“Choice For Men” aka “Paper Abortions” Are Legal Child Abandonment. And Abortion Rights Are Not A Double-Standard.

[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]

[Crossposted on Alas and on TADA. Anti-feminists, “feminist critics,” and MRAs, if you have comments, please leave them on TADA, not on Alas.]

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.

  1. I haven’t edited anything that DoctorMindBeam was responding to, only the new words that he hasn’t read yet. []
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36 Responses to “Choice For Men” aka “Paper Abortions” Are Legal Child Abandonment. And Abortion Rights Are Not A Double-Standard.

  1. 1
    Doug S. says:

    Interestingly, a court in Oklahoma (I think) ruled that, because it’s the child, not the mother, who is entitled to support, having been raped does not excuse a father from the responsibility of paying child support. (In this particular case, the father in question was below the age of consent, therefore any sexual intercourse must been statutory rape. The mother was never actually charged with statutory rape and so retained custody of the child.) So, in principle, a man could be forced to have intercourse at gunpoint and then be legally required to support any resulting children. (Not that this happens very often, mind…)

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    And that’s a case in which I think the benefits of allowing an exception are large enough so an exception should be made. I’m all in favor of a law saying that someone who becomes a parent through rape should be able to legally renounce parenthood.

    But as you say, that’s not the usual case.

  3. 3
    chingona says:

    There are certain kinds of unfairness that simply cannot be gotten around. Men who feel upset that they cannot get out of child support can take solace in the fact that they have zero risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth.

    And yeah, I’d make an exception for that rape case. I’d heard of that one before, and I feel like that decision could only happen in a world that doesn’t think women can *really* rape men.

    I think the egg and sperm donation are more like adoption. First of all, when the donation happens, there is no child, only the potential for one. Second of all, if a child is created and born, it will have parents who owe it support.

  4. 4
    james says:

    But what you can’t do is ask the mother to sign away the child’s rights to parental support… the rights belong to the child, not to the mother…

    I think the main justification for child support is that the world is a better place if we take money from non-custodial parents and give it custodial parents.

    You can say the child has a right to parental support, but in reality the system doesn’t remotely work like that. There’s no fiduciary aspect to the law – it’s a direct claim the custodial parent has on the non-custodial parent. Then there’s all sorts of exclusions in terms of gamete donation, safe haven laws and adoption (step-parent adoption is the killer example here: men routinely agree with the mother to sign away paternal rights in exchange for a lack of financial responsibility in that case). And the law isn’t too fussed about biology and does obligate non-biological parents to provide child support in some cases.

    The children have a right to be supported by their parents line is just so divorced from the actual law on the topic that I just don’t think it’s worth bothering with.

  5. 5
    Blue says:

    I can simplify this – abortion is birth control. Both men and women have the right to use available forms of birth control. Those forms are dependent on the sex of the person. A man can’t tell a woman “If you don’t use an IUD, I won’t support any children we conceive” so therefore he can’t tell her he won’t support the child if she doesn’t have an abortion. He, on the other hand, does have the right to use condoms, spermicide, vasectomy, etc.

  6. 6
    Dianne says:

    So, in principle, a man could be forced to have intercourse at gunpoint and then be legally required to support any resulting children.

    I would think that the usual end result of that scenario would be that the mother would be in prison, the child in protective custody, and the father able to chose whether to claim custody or relinquish custody and make the child available for adoption. But I could be wrong. Lawyers?

    Even so, I expect that the law is equivalent for women. If a woman becomes pregnant and then is held prisoner for 9 months until she delivers (in this scenario the father has nothing to do with her imprisonment and perhaps has actively tried to rescue her), she is still responsible for the child after it is born and can only relinquish rights if the father agrees to do so as well (i.e. if the baby is put up for adoption.)

  7. 7
    Dianne says:

    Realistically, from a man’s point of view, he has an orgasm and 9 or so months later a baby appears. He has no obligations between the orgasm and the birth. Nor does the pregnancy affect him in any way unless he chooses to let it do so. He can simply walk away from the woman he made pregnant and she has no legal recourse or right to demand support.

