gamete, while reassuring the lady that he would love and support her and the eventual child (see legal brief). By backing out now, even though the intended child does not exist, he is just as morally culpable as the deadbeat dad—simply because he is reneging on the most important committment one human can make to another.

    This is claiming that the main moral failure of the deadbeat dad is “love and support” of “the eventual child”, not a failure to deal with a real, physical obligation that will—at worst—suffer and starve to death if he doesn’t pony up. And that man’s main “committment” regarding children is his obligation to the woman, not to the children of the union. I note that on this blog, both this and the above position seem more idiosyncratic than most of the positions that I’ve taken, at least, and heaven knows people consider me to be rather “idiosyncratic”, so to speak.

  24. Mandos

    Parliament made a law either without sufficiently considering the consequences or while foolishly trying to improve on the laws of nature. These tragic and unforeseen consequences just bear out the fact that legislators are all daft.

    Uh, we’re talking about IVF, here. Any talk about the “laws of nature” in this context I would claim to be, in a word, “daft”. Similarly, we have a “contractual” mode about sex in most Western countries, at least in theory: consent.

  25. Jezebella

    I thought “what about the men”ism was frowned upon around here. Mandos, your arguments all seem based on what-about-the-man-ism to me. She gets the embryo, signs a waiver that the ex bears no responsibility henceforth, and she gets to have the baby she planned on having. Plenty of men contribute to sperm banks on this very premise: the sperm donor just donates sperm and moves along. End of story.

  26. Twisty

    I’ll be weighing in on this in the morning. Right now I’ve got too much meat to digest. Meanwhile, the registrations have been flowing in like medical waste on a beach! Thanks, yall!

  27. Mandos

    I thought “what about the men”ism was frowned upon around here. Mandos, your arguments all seem based on what-about-the-man-ism to me. She gets the embryo, signs a waiver that the ex bears no responsibility henceforth, and she gets to have the baby she planned on having. Plenty of men contribute to sperm banks on this very premise: the sperm donor just donates sperm and moves along. End of story.

    You can take it as “what about the men”ism if you like. If that’s the widespread interpretation, I’ll shut up. But I thought that “what about the men”ism was really “But men suffer from X too so why aren’t you talking about men!” Here we’re talking about the ethics of a situation that, frankly, has specifically to do with the man’s consent so it’s practically impossible to have a serious discussion without it. The basic point that Twisty was making (rather oddly shifting something from the UK context) is, I think well-taken by everyone: that women don’t get the same consideration in South Dakota. So the only issue left is whether or not this was the right decision and that fundamentally revolves around the moral status of the man’s consent given the woman’s unfortunate predicament. So I think it was “what about the men” before I even posted, if that applies at all.

    The difference between this man and the sperm donor is the nature of the consent, particularly the IVF process in the UK. The sperm donor knows before donating that his sperm will be delivered incognito, if he doesn’t live in Sweden at least. He signs away the rights at the beginning. In this IVF process, he signs on technically knowing that his consent will be required in order to bring the process to fulfillment (in this case, pregnancy—not birth! That’s an important difference!).

    I repeatedly raised the point that this applies to women as well as men. What if technology finds a way to safely remove and reimplant an embryo as a subtitute for abortion? Then can a man claim an embryo that a woman doesn’t want? I’m told that artificial womb technology is on its way sooner than we might think, so it’s not entirely an idle question. If it no longer involves a woman’s uterus, do people (men and women) have the right to control the terms of consent to the use of their genetic material? Or is all fertilization equivalent to the case of sperm donation categorially?

  28. Janeen

    Folks, I never thought I’d say this, but I believe that I agree with Mandos on this one.

  29. deborahL

    Mandos–the committment isn’t to the offspring, it’s the explicit committment he made to the now-ex fiancee.

  30. Mandos

    The concept “now ex-fiancee” sort of demonstrates that he’s kind of already broken a commitment. I don’t see what that has to do with anything. I mean he committed to living with her, presumably, but he isn’t now. A child is, if anything, a far more difficult commitment, so if he can’t keep all those others then it’s pointless to talk about this one.

  31. KMTBERRY

    A) Of course this is the UK, not the US, and I believe they are somewhat more civilized in terms of gender issues, (at least compared to the USA at the moment !!); nevertheless, if the law there is both material donors must agree at all stages of IVF, then the judge has no choice but to rule as he did.
    B) as Twisty points out, this is a stunning example of different rules for the boys than for the girls, albeit it is also an example of different rules for the Brits than the Yanks…..It is STILL a great, horrible example of PATRIARCHAL B.S. !!!
    C) Mr Johnston is mean.
    D) I believe you CAN freeze unfertilized eggs just fine. If I were a young woman, I would freeze some just for emergencies. The quality of pre-24-year-old eggs is remarkably better than even post-30, in terms of viability. I think all young women who desire children should freeze some. You never know what is going to be in your future medically or partner-wise. One tragedy here is that this UK woman TRUSTED this SOB, and froze FERTILIZED eggs. If only she had frozen some PLAIN.

