Why Choice For Men is Wrong

At Unequally Yoked, a reader writes in:

As a pro-choicer do you believe a man should have the right to opt out of parental responsibilities? It seems that if a woman has the right to choose whether or not she is to become a parent then a man should have that same right as well. Not trying to be a jerk just wondering if any pro-choicers have thought about this. Why should a man be held responsible for a choice he didn’t make?

He didn’t ask me, but I’ll respond anyway. :-)

I think that men and women should both have the absolute, non-negotiable right to do whatever they want with their own bodies to prevent pregnancy. So men and women both have the right to abstain from sex, to have sex but abstain from penis-in-vagina sex, to use whatever birth control on their own body that they want, etc.. Absolutely equal.

I also believe that once a child is born, both parents, regardless of sex, are responsible for that child. If they both agree to give the child up for adoption, then that’s fine; if either one of them wants to raise the child, then the other one should pay child support. Again, absolutely equal.

The inequality that exists is that women can get pregnant and men can’t; but that inequality is created by biology, not by biased laws. Arguably, this gives women an advantage (they can choose an abortion, and because they can keep a pregnancy secret from the father). But it also gives women a lot of disadvantages — even a pregnancy that goes well is physically and mentally stressful for most women, and if the pregnancy doesn’t go well it can be many months of suffering, and possibly even permanent injury or death. Men don’t face that problem.

So there is a biological inequality there; but it disadvantages women and men both.

The “choice for men” position also causes practical problems that legal abortion does not.

1) Studies have found that the weaker a state’s child support laws, the higher the number of single mothers.

If weak child support laws lead to an increase in single motherhood, then what would a law saying that men bear absolutely no responsibility do? We’d have an explosion of single motherhood, way worse than what we’ve already seen. That’s not a problem caused by legal abortion, but it is a problem that would be caused by giving men a “get out parental responsibility free” card.

2) When a woman has an abortion, the fetus dies before ever becoming a person (in virtually all abortions, including most late-term abortions, the brain’s cerebral cortex isn’t even functioning yet, due to the lack of dendritic spines). In contrast, deadbeat parents cause deprivation and suffering to existing, real people with functioning brains.

To sum up:

The pro-choice status quo is one in which women and men are legally equal, when it comes to reproduction. The inequality that exists is caused by biology, not unequal laws, and disadvantages both sexes, not only men. And unlike legal abortion, so-called “choice for men” would have very bad consequences for both society and for children.

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324 Responses to Why Choice For Men is Wrong

  1. 1
    Avram says:

    It seems to me that a man asking for the right to sever child support is seeking control over his relation to other people, the ability to alienate himself from his progeny; while a woman asking for the right to end a pregnancy is seeking control over her own body, the ability to not be alienated from herself.

  2. 2
    rox says:

    I am both an adoptee and a biological parent. This is great. Most biological mothers I know wanted to keep their children to begin with.

    I think the idea that carrying a child made out of your body and bonding with that little being and going through the birthing process and loving that little being with all your heart and wanting them forever and ever– and then letting other people walk off with your new born child–

    The idea that that is something that benefits most women in any real way is a complete joke. I have only rarely run into women who truly wanted rid of their offspring and responsability. The basic premis of adoption is that a mother really desperately wants her child, but there is an obstacle in the way of parenting: and also richer better people upstaging her.

    Most women don’t leap at the opportunity to carry a child for someone else— have you seen the costs surrogates charge? Because it fucks you up. Most women don’t want to lose their children and will only allow their child to be adopted if they have a team of social workers and adoption counselors/websites telling them how much better off their child will be.

    I would be fine with adoption being done away with entirely unless the parents prove themselves criminally negligent to their children in which case, they get a criminal record and have to face the realiy they are shitty people who abandoned a child. “Not want to parent” is absolutely no excuse for abandoning a child. Feeling like there is a BETTER situation for your child and allowing them to go to the better situation despite wanting to be there for them with all your heart is different than just not giving a shit about your own child.

  3. 3
    2ndnin says:

    Isn’t the biological argument a little hard to consider though when we make other laws to restrict the effects of biology on our lives?

