How Unenlightened to Deny a Man His Womb

There is no easier way to feel generous than to give away other people’s money. Furthermore, electors often judge the generosity of politicians by how much tangible benefit at others’ expense they are prepared to offer them. There is thus an inherent tendency in a democracy—though it is not quite an inevitability—for politicians to outbid each other in this type of generosity. And once such benefits have been received, they can be withdrawn only with the exercise of political courage: not the first quality of politicians in modern democracies. 

Two proposals in America, supposedly the bastion of sturdy individualism, recently caught my attention. The first was that opioid addicts should be offered the antidote to overdose at public expense. The second was that male-to-female transsexuals should be offered uterus transplants when they become technically feasible, also at public expense.

Anthony Daniels appears in every Quadrant.
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The argument for the first is that, by giving addicts the antidote for use when necessary, the number of deaths by overdose, running in America at an annual number of the deaths from the Korean and Vietnam wars combined, would decline. Lives would be saved thereby.

There is obvious force in this argument, though precisely how many lives would be saved, and at what expense, remains to be seen. Trials of such a policy usually exaggerate the benefits once it is institutionalised; routine dulls the edge of enthusiasm.

But objections to the idea also come soon to mind. People who are prepared to spend money regularly on illicit opioids are surely able to afford for themselves occasional doses of the antidote at small cost to themselves; and if they do not value their own safety enough to pay for it in this fashion, why should anyone else do so?

Against this might be urged the fact that they are suffering from an illness, namely opioid dependence, that prevents them from making rational decisions about their own welfare. This, however, is an argument with potentially very illiberal consequences, for it places addicts in the position of minors for whom others must take decisions. If opioid addicts cannot decide to pay to save their own lives, there surely cannot be any ethical objection to placing them under preventive detention and treating them as complete wards of the state.

The fact is, however, that opioid dependence is not an illness like any other, and it does not destroy a person’s ability to make decisions for himself, though no doubt it encourages him for a long time to take the line of least resistance.      

A second possible objection to the free distribution of the antidote is that it might encourage carelessness among opioid addicts. Why take care if the antidote is always to hand? The end result might, paradoxically, be an increase rather than a decrease in deaths from overdose. Whether this objection is valid, however, is a purely empirical question: it would depend upon experience of universal distribution. My guess is that, overall, such distribution would save lives.

If this were so, to maintain opposition to the free distribution of the antidote would appear to be to accept avoidable death for merely philosophical or ideological reasons. The person who opposes the ever-increasing role of government as shepherd or sheepdog of the population or flock is thus put in a false position of denying someone or some group of people a benefit, in this case freedom from death from overdose. He would be a monster of callousness.

The freedom that many people now cherish above all is the freedom from the consequences of their own actions, while other people are only too eager to take on the role of guardian and protector of the weak and supposedly incapacitated—which is to say, a large proportion of the population. Through taxation, I may be my brother’s keeper; but I am not even my own keeper.

A recent paper in the American Medical Association’s journal of ethics suggests that third parties should in effect be forced through insurance premiums or taxes to pay for uterus transplants for men who want to be women and desire to have children, or simply to feel more completely female.

The argument goes more or less as follows. Uterine transplants can be successful in women, who subsequently go on to have children. If such transplants were to be denied to transsexual women on the grounds that they were transsexual, it would be a case of unjust discrimination. Furthermore, a sense of personal fulfilment is beneficial for health, and health is a precondition of many, indeed most, other desirable things. Therefore, denial of such transplants to transsexual women (men who want to be women) would be to deny them fulfilment and thus health: and to deny people health is unethical.           

To ask such people to pay for their own uterine transplants would be unjust and discriminatory. A uterine transplant costs about $100,000, and only a small proportion of people could afford such a sum from their own pockets. To confine such transplants to those who could pay for it themselves would therefore be to make health and happiness a privilege rather than a right, and further increase inequality in society.

But are we not all born equal, with the same rights? What applies to Jews applies to transsexuals who want a uterus transplant: Hath not a transsexual eyes? Hath not a transsexual hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases … And if a woman can have a subsidised uterus transplant, why not a transsexual man (or is it woman)?

As with so many discussions these days, one feels a sense of gloom even as one enters into them. Propositions that even a few years before would have seemed so outré that no one would have thought them worth refuting become almost unchallengeable orthodoxies in a matter of a few years, if not of months; it requires courage to dispute them, at least if one has a position in an institution or organisation to protect. A subliminal fear—which sometimes is not even subliminal—stalks intellectual life. One does not so much disagree as pronounce heresies. For the moment, luckily, burning at the stake is only metaphorical.