  32. jayann

    if the law there is both material donors must agree at all stages of IVF, then the judge has no choice but to rule as he did.

    Not so. A plaintiff can argue that a law breaches the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights; and (I didn’t know this till this case happened) there’s also an appeal from the European Court. A law can’t be struck down but governments tend to accept Court rulings.

    One thing I didn’t like about her case was that she argued the embryos have an independent right to life.

    ***
    All children here have a right to know who their biological parents are so fartface couldn’t simply walk away totally even if she waived all claims against him.
    ***

    I thought the Court would find in her favour.

  33. jayann

    Damn it! I mistyped my blog url (I thought giving it was compulsory!). It’s asometimething.blogspot.com. I’m sorry.

  34. Luckynkl

    The point is that men under patriarchy are granted sovereignty over their own bodies as well as over women’s uteruses. Only HE gets to decide what a uterus will do or not do. Women not only get no say-so, but are considered criminals and face fines and imprisonment if she even dares to challenge his authority over her uterus.

    American law is based on old English law. It is English law which dictated that men be granted this power and authority to begin with and that women and their bodies be considered nothing more than the property of men to do with as they please. IOWs, she is nothing more than a fuck hole and a breeder whose only function is to serve him.

    It is all a perverse, artificial reversal of natural law. Only females are capable of producing life in the natural world. Because only female bodies can. There is no 50/50. Men aren’t capable of producing anything other than a mess. Unable to produce life himself, men seek power and control over those who can. Women. So he imposes his artificial, perverse, man-made laws to grant himself power he doesn’t have and take what doesn’t belong to him. We call these perverse, unnatural, man-made laws and its system, “patriarchy.” And it so interwoven into the fabric of society and is so wide-spread that it knows no international borders. Because the patriarchs didn’t stay put on the farm. They traveled and imposed their perversity world-wide. And put to death anyone who challenged it or who didn’t agree with it.

    I’m sure the Brits are aware of their history. And how they were once a world power that used that power to invade, conquer, and colonize other people. America was one of those colonies.

    Spain was also once a world power and did the same thing. Again, America was one of those counties it invaded, conquered and colonized.

    But the award for being the biggest patriarchal conquerer of all time goes to Ghenghis Khan. Altho Dubya, like Hitler and Napoleon before him, is trying to challenge that title.

    So before we go pointing any fingers at colors, races or nationalities, understand what Abigail Adams understood. All men would be tyrants if they could.

  35. Luckynkl

    Oh, btw, Happy International Women’s Day.

    Hmmm… do you think it’s coincidence that S. Dakota passed it’s abortion ban during National Women’s History month?

    Nah, I don’t believe in coincidences.

  36. travelling punk

    If a woman does and should have the right to choose when and if to have a family then so should a man. By taking away his right we’re not strengthening the cause for ensuring the woman keeps her right.

    It is sad, because this woman could have frozen her eggs, rather than fertilised embryos, and this would not have been an issue – but if they were planning a life together at the time they will probably not have considered this as they won’t have planned for a break-up in the future.

    However just because this is a difficult, sad and desperate place for the woman to be in it does not mean the man should be forced to father a child. I would agree with the judge that no one should be forced to have a child, female or male.

  37. Sasha

    It is more than a little troubling that most of this thread is about Mandos, Mandos’ ideas, and responding to Mandos.

  38. The Goldfish

    To me, this issue is about consent and how during the “baby-making act” either party can withdraw consent at any time. Once a fertilised egg is lodged in a woman’s body, then it becomes her domain exclusively, but not beforehand.

    The character of this man, or any promises he made are irrellevant; he withdrew his consent before the crucial act had taken place.

    Anti-choice folks in the UK have actually been campaigning on the side of this lady and I believe it is with their help the case was taken to the European Court. So for once, I think it is difficult even to cry “Hypocrisy!”

    Here in the UK, our right to abortion feels fairly safe. The main controversy in this area is probably as regards children likely to be born disabled, and under what circumstances it should be legal to abort very late on in the term.

  39. Twisty

    Mandos Mandos Mandos. My example is great. You are confused because I call the guy a fartface. Don’t you think he is a fartface? Come on. He’s being kind of selfish, isn’t he? Since his ex is eggless now, and bereft of her incontrovertible human right to propagate, he should be a standup guy and do the right thing and make this great and noble sacrifice, not just for the ex, but for the good of all mankind, really, and so what if the kid looks him up in a few years; he should have thought of that before looking at that porn in a fertility clinic. I mean, anyone who plays fast and loose with human genetic material makes the Virgin Mary shit blood, right?

