Why the Indiana bill bothers me

The “unauthorised reproduction” bill from Indiana bothers me for one very specific and personal reason, as well as a whole host of more general political reasons that have been well covered elsewhere. Preventing unmarried women from conceiving by any means other than sexual intercourse can only encourage those unmarried women who, like me, badly want a child to conceive via sexual intercourse – in other words, to do what I did.

I’ve alluded only vaguely to the circumstances that led to my becoming pregnant, but the short version goes something like this. A long-term relationship came to an end, and the manner of its ending made it very clear to me that making plans that depended on my having a partner would only set me up for more disappointment. If I wanted to achieve any of the dreams or ambitions I had – including the dream of becoming a parent – I would have to do it alone.

I considered various means of fulfilling that dream, such as adoption or conception via a sperm donor, and realised most of them would be made unavailable to me – fertility treatment was beyond my budget, and I had a sneaking suspicion that my gender dysphoria would disqualify me as a potential adoptive parent. I finally settled on the old-fashioned method of having unprotected sex with willing men, in the belief that this was the simplest method.

Perhaps it was the simplest of the available options, but it was far from simple. To begin with, my desire for a more or less anonymous sperm donor led me to have sex with the kind of men who have unprotected sex with women they’ve just met and ask no questions. I put myself – and my baby – at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and although I’ve since tested negative, the guilty awareness that I was one of the lucky ones will not leave me. Not every woman who takes this route will be as fortunate.

Finally, I abandoned my pursuit of anonymity and turned instead to a trusted male friend. I got pregnant at the first attempt, but that was only the beginning of the difficulties. When I said, “I want to get pregnant,” he understood, “I want to move in with you and submit to your authority on all child-rearing matters,” and became frustrated and angry when my behaviour didn’t bear this out. The wrangling over this destroyed any chance of a continuing friendship between us, but worse, he is legally entangled in my life despite neither of us desiring this. Had I used an official sperm donor, he would have remained forever anonymous and legally unconnected with me and the child; since I did not, my baby’s father has a legal obligation to pay child support and a legal right to turn my life upside-down by applying for custody of a child he’s repeatedly told me he doesn’t want.

It’s hard to say whether I regret the choices I made. I certainly don’t regret the pregnancy, and I’m still looking forward to the birth of my baby. Is it regret to say that I would have preferred a clean, safe encounter with a turkey baster to the current tangle of uncertainties? Is it regret to counsel any woman in the position I was in last spring to think long and hard about the disadvantages of this supposedly simple route to parenthood?

I don’t know whether anyone, married or single, has a right to a child. I don’t know whether some barriers to parenthood are justified in the interests of the child, or who should have the authority to decide what’s in a child’s interest. But I do know that some people are desperate for a child. If one possible route to parenthood is blocked, they will switch, as I did, to an unblocked route, even though it might be more dangerous for them and for any children produced.

You might believe that a straight married couple make the best possible parents for a child. But that isn’t the question you should be asking. Single women and lesbian couples will be parents whatever you try to do. The question is whether they would make better parents if they were free from HIV and untroubled by legal entanglements with the biological father. Which do you think is in a child’s best interests?

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights. Bookmark the permalink. 

119 Responses to Why the Indiana bill bothers me

  1. 101
    Jake Squid says:

    I’m reminded of an old saying, what with all this talk about intent.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  2. 102
    Barbara says:

    The problem with generalizing about parenting is that you are bound to be wrong enough about individuals that you are seriously slurring those who get admirable results in spite of having made what you view as the wrong choice. I think the question becomes: how do you encourage those who are demonstrably unready for parenthood (haven’t finished school, etc.) to use contraception and wait for better circumstances — without maligning those who are demonstrably “ready” in the sense that they have demonstrated responsibility in just about every other area of their life (job, school, etc.)? I don’t want my daughter to be a single parent at 20 — but I would understand if she made that decision at 30 or 40 after making progress in completing her other goals. If she did become a parent at 20, I’d support her in every way I could. But I wouldn’t want it for her any more than I wanted it for myself, and I would consider myself to be something of a failure if she had no other goals at that point in her life than to become a mother.