    The obvious example is maternity leave – employers are legislated to provide for this biological necessity because we feel that forcing women to utilise holidays or be fired for becoming pregnant is unfair. We go beyond this to guarantee job availability afterward and punish abuses such as considering the time off to be equivalent to a sabbatical (the motherhood pay gap is significantly reduced when compared to men with similar absence rates).

    We put many laws in place to stop biology being a significant factor so why not here. The obvious option seems to be assume men have a freehand and opt in for their lifetime.

  4. 4
    EasilyEnthused says:

    I understand your stance here, Amp. But hopefully I can sum up why you are wrong here.

    I, personally, have had a handful of sexual partners in years past whom I did not keep in contact with. We used protection, but that protection could’ve failed – without tracking down those women, I have no way of knowing.

    Now, I’m married and preparing to have a child with my wife in the coming years. Having enough money to provide food, clothes, medical care and an education to my child or children is paramount to me. They will always get my love and attention – it is my responsibility to make sure that my wife and I provide for them financially as well.

    The reality is that any and all of those past sexual partners who may have gotten pregnant and decided to keep the child a secret from me (or may have been unable to find me) and carry the fetus to term may now show up on my doorstep – and be awarded money that is going directly into the mouths and onto the backs of the children I planned for and CHOSE to have.

    If you think that the above scenario (which is a creation of our child support LAWS, not biology) is just, please explain how.

    Reiterating: A man’s children he chose to have can be negatively impacted by the choices of a woman he had sex with in the past.

    (I don’t comment here often, but I thought I could succinctly point out why I think you are wrong here. I would’ve posted to the debate annex, but I didn’t see this post there. Apologies if I screwed up some how.)

  5. 5
    Eytan Zweig says:

    EasilyEnthused – when you had sex with your past partners, weren’t you aware that the protection was not infallible? I’m assuming you were, and you chose to have sex anyway, but even if you weren’t, that just means you were doing something potentially life-changing without taking the time to understand it first. It’s not like there has been a campaign of misinformation arguing that contraceptives are 100% effective that has only recently been disproven, or something. At least in my lifetime (approaching my 35th birthday), most information I’ve had about contraceptives tended to err on the side of caution.

    I think that any attempt to have sex is an acceptance of the risks involved, including an unwanted pregnancy and STDs, neither of which can be 100% prevented.

    That said, I agree with you that you may not be aware of the outcomes. A woman is capable of hiding a pregnancy from a man. And I agree that in some cases, situations may arise that are unfair to the man involved. Now, let me first point out that in extreme cases (see the recent thread of raped men), I think that there may be grounds for an exception from parental responsibility; but these are not the cases I’m talking about. In cases where both partners consented to sex, I think that both partners consented to the risk of pregnancy. If the woman, for whatever reason, then chooses (or is forced to) conceal the information of the pregnancy from the man, then, well, that sucks. Really sucks. And I do understand why a man in that situation may find the need to support the child unpleasant. But hey, the world’s not fair. The goal of the legal system is not to ensure that everyone feels good. It is to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected. And when the choice is between the rights of a child who had no say in being born, and the rights of a man who took a cosentual gamble against pregnancy (no matter the odds) and lost – well, I’d go with the child, every time. And I say this as a man who is very much in the same situation as you (I am engaged, am planning future children, and have had past sexual partners I am not in touch with who could have hidden a pregnancy from me).

    As for the future children – you’re right, they might be adversly affected by the situation. But the fact is that the choices of parents – whether or not they happened in a child’s lifetime – may affect them. If a man commits a murder and manages to elude capture, then starts a family and years later is brought to justice – well, that will likely have pretty terrible effects on his children’s life, way worse than the child support case. Should the laws then be rewritten to prevent prosecution in this cases? I doubt most people would agree to that ( I wouldn’t), even though objectively the price is higher on the children and the tangible benefit to anyone of the prosecution is far lower.

    On a side note, I find it telling (as a generael phenomenon – I want to stress that this statement, unlike the above, is not directed at any specific poster) that this issue (allowing men to avoid unwanted child support) gets *so* much more attention than the complementary issue – the fact that a man may wish to be involved with his children but be denied that because he isn’t aware of their existence. I find the latter scenario far more chilling (though I support women’s right to make that choice, as well, at least in the general case).