    The only obligation of the father is to the child after it is born. This obligation he shares with the mother. In principle, the obligation is equal. If he refuses to relinquish parental rights and demands to raise the child, the mother can not place the child for adoption (and the child can be removed from its adoptive parents if it has already been placed) and she is liable for child support. Just as he would be if she wanted to keep the child but he didn’t.

    The reality is that the average woman makes less money than the average man and there are more single mothers raising children than single fathers raising children so that most of the time the man will be the one paying, but the legal responsibilities are, as far as I know, the same.

  8. 8
    Dianne says:

    (Final comment in a row, I promise.)

    I agree with Blue re abortion and birth control. Yeah, it stinks that men can’t use abortion as birth control and can have a period of 9 or so months when they know they’re going to have a baby soon and there’s nothing they can do about it. It also stinks that women can’t undergo permanent sterilization without intraabdominal surgery and that tubal ligation isn’t as reversible as vasectomy usually is. But that’s biology for you and trying to address the problem legally will only result in laws that will make our descendents laugh at how foolish we were.

  9. 9
    Heather Freeman says:

    “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.”

    “…the same biological differences that give women the abortion option, also give men the ability to become a parent painlessly and without physical risk.”

    The above quotes in particular are very good logical points that I need to remember. Related point: fair and equal are often not the same thing.

  10. 10
    james says:

    Dianne – the law’s complicated and varies from place to place. But most places give the father an obligation to pay medical bills and other reasonable costs relating to the pregnancy. Most places also give married fathers and unmarried fathers substantially different rights – and it can be very hard for an unmarried father to establish paternity and parental rights such that he can contest an adoption. There’s also the de facto reality that the mother automatically gets custody at birth – and that can be exploited to use adoption and safehaven laws. Courts won’t remove a child from adoptive parents unless they think it’s in the best interests of the child – biology and parental rights don’t mean anything – and you can ensure what that will be by establishing facts on the ground.

  11. 11
    mythago says:

    I’m all in favor of a law saying that someone who becomes a parent through rape should be able to legally renounce parenthood.

    In my state, and I presume we’re not the only one, someone who becomes a parent through rape has all parental rights and responsibilities severed by law. If you rape somebody and a child results, you are never that child’s legal parent.

    The case Doug is talking about happened not because a sexist court said “Tough, rape victim, pay up, we don’t care,” but because the law hadn’t caught up with the awareness that men can be raped (particularly that statutory rape applies to male victims too) – and so there was no provision in the law severing parental rights and responsibilities if the child was conceived in such a situation. IIRC that decision was reversed and the law subsequently changed. Was it a horrible thing? Yes, but it’s not the case that “omg you can rape a man and keep the baby and he pays for it”.

  12. 12
    mythago says:

    But most places give the father an obligation to pay medical bills and other reasonable costs relating to the pregnancy.

    [citation needed]

  13. 13
    Emma B says:

    OT, Dianne, but women can undergo permanent sterilization without surgery. Essure is an in-office procedure, which I considered for myself but rejected because I needed a laparoscopy for other reasons. Also, tubal ligations themselves are not as reversible as vasectomies, but you can undergo IVF instead of a reversal. Depending on the situations, IVF may be more successful than long-term vasectomy reversal.

    To get a tiny bit more topical, autonomy was the key reason why I chose to have a tubal rather than asking my husband to have a vasectomy. I knew that I personally did not want to have another pregnancy no matter what, but I didn’t want to ask him to give up all possibility of future children if our marital circumstances ever changed through death or divorce. If he felt strongly about never fathering children again, I would of course support him in his choice to have a vasectomy as well, but I didn’t feel it was right for me to ask him to give up future options simply to control MY fertility.