Let us try to imagine the next orthodoxy. One could run a sweepstake on this. Let us suppose that I have drawn the ticket saying “Incest”.

What is there that can be said against incest? The taboo against it is completely irrational. What is wrong with sexual love between brother and sister, or between brothers for that matter? Or between parents or grandparents and children or grandchildren? If the possibility of genetic defect of any offspring be urged against it, one can point to genetic and intrauterine testing to avoid such defect, to say nothing of the wide variety of means of preventing conception now available.

Mutual consent would, of course, be a requirement, but no doubt some bureaucratic procedure could be instituted to ensure it. There remains the question of the age of consent, but this should not really be much of a problem, for if children can decide to take puberty blockers (by definition before puberty), surely they can decide on consent to sexual relations with their grandparents, say, a year or two after puberty?

Love, we are told, is love. By what right, then, does the state, or any other authority, deny some humans the expression of their form of love, all the more so when their form of love does no harm?

No doubt incestuous liaison will be frowned upon at first: but the problem is not with incest, it is with the social attitude to incest. It is that which ought to change, as well as the law. Remove the taboo, and all would be well. As to the wisdom of men down the ages, it hardly counts as an argument. Such wisdom, after all, is as often wrong as it is right. And look at the Pharaohs: they enjoyed incest and ruled for centuries if not millennia …

These days, one is obliged often to argue against evident absurdities. If you argue against them, however, you confer dignity upon them; but if you don’t, they go by default. I have more and more sympathy with Karl Kraus, the Viennese satirist who wrote millions of words, when he was asked what he thought of Hitler. When it comes to Hitler, he said, I can’t think of anything to say. Hitler was beneath criticism.

Under his pen-name Theodore Dalrymple, Anthony Daniels recently published the collection Neither Trumpets Nor Violins, co-written with Samuel Hux and Kenneth Francis (New English Review Press), The Wheelchair and Other Stories (Mirabeau) and These Spindrift Pages, a collection of literary observations and reflections (Mirabeau)

17 thoughts on “How Unenlightened to Deny a Man His Womb

  • cbattle1 says:

    Yes, Daniels, you are absolutely correct about the incest thing; surely that primitive taboo will be discarded, sooner or later. The book of Leviticus sets out a number of taboos, such as in chapter 20, verse 13:
    “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
    But now, we have celebratory parades of sexual diversity in our streets, and even churches blessing homosexual weddings; and so we progress!

  • guilfoyle says:

    Mr Daniel’s, it is not incest, it is paedophilia- that has been the agenda for a long time, starting with same sex marriage and moving into transgenderism. It’s all about removing barriers for predators.

    • Jack Brown says:

      Please check the DSM wherein paedophilia is a condition whereby the subject’s sole or primary sexual interest is in pre-pubescent children. Where in the article was the author discussing pre-pubescent children?

  • rosross says:

    We do seem to live in an age when some, perhaps many, are prepared to ignore facts and realities and hold to views which range from ridiculous to fanciful.

    Is there a dumbing down at work for society in general? We do seem to have lost a lot of common sense and appreciation for facts on many counts.

  • Paul W says:

    In other words, moderate positions now seem extreme. Yet we are constantly told that we need to stop being extreme and adopt more moderate positions. If we don’t, then we are cruel and coldhearted. But what if the new moderate positions are completely stupid? Extremism becomes the new normal – or the abnormal…

    • rosross says:

      @Paul W,

      Yes, the world is turned upside down and unfashionable views are deemed to be extreme no matter how sensible and factual they might be.

      The big problem is that humans have been encouraged to dismiss basic principles which once underpinned the modern world.

      If you have no principles of justice, rule of law, democracy, human rights, common sense and common human decency then anything goes anywhere that it wants.

      In the application of principles we can allow reason to function within defined boundaries and those principles must apply to everyone.

  • lbloveday says:

    At the time of the same-sex marriage plebiscite I raised the incest issue when “love is love” was proffered as a reason for “YES”, stating the following:
    I met my half sister for the first time when she was 45 and no longer fertile.
    The main argument against incest between consenting adults is the possibility of genetic defect in offspring.
    We were strongly attracted to each other and both single.
    At least mature-age same-sex people “in love” can now have consensual sexual intercourse in every State/Territory, but we can’t even do that, on the pain of imprisonment for up to life (depending on the State/Territory), with “sexual intercourse” defined to include pretty well any sexual activity such as (NSW):
    “sexual connection occasioned by the penetration to any extent of the genitalia of a female person or the anus of any person by any object manipulated by another person, except where the penetration is carried out for proper medical purposes”.
    My “why is “love is love” not applicable to us” went unheeded.

    • rosross says:

      And the irresponsible use of artificial conception, IVF, has made it all much worse.