  6. 6
    chingona says:

    @ 2ndnin … The same laws that allow for unpaid maternity leave also allow for unpaid paternity leave and they apply to people who bring children into their families through adoption as much as to people who bring children into their families through birth. I don’t think the argument you are making would make much sense even if we only gave maternity leave to women who gave birth, but you are also wrong on the facts.

  7. 7
    EasilyEnthused says:

    @Eytan Zweig (cool name, by the way)

    I don’t think that I will be able to change your or Amp’s mind on this issue – I just want to explain how a reasonable (I think I’m being reasonable) person can disagree with that stance.

    I want to highlight just two of your points to hopefully emphasize why we’re not going to agree here:

    “But hey, the world’s not fair. The goal of the legal system is not to ensure that everyone feels good. It is to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.”

    I believe that the “rights that are protected” include a person’s right to engage in PIV sex without fear of having to support a child for 18 years afterwards. This is a legal right that must be extended to both men and women.

    When I signed up for the Pro-Choice movement – it was made VERY clear to me that women may have an abortion for any and all reasons. They might be afraid of the pain of childbirth – that’s a valid reason. They might not feel emotionally ready to be a mother. They may be financially unable to support the child. These are all valid reasons.

    As long as women can say “I am not going to have a child because I can’t afford one – but I still am going to engage in PIV sex which is the only way I can orgasm …” men deserve the EXACT same right. Anything else is not gender egalitarianism.

    Secondly:

    If a man commits a murder and manages to elude capture, then starts a family and years later is brought to justice – well, that will likely have pretty terrible effects on his children’s life, way worse than the child support case. Should the laws then be rewritten to prevent prosecution in this cases?

    You may disagree, but I consider “committing a crime” and “consensual sex” to be different things – and equating them in your analogy is horrendous. Feel free to try another analogy.

    Endnote: Before anyone here writes me off as a monster who does not care about children – I support much more government-funded support of children of men who have decided to opt-out of care for the child. I do not want children to go hungry, unclothed or lacking medical care – regardless of the situation out of which they were born from. All I am petitioning for is a real, legal, “safety valve” (like habeas corpus) for men to apply for to escape unfair child support payments.

  8. 8
    2ndnin says:

    At least in the UK the system is asymmetric supporting maternity leave for a longer duration than paternity leave and no option to give an equivalent reverse split. At least from the gov docs I read a bit ago there is also little to no provision for an unpaid paternity leave extension the same way there is for maternity leave. So no I am not wrong on the facts our laws provide compensation for biology in an asymmetric way already.

    The exact example I give is becoming weaker since there is a push here to neutralise the laws however they are still likely to be asymmetric no matter how small to account for biology. This means that doing so for other areas such as parental / child rights would not be without precedent.

  9. 9
    mythago says:

    I believe that the “rights that are protected” include a person’s right to engage in PIV sex without fear of having to support a child for 18 years afterwards.

    Why do you believe this putative right trumps the right of a born child to the financial and legal support of its parents? (And while PIV intercourse is probably the most common way of conceiving a child, it’s certainly not required.)

    The “it may impact my current children” argument, frankly, strikes me as an attempt to hide behind one’s children because it’s more sympathetic that way. The reality is that the child you fathered on a casual sexual partner is just as much your child as the one you fathered on your wife. If we’re going to argue that later children’s interests trump those of earlier children, then why can’t parents simply stop paying support whenever they please? “I don’t like your father anymore, kiddo, sayonara”?

    Allowing men to opt out does not give men the ‘exact same right’ as women. What it does is give men superior rights that women don’t possess. A woman’s obligations to her born child do not depend on whether she had access to abortion, or consented to the act that led to conception, or diligently used birth control. (The right to have an abortion, as you know, simply means that the government may not restrict abortion in certain circumstances. It doesn’t mean an entitlement.)

    As I’ve said elsewhere, if we are going to implement a legal scheme that overturns the default of obligation to a biological child, then the only fair approach is an opt-in system, not an opt-out system.

  10. 10
    2ndnin says:

    Mythango, doesn’t the right to a single party adoption already provide that equivalent right to women in a way it can’t to men except in the case of maternal death or some diminished capability law?

  11. 11
    Eytan Zweig says:

    @Easilyenthused

    I don’t think that I will be able to change your or Amp’s mind on this issue – I just want to explain how a reasonable (I think I’m being reasonable) person can disagree with that stance.

