It was heartening to see the New York Times jump into the reproductive rights fray recently with their editorial questioning whether men actually have any. Answer: Nope. Not really.
If a man accidentally conceives a child with a woman, and does not want to raise the child with her, what are his choices? Surprisingly, he has few options in the United States. He can urge her to seek an abortion, but ultimately that decision is hers to make. Should she decide to continue the pregnancy and raise the child, and should she or our government attempt to establish him as the legal father, he can be stuck with years of child support payments.
Predictably, feminist website Jezebel responds with compassion and intelligence to a fairly complex conundrum that seems to be inherently biased against men.
Boo fucking hoo. At the end of the day, the only thing the government, and society, requires fathers to do is pay money, which is a hell of a lot easier than raising a child alone, as most mothers who have children out of wedlock are forced to do.
Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon is equally concerned when men’s freedom to choose to be a parent is curtailed:
I have to laugh at her question, “Do men now have less reproductive autonomy than women?”
But I really think it’s Amanda Marcotte who takes the cake, agreeing that forced fatherhood is indeed unfair, and then summoning her bitchiest bitch tone to claim that for one thing, there are only about three men who have been forced into fatherhood, and men who don’t want to become parents are “dead-beat dad” wannabes and refusing to turn your resources over to a woman you explicitly do not wish to parent with is the moral equivalent of killing your child.
It’s a hat-trick of idiocy!
For fuck’s sake, I can’t believe the NY Times gave space to the tedious argument that because women have been graciously granted their right to reproductive autonomy (actually, it’s not even remotely gracious), it’s time to deal with the largely imaginary plague of “forced fatherhood”, i.e. women getting pregnant and carrying pregnancies to term against the father’s wishes, and then suing him for child support. This happens occasionally, though compared to men trying to force women to get pregnant against their wills, it’s so rare that it’s comparable to shark attacks in its frequency.
Well, we dealt with the whole birth control sabotage thing a few days ago, and to the surprise of only me, apparently, sabotaging birth control so women can get pregnant against their male partners wishes is not just frequent, it’s normal.
There are a number of ways that paternity can be established when it comes to women who have chosen to have children without the explicit support of the father.
Voluntary acknowledgement – the father acknowledges that he is, in fact, the father
Administrative – child support agencies contact the putative father and the case proceeds from there
Judicial – the courts contact the putative father and the case proceeds from there
Default – the courts accept the word of the woman and simply names the father
The following report goes into the advantages and disadvantages of these different methods, but there is one chart in particular I would like to draw your attention to: 62% of local child support staff perceive there to be a an advantage in using any method OTHER than voluntary acknowledgement of paternity because it ensures that the correct father is identified.
Now why would that be? Why would the majority of child support workers think identifying the correct father through something other than just “she said it’s true, so I guess it must be?”.
Could it be because the WRONG MEN are identified as fathers rather routinely? It appears that child support workers deal with the “imaginary plague” of women having children outside of an established relationship and seeking child support from men who may or may not be the biological father ALL THE FUCKING TIME.
Imaginary plague, my ass.
Let’s move on to Amanda’s use of the words “paper abortion”.
Focusing on “paper abortions” is a way to soften up an audience to the demands of men who want to foist all the responsibilities of child-rearing onto their exes while still getting to float in periodically to be the big hero who takes the kids to Disneyland once in awhile. If you actually go to “father’s rights” forums and websites, you’ll find lots of paranoia about sperm-stealing, but the men who are on the forum almost all are divorced and are bitter about writing child support checks while not getting the sexual and house-cleaning benefits of having a wife.
Yeah, that’s exactly the topic we are discussing. Amanda has mixed up two very distinct group of men: fathers who are very much interested in being fathers who have been ousted from their children’s lives, and men who are confronting an unintended pregnancy only to discover they have absolutely no say in how that pregnancy proceeds.
The use of the words “paper abortion” is unfortunate, and I hope it is not a common phrase uttered by those who are interested in reproductive rights for men, because it strongly implies that refusing to be a parent by disavowing social and financial responsibility is morally equivalent to killing the child outright.
To equate refuting responsibility with death is disingenuous at the very least. Men are not asking for the right to “abort” a child. The decision to allow a child to live belongs to women, as it must. Men are asking for the same right that women already have:
LEGAL PARENTAL SURRENDER
A woman who gives birth to a child she does want to accept legal or financial responsibility for has the option to surrender that child to the state and simply walk away. The child will be given to someone who DOES want legal and financial responsibility, and the expense to the state is minimal and of finite duration.
