[PLEASE NOTE that this post includes only one small portion of a lengthy comment thread. DoctorMindBeam is concerned that his views will not be correctly understood; I strongly encourage all my readers to go read the original thread. –Amp]
This is my latest comment in a discussion about “paper abortions,” aka “choice for men,” that I’ve been having with DoctorMindBeam in the comments of No Seriously, What About Teh Menz?, a pro-feminist pro-masculist blog.
The discussion began when DoctorMindBeam wrote:
Hypothetically, if a woman becomes pregnant, and I’m informed within some time window duration (make it the same as allowing her to have an abortion if you like), I think I should be able to sign away my paternal rights in exchange for a lack of financial responsibility.
I responded to DoctorMindBeam, and he then responded to me. What follows is my response to his response to my response. I’ve edited some of my own words, however, because I can’t resist doing that.1
So DoctorMindBeam, quoting me — the bit I wrote is in italics — wrote:
The problem is, the right to child support doesn’t belong to the mother, so she doesn’t have the right (in ordinary circumstances) to sign it away. You’re asking for you and the other parent to have the right to sign the child’s rights away before the child is born. But neither you or she has that right.
I’m not sure with how what you’re saying jives with present reality. Abortion is an equivalent “right to sign the child’s rights away before the child is born.” But we allow that.
If the child is aborted, then it will never be born, and never have any rights to be signed away. So no, it’s not the same thing at all.
One way you can avoid a child having legal claims on your support is to make sure no such child is ever born, through the use of birth control or of abortion. Another way is to wait until the child is old enough and then ask him or her to petition a court for independence. Another is to give the child up for adoption (in which case the child’s claim on its parents remains in force, but the identity of the legal parents has changed).
But what you can’t do is ask the mother to sign away the child’s rights to parental support. Because those rights don’t exist until the child is born, and once the child is born the rights belong to the child, not to the mother.
Another problem with your proposal: If we had your system, men would have a lot less motivation to use birth control, and we’d see an increase in fatherless children.
This is begging the question.
No, it’s not. “Begging the question” refers to a type of circular argument, such as “This comic book is badly drawn because the drawings in it are poorly rendered.” What I just said isn’t begging the question at all; it was pointing out a known, measurable consequence of men having less legal responsibility to take responsibility for their children.
Your logic is that we should make special rules to accommodate fairness for men, because men have less choice than women. But if “we should accommodate most those with the least choice” is the moral standard here, then being fair to the baby — who had far less choice than either of its parents — should logically be a higher priority than being fair to the father.
If you use this logical argument, then you must forbid abortion as well.
Nope, because an embryo isn’t a person. The vast, vast majority of abortions happen before thought is even physically possible (you can’t have thoughts without a functioning cerebral cortex); there is no way to be “unfair” to an embryo, because concepts of fairness and unfairness don’t apply to embryos.
More importantly, I’m not the one endorsing the “the person with the least choice should be catered to” logic; you are. So by your own standards, shouldn’t the needs of the child outweigh the needs of the father?
I know, I know — you’re going to say that since women are allowed to abort, men should be allowed to abandon their own born children.
Here’s what you don’t seem to understand: children aren’t embryos. You’re saying that because women abort embryos, abandonment of born children by their fathers is fine. But that’s nonsense. Once the baby is born, it’s a legal person, and both parents have responsibilities to it.
Your proposal essentially treats the mother and the baby more unfairly in order that the father not take up any burdens whatsoever.
No, my proposal provides a legal protection for an instance in which a mother would use her biological state against a father in an exercise of superior rights. It’s protection.
Your claim doesn’t contradict my claim in any way. I don’t doubt that your proposal would provide a lot of protection to fathers, as you say, and this would avoid some unfairness to fathers. But the price paid is increased unfairness to children and to mothers.
But in the current US, your proposal would mean that we’d make a lot of children suffer a lot so fathers can avoid child support.