  3. 103
    piny says:

    >>So far, so good. But check back in 25 years or so, or even later when the child has children of his or her own. It takes a long time to parent a child, and a long time to see how it worked out. A snapshot at 6 or 12 tells part of the tale, but not all of it. As far as all the benefits go, I figure that two people can give a lot more of those benefits than one. I’ll even leave the married bit out (although I think that’s best) and expand to the case of a two-parent family, regardless of the legal bond between the two.>>

    You’re the one making a claim here: Having two parents makes the child better off. The inscrutability of the future is not support for your claim. It is support for their argument that you can’t prove your claim. In 25 years, when La Lubu’s daughter has become a lousy parent, and the CLP is living in Nick’s garage, then you may pronounce on the poor effects of single parenting. Until then, these “snapshots” of a healthy happy kid are a point for their side.

  4. 104
    La Lubu says:

    I believe that for a single person (and I’m not sexist enough to figure that only a woman can choose to become a single parent)

    Neither am I. But single fathers are universally lauded, whereas single mothers are generally looked down upon and assumed to be bad parents.

    to choose to become a single parent is wrong.

    You still haven’t explained why. You have gone into some of the advantages, but again….those are hypothetical advantages. There can also be detriments to a two-parent household. Whether a two-parent household is an advantage or a detriment depends on the household, just as it does in single-parent households. The only intent that should matter is: does the parent have an intent to love, support and care for this child! I also don’t understand why you feel the intent of a single person to become a parent is a “wrong” one. Let’s say that a woman spent her twenties and most of her thirties looking for a suitable mate to start a family with…..but didn’t find one. She then visited a sperm bank, became pregnant, and became a mother. I take it this is ok in your eyes then, because her “intent” all along was to have a co-parent?

    And since we’re using gender-neutral terms, I take it you’re also ok with the loving, committed lesbian couple who visits a sperm bank, or makes an arrangement with a male friend, since there are two parents in that equation?

    Please…take a deep breath, and patiently explain to me why “two parents are best”. I don’t get it. To me, these are equivalent positions; one is not automatically superior nor inferior to the other (just like a household full of children is not superior nor inferior to the one child household—-just different).

  5. 105
    Robert says:

    You still haven’t explained why [to choose to become a single parent is wrong]

    1) For the same reason it is wrong for an able-bodied young person to decline to seek work, and instead to live from state support: the taking up of finite resources that were made available in good faith for those unable to provide for themselves through accident, disease or disability.

    Society has finite collective resources available to support the rearing of children. Two-parent households on balance use fewer of those resources than one-parent households do. Choosing to create a child without a partner makes a claim upon those societal systems, reducing the per capita resources available for orphans and the like. “I really want a baby” is insufficient justification to starve an orphan.

    2) Because finding a mate is part of the evolutionary process. Sorting for fitness must occur at some stage of the human life cycle. Having a great deal of the sorting take place by means of sexual selection is a relatively bloodless way of handling this. If the ability to attract and keep a mate is no longer a requirement for reproduction, then in evolutionary terms the locus of emphasis for fitness testing must shift to some other stage of the cycle. Since non-pairbond reproduction requires extensive resources (whether to pay for medical intervention or to replace the unpaid labor of a co-parent with paid labor) the likely locus for this sorting becomes the ability to acquire wealth, increasing the competitiveness of society. Having a child out of wedlock makes capitalism fiercer. It’s fierce enough already.

  6. 106
    Lu says:

    At the risk of working both sides of the street here… a two-parent family is superior to a one-parent one, for all concerned, insofar as it’s easier to split the hard work of raising a child between two people than to have one person go it alone. There have been times when I have just needed a break, even for five minutes, and couldn’t have taken one (because the child(ren) needed attention right then) had my husband not been there to step in. The same has been true for him. This makes for less stress all the way around: on the parents, because each parent can get an urgently needed break, and on the kids, because a calm parent can be loving, can be responsive, can make good decisions.

    This is all the more true if there are two or more children, especially very young ones. If you don’t have at least one set of hands per kid, it’s a tough juggling act.

    None of this is to say that a single parent (no matter how s/he got that way) is bad or immoral. It is to say that s/he has a tougher row to hoe than a parent who has someone (or more than one) to share the work. It’s amazing what you can do if you have to, and it’s amazing that some people condemn instead of commending parents who have to.