Men should have the exact same right.
Amanda has some caveats she wants to attach to that right. Let’s take them one by one.
He has to sign away all rights before the baby is born. He does not get his name on the birth certificate. The child’s father will be registered as “unknown”. If someone else—say his ex’s new husband—wishes to adopt and coparent the child, he cannot interfere.
Agreed. No problem whatsoever.
The only exception to this is if the mother did not alert the father to the pregnancy beforehand. He should be able to provide witnesses to testify that he hadn’t seen her in at least six months prior to the birth.
Uhm, no. SHE should have to provide evidence. Prove that she DID see him. Prove that a relationship DID exist. The burden of proof should be on the woman who has decided to give birth a child without knowing how she is going to support that child, and not on the man who may not even be aware of a birth control sabotage/failure.
He never contacts the child. As far as his child knows, he’s a ghost. No visits, no toys, no pictures, nothing. He should also not be allowed to contact the mother. If he reaches out to the mother, she has full rights to sue him for child support, using that as evidence that he actually does want a relationship with his ex and his biological child.
How are people who may work together or live in a small community or go to the same school together supposed to avoid contact? This is an unreasonable demand.
This is for life. If you contact the child on her 18th birthday, you owe 18 years of back child support. If you contact the child when she’s 30, same thing: All 18 years of child support, with interest.
Bullshit. This is for 18 years, same as in the case of legal parental surrender. At that point the child is an adult and free to pursue his or her biological origins just as any other adoptee. There is no guarantee that the father who has legally surrendered his child wishes to have a relationship, just as there is no guarantee that adopted children will have an adult relationship their biological parents.
If the court determines you were abusive to your ex, all the above is invalidated and you will pay child support with no visitation rights if the judge so determines.
Oh fuck off. Get out of jail free card, much? Allegations of abuse are routinely lobbed at men, with no basis in fact, other than her word. This caveat invalidates every previous assertion. It’s straight up manipulative bullshit.
While we’re at it, let’s say children who don’t have child support get a special stipend from the government, much like the Social Security payments they’d get if you were dead.
Let’s say not. In the case of legal parental surrender, the state is on the hook for the costs of placing the child with parents who DO want to accept legal and financial responsibility, which then transfers to those parents. You don’t get to make the state your husband because you have made a terrible decision.
It’s interesting that a writer as virulently feminist as Marcotte would even lend her voice to this topic. That says a lot about how far reproductive rights for all has come. It needs to go a bit further, though.
It comes down to understanding that rights come with responsibilities. Women have, and must have, the sole jurisdiction over deciding whether their bodies can be used to create a new life. The right to terminate a pregnancy belongs to the person who is pregnant. But it comes with a responsibility. If you are going to create that new life, you are responsible for it. Especially if you are creating that life against the will of the father.
If you are married, you are responsible for maintaining that marriage for the long run. That applies equally to men and women. If you create a union and bring children into it, only the direst of circumstances gives you the right to dismantle that union.
If you are unwed, and have no social resources, you are STILL responsible for that child, because you exercised your right to bear him or her. You can meet those obligations by being a single mother (bad choice) or by surrendering your legal and financial responsibility. And that SHOULD apply to equally to men and women. A legally surrendered child should be offered to the biological father FIRST. He should have the right to claim sole responsibility, should he so desire.
I strongly suspect it is not babies that daddies don’t want responsibility for. It’s the baby-mama they’re not interested in. That’s just a suspicion, though. According to the PEW research council, the rate of households headed by single fathers is growing rapidly. One quarter of single family homes are headed by daddy. That strongly suggests men are more than willing to step up to the plate to care for their children.
I suspect 2-3 men will take this offer a year if it becomes law. Maybe even a dozen!
You keep telling yourself that, Amanda. Bring the law in. Equal rights to legal parental surrender.
Who thinks the birth rates for single mothers will collapse? Who thinks the astonishing number of children born to the rich and famous out of wedlock will collapse?
It’s certainly worth taking this hypothetical out of the arsenal of “men’s rights” activists.
You won’t be taking anything out of the arsenal, honey. You’ll just be giving men the same weapons that women take for granted.
The right to force men into fatherhood is a right that women NEED to lose. The sooner the better.
Lots of love,