    Well, it depends on what you mean by “reasonable”, really. If you mean “makes a coherent argument while showing reasonable respect to their interlocuter” then yes, your position is one a reasonable person may take, as you yourself exemplify. If you mean “it’s possible to reason with them”, then being reasonable is incompatible with “we’re never going to agree” – but that works both ways, as by that criteria I’m probably unreasonable too.

    I believe that the “rights that are protected” include a person’s right to engage in PIV sex without fear of having to support a child for 18 years afterwards. This is a legal right that must be extended to both men and women.

    Yes, you’re right, we’re not going to agree here. To make it clear – I not only don’t think that that is a right that needs to be protected, I don’t think that that is, or even can be, a right at all. No one has, or should have, a right for consequence free action. I believe that people have a right against limitations put on their choices, but that’s not the same as having a right to be free to the consequences of my choices. I have the right to choose to eat as much fatty food that I want, I don’t have the right to eat fatty food and not get high cholesterol.

    When I signed up for the Pro-Choice movement – it was made VERY clear to me that women may have an abortion for any and all reasons. They might be afraid of the pain of childbirth – that’s a valid reason. They might not feel emotionally ready to be a mother. They may be financially unable to support the child. These are all valid reasons.

    Yes, they are; the difference is that these are rights to terminate a pregnancy, not rights to avoid parental responsibility. If a woman cannot have an abortion for medical or legal reasons, she has the same obligation to her child that a woman who voluntarily chose to have a child has.

    Just to be entirely clear here – I am against “paper abortions” for women as well. I am very much pro-choice and believe that all women should have the right to an actual abortion if they feel the need for one. But I don’t think women should have the right to relinquish parental responsibility for a child that was born (and before anyone says anything – giving up for adoption, in my view, is not a right, it’s a luxury. It’s something people should be able to do if it will result in a better life for the baby, not for themselves. And I don’t think women should have the right to give up a baby for adoption if it was the product of consensual sex and the father wishes to raise the baby; and in this case, I think the woman should be obliged to pay child support).

    You may disagree, but I consider “committing a crime” and “consensual sex” to be different things – and equating them in your analogy is horrendous. Feel free to try another analogy.

    I did not equate them. I drew an analogy. I never said they were similar in any respect except that they were actions with potential long term consequences.

    If you want a less emotionally charged example – how about taking out a business loan. If I take out a loan before my children are born, and my business goes bust some years later, I will still have to pay my debts or declare bankrupcy. Both will be worse for my children than if the loan was just written off. But that’s not an excuse my creditors are in any way obliged to accept.

    Endnote: Before anyone here writes me off as a monster who does not care about children – I support much more government-funded support of children of men who have decided to opt-out of care for the child. I do not want children to go hungry, unclothed or lacking medical care – regardless of the situation out of which they were born from. All I am petitioning for is a real, legal, “safety valve” (like habeas corpus) for men to apply for to escape unfair child support payments.

    I would support a state-based solution where state care means that financial support is never actually necessary from any parents, if someone can make it work. But that’s different – making child support unnecessary is not the same as making it opt-outable. If someone manages to set up a society in which no child is a financial burden to their parents, then I will certainly not argue that men would be obliged to pay anyway (though note that I would still support women’s right to abortions, even if the financial motivation is no longer in play). But I would argue that the fundamental rights are the same – men and women in this society are not entitled to consequence free action; it’s just that such a society would have a different set of consequences.

  12. 12
    EasilyEnthused says:

    Just to be entirely clear here – I am against “paper abortions” for women as well.

    That caught me completely off-guard. I’ve never met someone who held that position before and, to be honest, I’m not sure how to respond. I’ve never examined the ethics behind adoption – I’ve always assumed it was a right.

    Does anyone else take that position?

    Regarding the business loan analogy – that sits much better with me – at least ethically – but when you take out a loan – there is no option but to pay it back. The loaning agency doesn’t say “Oh, you won’t have to pay this back. Don’t worry” … then decide, after they gave you the money, that they DO want you to pay it back. That’s absurd – and our courts would never support it.