    RonF may at this point be saying, “I have no sympathy for single parents who chose that route; they made their own bed.” Do any prospective parents have the slightest idea what they’re getting into? Do any of us know what awaits us a few miles down the road? I still think, for the reasons I gave above, that it would be best for every child to have two or more loving, committed parents (again, a married couple, a gay or lesbian couple, an order of monks, it doesn’t matter). I’m also not about to sit in judgment of anyone for whom, for whatever reason, it didn’t work out that way.

  7. 107
    Jesurgislac says:

    I did, back in post 75.

    But you expressed prejudice against single mothers and children from single-parent homes in posts 29, 38, 41, 49, 66, 76, 77, and 94. Do you wish to retract and apologize for all the ugly, prejudiced comments you made against single parents, and children from single parent homes, in all of those posts, and stand by only your comments in post 75?

    Well, evidently not, since this is post 100, and you’re still expressing your prejudices against single parents, and against children from single parent homes.

  8. 108
    La Lubu says:

    Two-parent households on balance use fewer of those resources than one-parent households do.

    How?

    Since non-pairbond reproduction requires extensive resources (whether to pay for medical intervention or to replace the unpaid labor of a co-parent with paid labor)

    More medical intervention is needed for single parents than for married parents?? Since when? And how does a single working-outside-the-home parent differ from a married-working-outside-the-home parent? On my side of the tracks, a two-parent families use daycare just as much as single parent families, so this is a non-issue.

    the likely locus for this sorting becomes the ability to acquire wealth, increasing the competitiveness of society. Having a child out of wedlock makes capitalism fiercer.

    It seems to me that what you are saying here is that single parents are causing a societal problem by working for a living. I’m confused. Upstream, it seemed you were saying that single parents are causing a societal problem by being welfare burdens. Which is it? Are you saying that the real problem is the two-income family, because they are more “competitive?” What if they are content to earn enough to keep their family afloat, and don’t fall into the consumerist trap of “more, more, more?”

    And besides….the real evolutionary aberrations are 1.) the nuclear family, 2.) lack of community ties. Age segregation is also of recent vintage.

  9. 109
    Robert says:

    How? [do two-parent households on balance use fewer of those resources than one-parent households do]

    Single dad counts on the school to raise his kids more than two-parent dad does, using up the limited emotional and mental resources of the teachers there. Single mom uses the soup kitchen more than two-parent mom does, using up the limited stock of donated food. And so forth.

    More medical intervention is needed for single parents than for married parents?

    Not married parents; two parents. Yes. Single mom is more likely to take jr. to the ER rather than just sit up with him and monitor the cold; she has to be at work in the morning. Single dad is more likely to dump McDonalds on the table than to make a meal after a day at work; obesity and poor nutrition. And so forth.

    And how does a single working-outside-the-home parent differ from a married-working-outside-the-home parent?

    No backup.

    It seems to me that what you are saying here is that single parents are causing a societal problem by working for a living

    No, I’m saying what I said.

    It’s amazing what you can do if you have to, and it’s amazing that some people condemn instead of commending parents who have to.

    Parents who have to, and parents who choose to, are not identical sets.

    If someone’s airplane crashes and they land in the Mojave and they manage to walk out and collapse at a ranger station and the government spends $10,000 of tax money to nurse them back to health, that’s one thing. If someone parachutes into the Mojave for fun and manages to walk out and runs up the $10,000 tab, they’re stupid and selfish.

    The difference seems obvious.

  10. 110
    La Lubu says:

    Single dad counts on the school to raise his kids more than two-parent dad does, using up the limited emotional and mental resources of the teachers there.

    Pure, unadulterated, bigoted nonsense. Single parents and married parents both use schools to educate their children, and both the children of married parents and the children of single parents use up the limited emotional and mental resources of the teachers there. It seems to me that your issue here is not the marital status of the parent, but whether or not the home is a functional or dysfunctional one. Single parents are not more likely to have a dysfunctional home than married parents; we are just more likely to be assumed to have a dysfunctional home.