    Oh no, wait. The Virgin Mary only shits blood when women try to avoid compulsory pregnancy. What was I thinking!

    Of course you are right; whether Johnston is a fartface is neither here nor there. It is possible for a guy to be a fartface and to have a right to personal sovereignty at the same time. So just ignore the paragraph where I call him a fartface, and concentrate on the part where I point out that what this guy is doing is, he’s claiming personal sovereignty, and that the court says he should get it, and that if a woman were to try the same thing, she wouldn’t get it. Get it?

    Yeah, OK, I know, UK law is “different.” But frankly, the UK law doesn’t matter to the broader ideological point, because in the end this is just another case of men getting to make all the decisions about reproduction, which is so de rigueur it transcends political boundaries and culture and history and art and time.

  40. Laura

    Incidentally, we don’t actually have the right to abortion in the UK, as people seem to be assuming. What we get to do is try to convince two (statistically, male) doctors that giving birth would cause us mental and or physical distress. The desire to terminate a pregnancy is pathologised. Were we normal, healthy women, we would embrace the chance to nurture our little fetus.

    The (male) doctors will then kindly give permission for us to jump through the many hoops that will enable us to obtain a NHS abortion. Because if getting an abortion wasn’t pointlessly difficult, everyone would do it. The entire UK system is constructed around the desire not to make abortion ‘easy’, and thus lose the opportunity to punish the feckless sluts who get themselves knocked up and then selfishly refuse to embrace their noble destiny as mothers.

    PS: Twisty, you rock. Were there an Angry Feminist Idol (and god willing, when my meglomaniac plans come to fruition, there will be) you would be mine.

  41. Arianna

    Indeed Laura. Scotland has a depressingly high teen pregnancy rate, from what I remember. Also, the British media is so disgustingly patriarichal that, were I not already ill from the general stench of the River Clyde, I would have been quite nauseated. On top of the usual patriarichal slant of the media, there are the Sun’s topless page 3 girls (Yes, I Know not to take The Sun seriously, but the fact is, it’s there) and those absolutely *terrible* Yorkie adverts. Ugh.

  42. Mandos

    He’s being selfish but I think that you and I might be able to agree that there are a few things we can be selfish about without being “fartfaces”, and having children is one of them. That much of the world expects women to bear children doesn’t change that, does it?

    Of course you are right; whether Johnston is a fartface is neither here nor there. It is possible for a guy to be a fartface and to have a right to personal sovereignty at the same time. So just ignore the paragraph where I call him a fartface, and concentrate on the part where I point out that what this guy is doing is, he’s claiming personal sovereignty, and that the court says he should get it, and that if a woman were to try the same thing, she wouldn’t get it. Get it?

    In the case of the frozen embryos, I doubt that the court would have let him implant them in another willing woman assuming the tables were turned. However, despite Laura’s clarification of UK law, I still also doubt the court would have prevented her from having an abortion if she were actually pregnant and he was infertile. If she were in SD, that might be another matter, but thankfully for her, she is not in SD.

    Yeah, OK, I know, UK law is “different.” But frankly, the UK law doesn’t matter to the broader ideological point, because in the end this is just another case of men getting to make all the decisions about reproduction, which is so de rigueur it transcends political boundaries and culture and history and art and time.

    And frankly, I think that comparing apples and oranges is a funny way to make that point. The world isn’t homogeneous at the moment.

  43. Twisty

    Oh dear. I forgot to enclose the first paragraph of my response in #39 in sarcasm tags.

    And quit splitting hairs! The world jolly well is homogenous when it comes to human rights. It is strongly united in a patriarchal ideology that oppresses women, and as such is all apples, all the time.

    To Sasha, who is bummed about Mandos: Mandos is our gadfly/scapegoat. In this case, he called me on an apparent minor rhetorical inconsistency, which, although pointing out said apparent minor rhetorical inconsistency serves only to obfuscate the spirit of the post and drag the discourse down a tangential alley, is nevertheless a legitimate observation.

    One is certainly free to ignore him. I encourage it!

  44. deborahL

    Yes, every chat room, list, faculty lounge, and blog has its own dedicated Mandos. Too much time on their hands and not enough productive thought to keep them busy elsewhere. Ignoring the important points of any argument and picking at the tiny threads that accidentally escape from the seams. Where oh where would we be without these so-helpful nigglers?

  45. Mandos

    Suffering from an epidemic of loose, lazy, and inconsistent thought, of course!