    The way our current laws are set up, if a man and woman have an agreement that if BC should fail, she will get an abortion and he will pay for it, the man will still be liable for child support if she should decide to break their contract. It’s all done “in the interests of the child” – nevermind that child support payments may actually come at the detriment of the same man’s “legitimate” children.

  13. 13
    chingona says:

    The whole idea of “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children is noxious.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    I cannot see any moral justification for a man opting out of supporting a child of whom he is the biological father, regardless of any representations that the mother may have made regarding her use of birth control, ability to conceive, marital status, etc.

    EasilyEnthused said:

    I believe that the “rights that are protected” include a person’s right to engage in PIV sex without fear of having to support a child for 18 years afterwards. This is a legal right that must be extended to both men and women.

    On what basis do you think such a right exists?

    I cannot conceive of any such right being extended to either men or women. You certainly have the right to voluntarily engage in sex while taking precautions to avoid conceiving a child. But, should those precautions fail and a child is conceived, neither parent has a right to interfere with the natural course of events and both are obligated to support that child to the best of their ability until it reaches the age of 18.

  15. 15
    EasilyEnthused says:

    Yikes! I wholeheartedly apologize. I had an incorrect definition of “legitimate” when it came to children. I didn’t realize it meant a child born of people who aren’t married.

    I just meant “mutually desired” by both parents.

  16. 16
    chingona says:

    I just meant “mutually desired” by both parents.

    I figured that’s what you meant, and it’s still noxious. A child is a child is a child. While it’s practically inevitable that the relationship between a child’s parents and their circumstances will have an effect on the child, a child does not become less “legitimate” because that relationship or those circumstances are less than ideal.

  17. 17
    chingona says:

    Also, if you’re going to argue that a man shouldn’t be obligated to pay child support if it will negatively affect his future children, why wouldn’t that argument also apply to men who get divorced and start new families? Or hell, to a married couple facing an unexpected pregnancy? If he wants her to have an abortion and she doesn’t want to, should he be able to withhold his income from the kid? Or what if the man says he’s going to have kids in the future but never does?

    I think you’re trying to use the future, hypothetical kids to be more sympathetic, but as the basis for a legal standard, it doesn’t hold up. The more kids you have, the more of your income will go to support them. That’s true if you get married and have five kids with one woman, it’s true if you have one kid each with five women, it’s true if you are married with four kids and having an affair and have a kid with your lover, and it’s true if someone from your deep, dark past shows up with a paternity test with an unfortunate (for you) result.

    There is some unfairness there, but it’s not more unfair than the fact that not only does pregnancy and childbirth carry a risk of death for the woman, so does every effective means of birth control available to women. If you don’t think that using a condom and only having PIV sex with women who are simultaneously using another form of birth control is enough protection for your peace of mind, you could always have a vasectomy and get it reversed later if/when you want kids.

  18. 18
    JutGory says:

    Amp:

    If weak child support laws lead to an increase in single motherhood, then what would a law saying that men bear absolutely no responsibility do? We’d have an explosion of single motherhood, way worse than what we’ve already seen.

    Possibly, or maybe we would see an explosion in the number of abortions. If the father could opt out, the mother may realize she is not ready to raise a child on her own and abort it.

    Eytan Zweig:

    Just to be entirely clear here – I am against “paper abortions” for women as well.

    But, this is exactly what Safe Haven laws do. They let mothers abandon their children with no questions asked. So, it is technically not a “paper” abortion, because they are typically anonymous. And, why do we have these laws? To prevent infanticide.

    RonF:

    I cannot see any moral justification for a man opting out of supporting a child of whom he is the biological father, regardless of any representations that the mother may have made regarding her use of birth control, ability to conceive, marital status, etc.

    Neither can I. However, pro-choice people say, “the government should not legislate morality.” Yet, people are very quick to start legislating morality with respect to the father once the baby is born. So, morality will keep me from abandoning my children, but it will not persuade me that “paper abortions” should not be legal.

    -Jut

  19. 19
    chingona says:

    The pro-choice argument is not that the government shouldn’t legislate morality. It’s that the right to bodily autonomy for the woman trumps the fetus’ right to use her body.

  20. 20
    Solo says:

    I wouldn’t say choice for men is wrong, but it is the best of limited options. IMO the title is sort of provocative. Maybe in the near future we will have long term reversible contraception that makes these situations so much rarer that the state can step in to keep everyone happy.