    Single mom uses the soup kitchen more than two-parent mom does, using up the limited stock of donated food. And so forth.

    Single mothers who are not poor are no more likely to use a soup kitchen or food pantry than married parents who are not poor. Single mothers who are poor use less resources from the food pantry than married parents who are poor, mostly because poor single parents generally have smaller families than poor married parents. It seems that your beef here isn’t with marital status but with poor people. Which is sad. Must suck to be you.

    Single mom is more likely to take jr. to the ER rather than just sit up with him and monitor the cold; she has to be at work in the morning.

    Nonsense again. Single mom is more likely to monitor the cold; trips to the ER are expensive.

    Single dad is more likely to dump McDonalds on the table than to make a meal after a day at work; obesity and poor nutrition. And so forth.

    You said it, now prove it. Show me the stats that show where single parents are more likely to eat/feed their families crap than married parents. McDonalds would go broke if it relied on the single parents in my neighborhood; home-cooked is not only tastier and healthier, it’s cheaper too. Fast-food is expensive! (You don’t know many/any single parents in real life, do you?)

    No backup.

    There’s no backup in a dysfunctional married home, either. It doesn’t even have to be that dysfunctional—just one in which one parent gives a damn and the other one is only concerned about himself/herself, even if they aren’t doing anything the Jerry Springer show would be interested in. Need I mention that single parents can also have backup in the form of other family members, neighbors and friends?

    The difference seems obvious.

    Nope. The difference is as clear as mud. Your examples are assuming a worst case scenario for the single parent. Why? The vast majority of single parents are not poor, uneducated, and lacking in parenting skills—traits that you have not attributed to married parents. Compare the apples to the apples (single parent and married parent homes with the same traits save for the second parent), and there is no difference in the parenting results.

    I also think you’re showing your homeschool bias here by assuming that parents who use schools are “counting on the school to raise the kids.” My daughter goes to school to learn, not to be raised. My parents sent me to school to learn, not to be raised. Etc., etc. My daughter knows, just as I did, that if there is a conflict between school authority and parental authority, Mama wins.

  11. 111
    alsis39 says:

    Few things provide better comic relief than the spectacle of self-described “good Christians” suddenly discovering that their own highly distorted view of “evolution” can be used to bolster their own prejudices, be it against single parents or against some other social deviant on the “good Christian” shit list.

  12. 112
    Aaron V. says:

    Having a child out of wedlock makes capitalism fiercer. It’s fierce enough already.

    Ayn Rand is rolling in her grave hearing you say that, Robert.

    Then again, if we’re simply talking about resources, if two parents are good, three must be better. Ten better yet. Why not have the whole village raise the children, either literally or symbolically?

    Going back to some of your other comments, if you believe that there has to be more backup, then I suppose you’d support people only having to work during hours school is in session, with vacations corresponding to the summer school vacation, and a free pass out of work if the kid gets sick or injured during the day. It’d be better than even the work week and year the French have!

  13. 113
    Robert says:

    La Lubu:
    Single parents are not more likely to have a dysfunctional home than married parents

    I don’t think the evidence supports your position, and I’ll leave it at that.

    Alsis:
    Few things provide better comic relief than the spectacle of self-described “good Christians” suddenly discovering that their own highly distorted view of “evolution” can be used to bolster their own prejudices

    If you can find a post where I describe myself as a good Christian, I will give you my car. It’s a 94 Volvo, in decent shape; you can use it for getting around town, or you can sell it and buy a nice new computer.

    If there are distortions in my view of evolution, I invite you to discuss them. I personally always find it amusing to see the lengths that folks who advocate for the mandatory teaching of evolution will go to in order to avoid having to acknowledge that the process actually has impacts on and implications for the human race; teach, but none of that experiential learning stuff!

    Just so you know for future snark, I’m a Catholic. The Church holds that evolution is not incompatible with our faith, and we’re free to come to our own conclusions about what is most likely to be true. I have serious reservations about some of the grander claims, but the basic mechanisms seem sound enough on conceptual grounds. That means you’re going to have a hard time finding a credible way to mock my faith in an evolutionary context; however, I am certain that you will find a way. I believe in you, Alsis.