    On the subject of abortion vs legal child abandonment, I think DoctorMindBeam is missing the point of abortion: not to be subjected to the physical risks of pregnancy and childbirth for a child you don’t intend to parent. If it were simply a way to choose not to be a parent, abortion would be outlawed in five minutes flat, because you could just give the baby up for adoption instead.

  14. 14
    Auguste says:

    I think DoctorMindBeam is missing the point of abortion: not to be subjected to the physical risks of pregnancy and childbirth for a child you don’t intend to parent.

    Very good point. For my money, I’d tweak it to “physical and emotional risks.”

  15. 15
    Dianne says:

    But most places give the father an obligation to pay medical bills and other reasonable costs relating to the pregnancy. Most places also give married fathers and unmarried fathers substantially different rights – and it can be very hard for an unmarried father to establish paternity and parental rights such that he can contest an adoption.

    I agree with mythago that citations are needed for both these statements. I don’t know of any laws requiring men to support a pregnancy, but am not a lawyer and by no means up on such things so could easily be wrong.

    As far as establishing paternity, in New York state, the law holds that if a man acknowledges a child as his-the wording is very staid, something like, “holds it out to the world as his own”- then it is his legitimate child, regardless of his and the mother’s marital status. A genetic test can also establish paternity. Note that only one of the two is needed, not both. In short, it doesn’t seem all that hard.

  16. 16
    mythago says:

    It is true (unless the law has changed recently) that in Oregon, if an unmarried father does not affirmatively support the pregnancy, he loses his right to challenge an adoption; I don’t know if this support actually has to be financial or if moral support and affirming his paternity is enough.

    Dianne, I think what you’re referring to is a ‘presumed father’. California has a similar law. That doesn’t trump biological fatherhood, but if a man holds a child out as his, lets the child live in his home, and a few other things I’m probably forgetting, then he has a foothold to paternity, even if he could not possibly be the biological dad.

  17. 17
    Siobhan says:

    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.

    That would be my idea solution right there. But then their tax money would be going to support other peoples’ children, and most of the Men’s Rights advocates I’ve spoken to don’t want that either.

  18. 18
    allburningup says:

    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.

    To me, the very notion that people are obligated to pay for their “own” children but not other children smacks of a “children are chattel” attitude. You can’t expect other people to pay to maintain your property! You’re the one getting the use of your children, so you have to pay for their upkeep!

    I feel that I have a moral obligation to make sure that all children are materially provided for, simply because they are children and I am an adult.

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  20. 19
    AMM says:

    FWIW, men’s responsibility to support children they sire, even unintentionally, cuts both ways. There are women who would be happy to give up the child support if they could also get their child’s sire out of their lives — I had an argument a few years ago with the author of the Feminist Law Professors on the subject. So it’s not as though the pain is entirely on one side.

    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. — (OP)

    I don’t see this as an exception. The point of the law is to insure that someone is legally responsible for providing for the child. In all these cases, by the time the child is born, somebody(s) is responsible for providing for him/her: just not the biological parents. It’s the same principle as adoption.

    To me, the very notion that people are obligated to pay for their “own” children but not other children smacks of a “children are chattel” attitude. … I feel that I have a moral obligation to make sure that all children are materially provided for, simply because they are children and I am an adult. — (allburningup)

    This turns out to be impractical. If everyone’s responsible, nobody will feel responsible. Viz.: litter on the sidewalk. Hence, the law assigns responsibility for each child to one or two people. (Sometimes, even two is too many :-( )

    The law initially goes after the natural parents because it is through their actions that the child was conceived; if they didn’t want the responsibility, they had the option of not conceiving the child. And, yes, that means, if necessary, not having sex in the first place — I don’t believe that people have a God-given right to have sex without having to worry about the consequences.

  21. 20
    mythago says:

    AMM @19: It is an exception, in the sense that the default is that both biological parents have shared rights and responsibilities, but certain exceptions are carved out (for example, for gamete donors), and in some cases those rights and responsibilities may be shifted to others (for example, adoption).

