Pro-life activists recently struck an ominous blow against the unlimited right to abortion in the United States.
No, I'm not speaking of the measure enacted by South Dakota lawmakers that flagrantly defies the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision and all but guarantees a high court showdown. More on this in a moment.
I'm speaking of the lawsuit filed in Michigan by the National Center for Men. The center styles itself as "the only organization in the world that has focused on all men's issues."
Among those issues: circumcision, which, according to the group's Web site, "represents an actual and symbolic assault on male sexuality"; life expectancy, which is about six years shorter for American men than it is for American women; and homelessness, which the group claims afflicts 10 times as many men as women.
You might get the impression that the National Center for Men is less about crusading for illusory men's rights than it is about provoking people into thinking about issues in different ways. You might be right.
The center has put a trademark imprint on its suit, calling it Roe vs. Wade for Men. It filed the suit on behalf of Matt Dubay, who claims the state of Michigan has violated his reproductive rights. He asserts a woman that he dated told him a medical condition made her incapable of becoming pregnant. She allegedly took the additional precaution during their courtship of using an oral contraceptive.
A few months after they broke up, the woman delivered a baby girl. A Michigan court ordered Dubay to begin paying $475 in monthly child support. Dubay and the National Center for Men object, claiming the court order violates the Constitution's equal protection clause.
Here's how the center defines the issue:
"More than three decades ago Roe vs. Wade gave women control of their reproductive lives but nothing in the law changed for men. Women can now have sexual intimacy without sacrificing reproductive choice. Women now have the freedom and security to enjoy lovemaking without the fear of forced procreation. Women now have control of their lives after an unplanned conception. But men are routinely forced to give up control, forced to be financially responsible for choices only women are permitted to make, forced to relinquish reproductive choice as the price of intimacy.
"We will ask that men be granted equal protection of the laws which safeguard the right of women to make family planning decisions after sex."
Nonsense, you say? Perhaps so. An invitation to male irresponsibility? Absolutely. But the amazing thing is that it took 33 years for someone to postulate imaginary male rights to complement an imaginary female right to abortion on demand at anytime for any reason. That's one absolutist extreme in the abortion debate. The South Dakota Legislature offered up the other extreme when it criminalized all abortion procedures that aren't necessary to save the life of the mother.
A recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows the narrow bases of support for these two extremes. Only 19 percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in all cases, while 16 percent said it should be illegal in all cases.
Thirty-two percent said it should be legal in most cases, while 27 percent said it should be illegal in most cases.
You can parse those numbers in several manners, but the most meaningful interpretation is this: A strong majority of Americans, 59 percent, is pro-choice with limitations. Or put another way, a strong majority of Americans is pro-life with exceptions.
That's far less attention-grabbing news than the assertion of a male right to reproductive choice or the accusation that a Supreme Court led by John Roberts will somehow make abortion illegal. In the unlikely event the court did overturn Roe vs. Wade and strike down one absolutist precedent, it could not replace it with another absolutist precedent.
What the court would do in that unlikely circumstance is restore a legislative process it interrupted in 1973, a process that can't ignore the sentiments of a firm majority of the American people.