    Aaron:
    Ayn Rand is rolling in her grave hearing you say that, Robert.

    Then wrap her coffin in copper wire, put a magnet in her headstone, and use the resulting current to play an infinitely looped MP3 of “I Could Give A Shit”, by the Indifferents.

    if two parents are good, three must be better. Ten better yet.

    If you can find a way to imbue three or ten co-parents with the biological emotional bond that develops in healthy families, within the strictures of Christian sexual morality, I’d be all for it. One such way is the extended family, of course – grandma and grandpa can form the bond pretty easily with new grandbaby. But that’s gone out of fashion.

    I suppose you’d support people only having to work during hours school is in session, with vacations corresponding to the summer school vacation, and a free pass out of work if the kid gets sick or injured during the day

    No. People have to make their own choices; a socialistic model just makes it less expensive to make stupid choices, with the resulting observable declines in productivity and initiative when compared with a sink-or-swim model. “Let’s all be poorer so that some of us won’t be in relatively more difficult circumstances!” Pass.

    However, I would certainly value those options being available to me if I were privately employed, and as I add people to my own burgeoning capitalist mini-empire, family flexibility and leave will be a major portion of the compensation package I choose to offer. In fact, providing jobs for people who need that kind of flexibilityi is one of my primary motivators in not just keeping all the filthy lucre to myself.

  14. 114
    La Lubu says:

    I don’t think the evidence supports your position, and I’ll leave it at that.

    Well, show me the evidence, then. You still haven’t provided me with the stats that show single parents are using fast-food or pre-prepared food more often than married parents. Show me where, all other traits being equal, that single parents are more likely to have a dysfunctional home than married parents.

    And keep in mind that this conversation started off specifically referencing the Indiana bill that was basically about how to prevent lesbian women from accessing sperm banks. How we got to this point in the conversation, is by folks trotting out tired old stereotypes about the big, bad single mother. It’s easier to trot those stereotypes out than to have to cough up and admit that if a single mother is just as emotionally and financially able to raise a child as a married mother, well then—there’s no difference!

    Keep in mind also, that the Indiana bill did not have any language in it about non-technological reproduction by single women, because the old-fashioned way is more likely to be applied by straight women. Now, single mothers are scorned regardless of sexual orientation, but straight women have privilege in this regard. I doubt there will ever be a bill advocating the wresting of newborn children from the womb of single mothers—not because the right-wingers haven’t considered it, but because those right-wingers are just as likely to have their daughters turn out to be single mothers, and they wouldn’t want to see their grandchildren whisked away, never to be seen again….just those other single women’s kids.

    Also, for all the folks who think the main problem is the lack of financial backup in the single parent home—do you also consider married homes where one parent is a breadwinner and the other a homemaker to be a problem? I’ve never heard that; I’ve only heard the version that says “married with one income=a-OK, single with one income=immediate danger.” But they never describe why one version of the one-income scenario is supposedly more financially dangerous than the other.

  15. 115
    alsis39 says:

    There’s a world of difference between discussing evolution as a scientific phenomenon and discussing it as a convenient vehicle in which your own prejudices can be enshrined as inherently “logical” and “scientific” or whatever, Robert. You have flesh and blood single parents here explaining how they live, and you attempt to prove that their existence does not properly jibe with your own view of how society should run by jamming them into a rigid little box that cannot be kicked open because, after all, it’s “science,” not the illogic of that “freak” or “sport,” the single mother.

    I won’t play with you, though I’m sure you’ll find some others that will. Not every species actually lives in a nuclear family, and not every species that does live in some good Christian’s idea of one can be said to live in a way that humans should wish with all our hearts to emulate.

    Oh, and you’re right. Now that I think of it, you described yourself as a “Christian,” but “not a very good one.” Well, I care about investigating the subtle nuances of how that works out for you about as much as I care for watching you dismiss folks like LaLubu because you feel that they are not doing their part to breed the superbabies that will enable us all to rise to the next moral/spiritual plane. So you can keep your car, with my Jew-Atheist blessings. I don’t drive anyway.

  16. 116
    Jesurgislac says:

    Robert: I don’t think the evidence supports your position, and I’ll leave it at that.