    This is why I proposed an “opt-in” as an alternative to the current setup, but I find that men’s rights activists generally do not like this and want an “opt out” instead; they don’t generally have a good logical reason, but feel emotionally that this is somehow ‘wrong’, either because it does not closely mirror abortion or because they believe it makes fatherhood insignificant. I personally feel these are kind of silly, particularly if “opt-in” only exists outside of marriage. As you say, plenty of men don’t want to be fathers not because they are worried about child support, but because they do not want to be a father.

  22. 21
    DoctorMindBeam says:

    Amp,

    I have to confess, I’m a little dismayed that you reposted that single portion of the exchange here, without my consent, out of the context of the rest of the discussion, and away from the criticisms you received from others at NSWATM as well. As you know, I already replied to this comment of yours over there, as well. If you’d like to discuss this via email, please feel free to write me. But I feel that you’ve mischaracterized my views and taken them out of context.

  23. 22
    Ampersand says:

    DMB, I am sorry you’re dismayed. But I don’t see how I’ve distorted your views at all. Can you tell me what essential part of your view I left out? That’s not a sarcastic question, I really do want to know.

    With all due respect, it’s standard practice for one blogger to quote another on their own blog, as part of either a new or an ongoing disagreement, and without asking for permission. It’s also standard practice to quote representative sections, rather than quoting every single word.

    At the time I posted this, you hadn’t responded to me (in fact, it hadn’t yet been posted). I provided a link to your original comment, and I quoted every single word of the comment I was responding directly to.

    Since then, you did indeed respond to me at NSWATM, and I appreciate that. But as you know, a moderator at NWSATM (who I have great respect for — his blog is one of my favorites) then pointed out that the whole discussion was completely off-topic, so I’m not posting on that thread anymore. If you’d like to repost your entire response here, of course you’d be welcome to.

    And, again, I’m sorry that you’re dismayed. That certainly was never my intent.

  24. 23
    DoctorMindBeam says:

    Amp,

    Briefly, with all due respect, you’ll need to see the entire thread that you didn’t quote if you want to see the remainder of my views that you didn’t cite. As a cofounder and administrator-moderator of NSWATM, I’m well aware of one of our contributors’ requests regarding the thread, and I think it was correct. As I said, I would be happy to discuss this with you via email.

    You might consider an addendum noting that you have excerpted only one tiny portion of the overall conversation.

  25. 24
    Ampersand says:

    DMB: Addendum gladly added, at the top of my post.

  26. 25
    Phil says:

    Amp, this isn’t an argument, it’s just an observation, because I think I agree with you on this issue. However, you write:

    [...]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.

    And also:

    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.

    Something about that reasoning seems illogical to me. I cannot imagine that you would agree with the idea that the child exists before it is born, or with the characterization of an embryo as a “future child,” such that the embryo already has the rights that we would accord a child–in particular, the right to life.

    But you seem to be making the argument that the right to child support exists before the child exists, such that a man who has caused a child to be conceived already has a legal obligation toward the future child, as opposed to having a legal obligation to the mother. It just seems…odd to make an argument that hinges on the idea that rights that don’t exist yet cannot be terminated, but a child that doesn’t exist yet can. The ticking clock of “the child is going to exist, and when that happens, he or she will have a right to your support; therefore you cannot terminate those rights now” seems awfully similar to the ticking clock of “the child is going to be born, and when that happens, he or she will have a right to life; therefore you cannot terminate that right now.”

  27. 26
    Phil says:

    I wrote a comment about this, but it got caught in the spam filter. So, I’m not going to include a link. But, basically, I tried to find a credible source to find out the current legal obligations that male victims of rape have toward the children that result from rape.

    The best I could find so far is from the Winter 2002 Georgia Law Review. It seems consistent with the theory that the right to child support is a right that the child has, not a right that the mother has:

    In holding Nathaniel J., a statutory rape victim, financially liable for child support, the California Court of Appeal joined other courts across the country that have held that a male victim of statutory rape can be forced to pay child support for a child resulting from his victimization. Without exception, appellate courts have held that while the criminal law deems minors incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse, family law can hold victims financially liable for children conceived during a criminal act.