    If they both agree to give the child up for adoption, then that’s fine; if either one of them wants to raise the child, then the other one should pay child support

    What’s the moral justification in permitting abdication of parental responsibilities if it is done as a couple but not as an individual? Or is this a pragmatic solution to keep children away from unfit parents. Shouldn’t the state assess child support from the couple wherever possible, especially if the child is in foster care for a prolonged period of time?

    @EasilyEnthused:

    The reality is that any and all of those past sexual partners who may have gotten pregnant and decided to keep the child a secret from me (or may have been unable to find me) and carry the fetus to term may now show up on my doorstep.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe if a father wants to stop an adoption, he has to demonstrate some level of involvement with the mother or support of the pregnancy. Maybe an extension of the same would be in order when assigning parental responsibilities, i.e. the mother has to demonstrate an reasonable inability to name or locate the father or mitigating circumstances like abuse or criminal recklessness. To be able to march up the father and demand support she should have to involve to him in the pregnancy with shared custody being the default arrangement, not treat him as a sperm donor or optional insurance policy at her convenience.

  21. 21
    B. Adu says:

    Answer yes; stop having sexual intercourse (with fertile women). Simple.

  22. 22
    JutGory says:

    chingona:

    The pro-choice argument is not that the government shouldn’t legislate morality. It’s that the right to bodily autonomy for the woman trumps the fetus’ right to use her body.

    No, that is “a” pro-choice argument. Another one is that the government should not legislate morality. They are distinct arguments.

    Pro-choicers are not a unified block. If your position were the ONLY pro-choice position, there would be no debate about personhood, whether a fetus feels pain, whether there is brain activity in the fetus, whether the inability of the fetus to “remember” any pain means it does not suffer, or whether Plan B is “abortion,” because there has been no implantation. All of those questions are meant to address the pro-life concern that “abortion is murder.” If your position were the only argument, these issues, including the question of murder, would be irrelevant. But, these arguments are raised all the time and the standard pro-choice argument raised against the pro-life position that “abortion is immoral” or “abortion is murder” is that “you can’t legislate morality.”

    However, your autonomy position should argue in favor of “paper abortions.” To say that women are autonomous (“My Body, My Choice”), and that men must support the results of that choice (Your Responsibility), is to deny women their agency as autonomous individuals.

    And, before you say that, “yeah, but the support is for the child, not the responsibility for the mother’s act,” I will believe that when the mother is treated like any other Trustee to hold child support payments in a fiduciary capacity. I can think of no other legal scenario where one party receives money for the benefit of a second party with no fiduciary obligation. Yet, with child support, we talk about the mother as if she is a Trustee, but we do not treat her like one.

    -Jut

  23. 23
    lauren says:

    I can think of one. When a child is raised by hir father and the mother pays child support, he does not have any such obligation either.

    Plus, this would still not be a convincing argument for “paper abortions”. For a reform of child support laws, maybe.

  24. 24
    chingona says:

    However, your autonomy position should argue in favor of “paper abortions.” To say that women are autonomous (“My Body, My Choice”), and that men must support the results of that choice (Your Responsibility), is to deny women their agency as autonomous individuals.

    Uh, no, it isn’t. Because the child, once born, is not a part of the woman’s body and a woman can’t just do whatever she wants to do to a kid as an expression of her autonomy.

  25. 25
    JutGory says:

    chingona:

    Uh, no, it isn’t. Because the child, once born, is not a part of the woman’s body and a woman can’t just do whatever she wants to do to a kid as an expression of her autonomy.

    I’m sorry. Perhaps, I was unclear. I was not arguing that she could do whatever she wanted to the child. My argument was that holding the father responsible for the mother’s choice to have the child reflects negatively on her agency. We do not hold the mother completely responsible for the consequences of her own choices; we think the father needs to be responsible for the choices of the mother. How is that not Patriarchy?!

    -Jut (with tongue in cheek)

  26. 26
    james says:

    I think the comments regarding single motherhood are totally retrograde. It just seems vile to want to financially punish people in order to force them to stay in relationships they don’t want to be in. If you were saying we should restrict women’s financial options in order to prevent them leaving relationships they were unhappy in there would be outrage.