    Since you have no evidence at all to support your position, I think leaving it at that is probably the best way for you to depart the argument.

  17. 117
    alsis39 says:

    On a related note, Brutal Women has a recent link to this nifty Guardian article:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/gender/story/0,11812,1590195,00.html

    More and more, when feminists talk about change, the voices of the backlash talk about the impossibility of going against nature. Biology, in the western world, acts almost like the Qur’an in the eastern world – it is the ultimate excuse for why things for women cannot and will not change. In a secular world you are told that inequality rests on nature; and in a religious world you are told that it rests on God’s word… –Natasha Walter

    Or, in Robert’s case, you can play bait-and-switch with Nature and God, or fuse them together, as it suits you.

    BTW, Robert, your anticipation of getting to socially engineer/experiment at your business empire, and its contrast with your call for single moms to find male mates so as to blindly submit themselves to the benign tyranny of Nature, is duly noted. If the inherent rightness of Evolution were so overwhelming, I don’t think that your employees or single moms on the internet would need you to provide either benefits or guidance to them. Surely it would all somehow magically take care of it itself, through the Social Darwinist version of the Invisible Hand.

    I think Ms. Walter may have had just your mindset in mind when she concluded her article with:

    …It’s time to move beyond these neanderthal posturings that pass for debate on the battle of the sexes. Or do we really want women to feel that they have no choice but to live a circumscribed life decided by red-toothed nature, while men are free to roam, and rule, the world?

  18. 118
    RonF says:

    Then you need to express yourself somewhat better. If what you mean is not that kids from single-parent families have behavioral problems, but that you’ve observed behavioral problems among some of the boys you look after which seem to match up to either a recent divorce or an absentee father, then perhaps you need to say so,

    I did, back in post 75.

    But you expressed prejudice against single mothers and children from single-parent homes in posts 29, 38, 41, 49, 66, 76, 77, and 94. Do you wish to retract and apologize for all the ugly, prejudiced comments you made against single parents, and children from single parent homes, in all of those posts, and stand by only your comments in post 75?

    O.K., let’s review the bidding. I stated that I have observed proportionally more behavioral problems in boys from single-parent family homes than from two-parents homes. I was then told that perhaps this is due to my opinion of single-family homes affecting my observations. I countered that (quite legitimate) point by stating that I actually generally don’t know if a boy is from a single-parent family home until he’s been with us a while, and that I often find out what his family situation is after I go to whichever parents shows up to pick him up to talk to them about a disciplinary problem. Now, how do my comments in any other post change that?

    Well, evidently not, since this is post 100, and you’re still expressing your prejudices against single parents, and against children from single parent homes.

    Hm. Predjudices, eh? Let’s see. From Merriam-Webster:

    2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

    Definition 1 had to do with legal judgements. If 2.a.1 means that I already have an opinion on the subject, then I’m guilty as charged. I’m willing to weigh evidence to the contrary, but I do have a basis of observation.

    However, if you’re accusing me more along the lines of 2.a.2 or 2.c, then I’d say you’re wrong; my opinion is based on years of observations. They are not without just grounds or lacking in knowledge, they are certainly not irrational, and the only way they can be called “hostile” is if you think that word means “you don’t agree with me”.

  19. 119
    Jesurgislac says:

    I did, back in post 75.

    Yes: you clarified your earlier much more ugly comments against the children of single parents to establish that what you’d really meant was something rather different.

    Now, how do my comments in any other post change that?

    You made ugly, prejudiced comments in other posts about children from single parent homes. In post 75 you clarify that you don’t actually know that children from single-parent homes have any more problems than children from two-parent homes: you’re basing your prejudice against single parents on your observation that you’ve noticed that boys who act up are boys who have occasion to feel neglected by their fathers.

    my opinion is based on years of observations

    Then why didn’t you cite your years of observations of single parents in post 75, rather than explaining that what you actually meant was that you know nothing about the children of single parents, but you’ve noticed something about boys who feel neglected by their fathers?

    If you are extrapolating from “boys who feel neglected by their fathers” to “all children from any single parent family” then you are prejudiced: you’ve come to a conclusion about a large number of children based on your observations about a different, sometimes overlapping, group of boys.