  28. 27
    mythago says:

    Phil @26: As a result of cases like that one (which, as I recall, was hastily undone by the state legislature), the law has changed since 2002. I don’t know that it has changed in every state, although it should.

    re @25, I don’t see the contradiction. If there is no child yet, then how can the mother sign away rights that do not exist? If the child does exist (pro-life view), then the child has rights and the mother still can’t sign them away.

    And may I say I’m fucking sick of the argument being about child support, as if that’s the only or even the most important consideration in parenthood, or as if the parent who pays child support is always, always paying at least 50% of the child’s expenses.

  29. 28
    Dianne says:

    @ phil in 26: What I don’t understand about the case referenced is why the woman who raped the underaged boy in this case isn’t in prison and unable to sue for child support.

    I also note that the ruling does not say anything about the gender of the victims who can be held financially liable for a child conceived during a criminal act. So in principle a 15 year old girl who has a baby as a result of intercourse with a 45 year old man and then, for whatever reason, gives him the baby to raise can be sued for child support as much as a boy in a similar circumstance. So, again, I don’t see how it’s a double standard.

  30. 29
    Phil says:

    Mythago @27–You’re probably right about the law changing since 2002. But I haven’t been able to find any credible sources for that yet.

    My intent was to use “child support” is an alternate term for the “financial responsibility” that DoctorMindBeam was talking about in his original comments. I didn’t mean to imply that child support=parenthood, although it is probably the most prominent obligation that advocates of paper abortions are concerned with.

    Dianne @28–I haven’t found evidence of a double standard in practice, unless you accept the logic that a girl who is raped can choose to abort the embryo, but a boy who is raped cannot. But either way, it supports the notion that the parental obligations to the child are a right that the child has, not the custodial parent.

  31. 30
    figleaf says:

    Phil @26 and Mythago @27: That abstract has showed up often enough around the blogosphere that I finally did the unthinkable and paid actual money for the full text behind the paywall.

    Best $12.95 I’ve spent all year!

    The author, Pacific University’s Ruth Jones, is a bona fide feminist law professor (former NOW Legal Defense Fund lawyer too) and wow does she eviscerate the idea that male victims of either statutory (the Nathaniel J. case) or for that matter other kind of rape should be obliged to pay child support.

    It’s a great article. She reads the different side’s opinions and interpretations with good-will assumption, balances them against other case law, invokes (perhaps ironically for skeptics of feminism) the radical feminist case for equality of results over the classic-liberal feminist case for simple formal equality of input. She also (correctly) identifies myriad ways that despite the facade of “equal treatment” statutory rape law is almost entirely about prevention of teen pregnancy and is thus incredibly poorly equipped to provide justice for male victims.

    Further note: with the possible exception of California the laws and resulting court decisions that hold male victims responsible for child support tend to be in decidedly feminist-unfriendly states like Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    Anyway, in the case at hand Jones emphatically dismisses the California appeals court’s contention that just because Nathaniel J. admitted that he’d had an ongoing romantic as well as physical relationship with his statutory rapist, and because he admitted he’d enjoyed the relationship, that he was no “innocent victim” and should thus be held liable to reimburse the state for public child support. (Note: at no point was there any question that he’d provide child support directly to his convicted assailant.)

    Cool paragraphs (emphasis mine)

    Legislators have addressed the consequences of female victimization by including punishment when pregnancy results and by allowing male offenders to avoid prosecution if they marry the victim. While these remedies do not necessarily address sufficiently the wants and needs of female victims, they do demonstrate the legislative belief that the law should intervene on behalf of female victims of statutory rape. The law not only shifts the responsibility to the adult male to avoid intercourse with adolescents but also mitigates the consequences of teenage sexuality and pregnancy on female victims. Since men do not become pregnant, and there is no expectation that the female offender will do “the honorable thing” and marry and financially support the male victim, these remedies completely fail to address the unique harm caused to male victims.

