Most jobs come with a lop-sided combination of necessary responsibilities and fringe benefits. For example, a fast food server may get a free meal during or after a shift; a retail sales worker might receive an “employee discount” on items they purchase from their company. Working for the Helena Independent Record requires Digital Project Specialist Landon Hemsley to dedicate (probably more than) forty hours of every week to addressing the demands of his employer. He seems to enjoy the benefit of the broad use of newspaper column inches in which to propagate his personal opinions. Not bad.
In his April 7 column, Mr. Hemsley announced he has chosen to take on a new job; that of doting father to a bright-eyed baby girl. As a fellow volunteer in that particular service industry, I gladly welcome him on board with my most sincere congratulations! Fatherhood is an amazing, challenging, and rewarding rollercoaster ride on which I wish him the very best.
I would like to say that I agree whole-heartedly with one of his arguments: that the process of adoption could and should be made less procedurally and financially daunting. Adoption has enormous potential to improve individual lives, promote and support families, and increase the overall health and vitality of our communities, and of society as a whole.
Had this been the primary focus of his piece, it would have my admittedly humble, yet full-throated support. Unfortunately, Mr. Hemsley also used his forum to advance incredibly misleading narratives about abortion, and to offer a false dichotomy; that the only available choices for government support are abortion or adoption. Worse yet, in his haste to reach the moral high ground, he seems to have already relegated his new daughter to her “God given” role as a man’s chattel property, best kept silent.
Perhaps that last bit is not for me to say; she is, after all, his daughter. Then again, Mr. Hemsley seems perfectly comfortable with the idea of speaking for those who can’t. Does his healthy infant daughter not have at least the same rights he would attribute to a non-viable fetus, or a blastocyst? Must she simply accept that her entire gender, having been primarily responsible for “the fall from grace”, cannot yet be trusted to make medical decisions without the help of the government? But, I digress.
My intention here is not to point out the irony of Mr. Hemsley advancing obviously Christian-based values with the reality-based observation that “a baby doesn’t magically appear in the womb.” Instead, I would suggest his essay is a testament that newspaper, despite its embattled industry, and flimsy physical nature, can still hold a staggering amount of manure. An argument which rests on drawing a parallel between a woman’s bodily autonomy and a list of endangered species hardly deserves rebuttal. That the IR affords its staff free reign to spout fallacious, uninformed rhetoric with a photo byline actually deserves scorn.
Believe me, I get being caught up in the birth of your first child. Along with the realized terror of how ill-prepared you are for such responsibility, it brings an amazing light into your life. Mr. Hemsley may have found himself blinded by this light; feeling, perhaps, a little over-protective.
He can be forgiven for being momentarily unable, from atop his endorphin laced, high moral perch, to see other abortion alternatives like contraception, sex education, or parenthood planning services. And, hey…he found adoption; proving the old adage that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.
So, to Mr. Hemsley, I offer this: help me keep the government out of our daughters’ medical decisions, and I’ll support your every effort to incentivize, and better facilitate adoptions. When you get some free time (in a couple years), read up on contraception and sex education. Your daughter will need to know how it all really works; and what really doesn’t (see abstinence-only). Shout if you need a hand…