    • Katzenjammer says:

      “The main argument against incest between consenting adults is the possibility of genetic defect in offspring.”

      The marriage act doesn’t permit marriage between children brought up in the same family, not even totally unrelated adopted children. There’s more to it than just potential genetic defects, just as there’s much more to marriage than simplistic “love is love”. We have been tampering with the foundations of social relationships and civilisation without fully understanding it.

      • Elizabeth Beare says:

        Well said, Katzenjammer. Formal incest and other strict taboos, such as sexual relationships with pre-pubertal children, or other young people, are about much more than genetics. They underwrite the social world as we know it. We try to create another one at our peril.

      • lbloveday says:

        Note that I said the main argument was “the possibility of genetic defect in offspring” without saying I agreed that it should be, but it certainly was the main argument I had heard “forever”.

  • Paul.Harrison says:

    We now live in a world which I despise and often wish that I had the courage to leave behind. When people willingly condemn the innocent unborn and the helpless elderly to death, then an abomination is loosed upon the world. The inexorable Law of the Slippery Slope drives everything, and not into a sunlit upland of a good and moral future. Instead, we will be killing people judged old at 30 years of age, selective breeding of the human tribe will be the norm, and a myriad of other evils. Cry, my beloved country, for evil is loosed upon our world and we cannot put the genie back in the box.

    • lbloveday says:

      I ran into a man in the pub that I’d often seen on the local jogging track, going the opposite way, but apart from “G’day” had never spoken to, and we got onto death.
      I found good sense in what he said “I’ve found that people die when they give up”. If he’s right, you’ve not given up yet.

  • Jack Brown says:

    It is interesting that Mr Daniel challenges the narrative of the times yet falls into step when referring to transsexual women. The term ‘trannie’ was always a diminutive of ‘transvestite’ which Latin scholars will recognise as ‘cross dresser’ so always pertained to a man cross dressing as a woman or far less often a woman wearing men’s clothes (with many women doing so not labelled as it was recognized they were essentially older tomboys i.e. female Aspies and thus had masculine brains. This diminutive was then transferred to referring to men crossing over by way of surgery, but not thought of as women. So they are transexual men, not transsexual women.

  • STD says:

    Once had a girl friend who reminded me that the colour purple in female sexual code, denoted some one who is sexually frustrated-re the overripe pic of the gentle man on the home page. The skin pallor indicates to me a somewhat jaundice take on all of this-liver disease of some sort perhaps!

  • colin_jory says:

    Anthony Daniels, you write of the prospect of incest being legalised as if that is not yet on the agenda of the Left-Orwellian Woke-meisters who are tacitly permitted by our governments and other institutions to guide the development of our culture and laws. In fact it has been an item on their agenda for at least a half-century, although it is a “sleeper item” currently being kept out of sight. I refer you to the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships established by the Whitlam Government in 1974. This was intended to set in motion, or to accelerate, radical changes in Australian culture and laws in relation to family and sexuality; and its Report, issued in 1977 during the life of the Fraser Government — and now available online ( — did not disappoint its initiators, The Commission was actually controlled and developed behind-the-scenes by the feminists in its secretariat and research staff; and the three Commissioners were obviously chosen, whether they knew it or not, for their predictable amenability to being controlled by these femocrats. Regarding Incest, and incidentally paedophilia in general, the Report recommended as follows:

    – The crime of incest to be abolished.
    – Parents/siblings involved in incestuous intercourse with a child below the legal age of consent to be liable to prosecution for so doing only on the same grounds, and with the same exceptions, as in the case of any persons committing statutory rape (or statutory sexual assault, since the Commission also recommended the removal from legislation of the term “rape”). (VII.17.20-23) The particular recommendation of the Commission regarding statutory rape/sexual assault here meant is that where a minor of 13 or 14 years of age has unforced sexual intercourse with one less than five years his or her senior, the older party not be liable to prosecution. (VII Recommendation 34)
    – A special judicial tribunal to be formed with the power to stop the prosecution of anyone who has committed sexual offences — whether incestuous or not — against a child below the age of consent, should such a stay of prosecution be judged to be in the best interests of the child. (VIII Recommendations 44-50)
    – Where a father has committed an incestuous sexual offence against his daughter, this tribunal to have the prerogative to rule that, for the sake of the preservation of the family unit, the father not be prosecuted, but the daughter be removed from the family home. (VII.17.24-26)

    • lbloveday says:

      Must have made a significant impression as I recall “plain as day”, 50+ years ago, a 16yo neighbour yelling at her mother “He can f* me if he wants to”.
      16 was the age of consent in SA and “he” was her father.

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