That’s begging the question that the mothers would have all chosen to have the children anyway knowing that they would be solely responsible for supporting them.
We already know that states with weak child support laws have higher rates of single motherhood than states with strong child support laws. If you were right — if the amount of child support expected was a significant driver of women’s abortion decisions — then the reality would be just the opposite.
By the way, you keep misusing “begging the question.” I don’t think you know what it means.
What you’re asking for is legalized child abandonment.
No. Don’t put words in my mouth.
That’s not putting words in your mouth; it’s an accurate description of the policy you proposed, which was “…I think I should be able to sign away my paternal rights in exchange for a lack of financial responsibility.” I admit you put some limits on it — so you’re not asking for an unlimited right for fathers to abandon their children — but logically, what you’re describing is legal child abandonment.
Of course, some states arguably have a form of legal child abandonment — “safe haven” laws, in which a newborn baby can be anonymously left at a hospital, police or fire station. But the reason we do that is for the best interest of the children, who might otherwise be abandoned to death, which is why those laws are typically named things like “Infant Protection Act.” And anyway, that’s not really abandoning the baby; it’s actually a form of adoption, in which parental responsibilities aren’t abandoned, but passed on to other people.
What you’re asking for is legal abandonment, not for the best interests of children, but for the best interests of fathers. And what you’re trying to avoid isn’t babies dying in trash cans, but having to pay child support. So I think the case for your proposal is much weaker than the case for safe haven laws.
And a response to something you said in an earlier comment:
I think it’s a double standard to say, “Men, you have to think before you stick your dick in it and man up if shit happens, but women get a way out no matter what.”
No, there’s just one standard. And here it is: Both men and women get to do whatever they want with their own bodies to prevent a child from being born, but neither of them get to do whatever they want to their sexual partner’s body.
So you (and I) have every right to use a condom, to get a vasectomy, to refuse to have PIV sex, and in every other way control what we do with our reproductive organs. And women have every right to use the pill, or other forms of birth control for women, to have their tubes tied, or to have an abortion, and in every other way control what she does with her reproductive organs.
But just as she doesn’t have the right to force me to have a vasectomy, I have no control over if she decides to get an abortion.
Also, women don’t have a way out “no matter what.” Once a child is born, women — like men — have strong legal responsibilities towards their child.
Look, if there’s a standard to get in the NBA which makes it possible for some physically gifted people to get in, and impossible for physically ungifted people like me to get in, that’s not a “double standard.” It’s just one standard — but it’s a standard that gives some people, due to their physical size and talent, options I lack. Abortion is the same thing. Even in a world with “single standards,” people will still have different gifts and abilities.
And it’s not as if it’s all disadvantage for men. As you acknowledged, the same biological differences that give women the abortion option, also give men the ability to become a parent painlessly and without physical risk.
There’s another example of legal child abandonment that I didn’t bring up my response to DMB: sperm and/or egg donation. It’s not really relevant for the discussion with DMB because, since both women and men can donate eggs or sperm, there’s no appearance of a double-standard there.
But it does bring up some questions that are difficult for me — because that is a way that people in our culture can legally have biological children that they not only take no responsibility for, but whose rights are signed away before birth.
My main answer would be that we make an exception to the usual rules to allow sperm donation, egg donation, and also surrogate motherhood, because we think the benefits of allowing those exceptions outweigh the harms.
However, just because we allow that isn’t sufficient to show that we should allow “Choice For Men.” Instead, we have to ask: Would the benefits of “Choice For Men” outweigh the harms? I seriously doubt they would.
Finally, I might favor “Choice For Men” in a society in which all costs of child-rearing were socialized, so that there wouldn’t be any economic penalty to children due to father-abandonment. And further support services, for both custodial parents and for kids, would probably be in order. But we’re not in a society like that, alas.
- I haven’t edited anything that DoctorMindBeam was responding to, only the new words that he hasn’t read yet. [↩]