    Even in the absence of general government support, a male statutory rape victim’s status as a victim is a sufficient reason for the state to bear the cost of supporting a child resulting from statutory rape. Government support of children resulting from statutory rape is consistent with the social policy of mitigating the harm to crime victims. Every state has a law authorizing compensation for crime victims, indicating that legislatures do not believe these persons should have to bear the financial costs of their victimization. These laws have been justified by the failure of the state to protect its citizens from crime, by the “shared risk” theory in which all citizens share the cost and risk of victimization, and by the “moral obligation” theory, in which the state has a moral responsibility toward crime victims.

    and, of course,

    Male statutory rape victims have also been penalized because they do not fit the gendered paradigm of child support laws. Although today’s child support laws are gender neutral, they have primarily been drafted and interpreted to create rigid standards for child support liability to compensate for the relative ease with which male parents may abandon their parenting responsibilities. Courts have held that the act of intercourse, even if encouraged by fraud or deceit by the mother, is a sufficient basis to impose liability for child support. The rationale for this standard is that even if a man has been deceived about aspects of a relationship, such as the use of birth control, he nonetheless has agreed to engage in sexual intercourse and thereby assumes the risk of any consequences. This rationale lacks merit when applied to adolescent males whose consent to intercourse may have been obtained by an adult exploiting the inexperience of an adolescent or abusing her position of authority.

    Anyway, what I like most about Jones’s article is that it correctly moves the problem away from the realm of a quirky edge case and puts it solidly in the realm of statutory protection for minor children from sexual exploitation by adults.

    I’d add that in her analysis Jones points out that repeated litigation to prevent shirking of paternal responsibility by (typically adult) unwed fathers is the source of patently absurd findings against victims of child sexual assault (statutory and otherwise.) I would suggest that the initiative to validate “paper abortions” would therefore tend to exacerbate rather than relieve draconian paternity laws and thus outrageous findings against male victims like Nathaniel J. And for that reason, in terms of the “paper abortion” debate the Nathaniel J. case, while absolutely and irrefutably outrageous and wrong, has approximately zero relevance to the “paper abortion” question.

    figleaf

  32. Pingback: Choice For Men « Traditional Christianity

  33. 31
    John says:

    The closets analogy to legal abortions for men is the adoption analogy. Women can put a child up for adoption without the consent of the father. If she doesn’t feel that she will get it, she’ll simply claim that she doesn’t know who the father is. I don’t see why the mother should have the authority to waive the father’s rights. In the case of a legal abortion, the father would simply be waiving his rights to the mother. That should be fine unless we want to argue that adoption should be restricted to couples only, but why can’t parenting be restricted to couples only? We let single mothers conceive through artificial insemination. Why wouldn’t we have a fitness test for parents? Personally I don’t believe that men have a right to a legal abortion, but I also believe that women should pay child support to adoptive parents if they didn’t get the father’s consent to the adoption. Child support is for the benefit of the child after all and should function as partial restitution for the loss of the biological father.

  34. 32
    Janet Dell says:

    There are those in the thread that men have the same choices before sex as women to control their reproductive destiny and decide if they will be responsible for a child (financially). That view simply does jive with reality. If a man chooses not to have sex and his sperm is somehow obtained by a woman and is used to impregnate herself the man is legally and financially responsible for that child. The so-called choice simply does exist.

    To use an analogy: If a store says that they are offering a product free , and when you go to pick it up, you find that you have to pay various handling fees, sorry but the product isn’t free anymore despite the advertisement that it is. Same as this, saying that men are free to chose and then making them responsible even when they chose not to have sex, means they really never had a free choice.

  35. 33
    Blue says:

    Janet – do you have any real-world examples of this?

  36. 34
    mike D says:

    I have been discussing this issue with privileged men who see things only from the perspective of the “victimized” male. This article was an incredible resource for that discussion and to supplement and articulate my thoughts on the issue. Much appreciated, well done.