  46. Angus

    Twisty writes: “what this guy is doing is, he’s claiming personal sovereignty, and that the court says he should get it, and that if a woman were to try the same thing, she wouldn’t get it. ”

    Actually, the European court did uncover one case where the roles were reversed — a New Jersey case where the woman wanted the embryos destroyed and her former husband wanted to preserve them for future use with another partner. That court ruled for the woman.

    There are four countries in Europe, by the way, where the law gives women greater rights than men in the disposition of their un-implanted embryos. Those four are Austria, Estonia, Italy, and Spain.

    In Spain, in case the above list didn’t make patriarchy’s stake in this kind of policy clear enough, the man can revoke consent after fertilization only if he is married to the woman and living with her.

  47. Tapetum

    In this particular instance, I think the law (in the UK) has it right. Doesn’t stop me from thinking the guy is an ass. There are many, many things one can do in this world to make yourself an ass that are perfectly legal. Doesn’t mean they should be illegal, just means people should take a good look at themselves now and again and try not to be fartfaces.

  48. kidA

    One thing that we may have overlooked is that, in order for unimplanted embryos to have any chance of coming to term, additional action is required. When the couple agreed to create them, they *both* knew that the embryos would not become newborns nine months later. As such, they also knew that they had not done what normal mammalian conception does: create an embryo that will gestate unless interrupted either by unfortunate natural events or by intentional cessation.

    Rather, they had effectively delayed the moment of conception until they chose to implant the embryos. If they had chosen instead to produce this delay by not performing coitus, we would not be debating this at all, as the woman would be presently unable to provide her [slightly more than] half of the embryo. The issue only exists because the woman is, quite understandably, desperate to reclaim her fertility.

    Since the woman in this example cannot conceive naturally now, it is certain that the man is playing the inappropriately controlling patriarchal role. However, the same is untrue of the court making this decision. The choice to implant the embryo is the moment at which it becomes possible that a child will be the result. As such, it is also the time at which consent should be required. Indeed, based on above comments, it seems the couple must have made an agreement to that effect, and neither of them apparently made any waiver of the right to turn back, as it were. The court in this case is merely enforcing a knowingly-entered contract.

    Of course, considering the woman’s condition, the man is being a jerk. The woman obviously wanted to have the option of having children, and is now robbed of that due to a dissolved marriage — whoever is at fault, though considering his present actions, we may be able to guess.

    Nevertheless, I will not presume that many would agree that a divorcee should be able to compel her ex-husband to come over to her place and “put out” just so she could have a child; neither would the reverse be appropriate.

    Should the guy allow the implantation? Certainly.

    Should he be compelled by law so to do? Absolutely not.

  49. Pony

    Somewhat of a tangent: why did the woman have her ovaries removed?

    Did she have cancer, or was it a prophylactic oopherectomy?

    If she had cancer there is no guarantee she will not still have ovarian cancer and in fact is at much higher risk for this than another woman, because ovarian cancer is NOT limited to the ovaries but can occur in the surrounding tissue after oopherectomy.

    If she had a prophylactic oopherectomy, would it have been possible to have had a child first?

    If father is forced into this, not wanting the child, and there is a possibility that the mother may still have ovarian cancer and die in 17 months or so, is this still a good idea?

  50. Kat

    Arianna, I’d heard of the Yorkie adverts but it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw my first actual bar with “NOT FOR GIRLS” emblazoned on it. Being a woman and not a girl, I thought I might try one, but I decided I’d rather throw them on the ground and stomp on them for a bit.

  51. CaseK

    Soi-disant? Really? I missed that part. I would have made me feel better.

  52. brandonfullerton

    I hope that none of you who are putting him down are pro-choice. I think that it is great that a male finally has a choice in the reproductive cycle. There have been several cases of a man wanted a woman to keep his kid and her going and getting an abortion, this is just the other side of the coin. I think everyone here needs to get off of their man hating high horse and look it as just another person who made the choice to not be a parent.
    Oh, and those of you who are saying that he made his choice when he fertilized the egg MUST be pro-lifers. I know you would not support abortion or even the morning after pill when the woman “made the choice” to become a parent when she had sex.
    You want to talk patriarchal society? Women have all of the options. Women have almost all of the birth control options, and none of them require covering up your most sensitive sexual organs with plastic.
    Ther are affirmative action laws in the United States so that women have a step up in the hiring process. If a woman screams rape on a man then he is guilty until proven innocent; the same goes in sexual harassment. Women want to compete with men for the same jobs and yet still want gentile treatment that their mothers received such as open doors for them and pulling chairs out for them. If you ask me I think that the patriarchal society you talk about is actually the opposite. All I see here are just a bunch of whiney self-righteous hypocrites.

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