  27. 27
    Eytan Zweig says:

    JutGory @18 says:

    Eytan Zweig:

    Just to be entirely clear here – I am against “paper abortions” for women as well.

    But, this is exactly what Safe Haven laws do. They let mothers abandon their children with no questions asked. So, it is technically not a “paper” abortion, because they are typically anonymous. And, why do we have these laws? To prevent infanticide.

    That’s different; that’s not a defence of women’s rights – it’s a pragmatic concession, allowing women an option of choosing a lesser evil. Women do not have a right to abandon their babies, but the law recognises that in some cases it’s better to allow them to do it anyway.

    Plus, I didn’t say I’m against adoption. I’m saying that the only considerations that should be allowed in deciding whether to allow a child to be put up for adoption should be the child’s welfare, not their parents convenience. I would think that in most of the cases safe harbour laws are designed for, the child’s best interests would coincide with adoption.

    If someone can convince me that so-called “men’s choice”/paper abortions is going to be systematically better for the children involved, then I will be quite willing to change my position here. But I haven’t seen anyone take that tack – the arguments are all on the basis of the (male) parent’s wishes, and the effect on other family members other than the child.

  28. 28
    rox says:

    “This is a legal right that must be extended to both men and women.”

    Not at the expense of causing children to suffer. How fucking pathetically narcisstic and anti-child can our society stoop? What a load of self centered bullshit.

    If you choose to have a sex and a child results? Fucking be an adult instead of entitles prick. Children depend on their parents.

    Abusing children by depriving them of their parents is an utter failure of adults to take responsability for their own actions.

    No one has a right to have PIV sex without an obligation to any children that get created.

  29. 29
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I had a comment here that was in response to another comment that seems to have gone away. I don’t think my own comment made sense out of context, so I’m deleting it.

    (comment moderators, please feel free to remove this one)

  30. 30
    Roving Thundercloud says:

    I’m sure this is heartless of me, but I worry way more about fathers abandoning the mothers and children than I do about fathers being tracked down by ex-partners raising kids the men didn’t know they had. Because the former is very, very common. The latter, not so much. It’s not that it isn’t a problem. It’s just that the first scenario is a problem for way more people.

  31. 31
    Robert says:

    I wouldn’t even say the latter is a problem. People are responsible for their kids, period. (I’m tormented by the moral anguish of a male or female rape victim with a kid they definitely did not sign on for, but come down on the side of the kid’s right to support.)

    Now, unlike some pro-choicers (technically I am pro choice because I think making abortion illegal is pointless and stupid, so I favor it being legal, though all of my attitudes and moral stances come from a pro-life p.o.v.) I assign equal weight to a woman’s obligation to “step up” when confronted with an unexpected (if not unwanted) child, as I do to a man…abortion is usually a wrong choice regardless of the circumstance. (Usually, because the world is complicated and I’m not willing to draw an absolute line.)

    I am in total agreement that fathers ought not abandon their children; I tend to think of abortion as a particularly egregious form of abandonment, though one that also has a higher threshold of engagement. (It’s more of an imposition to carry a child to term and to risk death in a delivery, than it is an imposition to have to pay for a kid for some period of time, even if the father is risking gender-differentiated death in the workplace, simply because childbirth is a more intimate process than is employment.)

    Every child should be a wanted child, but I think the answer to the abortion problem is persuading women (and men) to want even accidental conceptions.

    Sorry if this is a bit blathersome, abortion threads do that to me. (But on the OTHER other hand…)

  32. 32
    Robert says:

    Apologies for the impending novel, complete with inappropriate levels of personal revelation. Never get my attention with an abortion thread late at night when I have work I should be doing instead. Despite the truly incredible length of my post, I think I have made an addition to the conversation and will actively engage with any respectful, reasoning responses.

    Going upthread a bit and answering various people in various orders because why NOT get deeply embroiled in an easily-soluble topic like “abortion rights for men”:

    “If you think that the above scenario (which is a creation of our child support LAWS, not biology) [man has to pay child support for kid he conceived years back unknowingly] is just, please explain how.”

    All children deserve support. People who voluntarily had the sex that created them are the natural and logical first line of provision of that support. When those people are not available (because of death or crushing poverty) then other social forces can be deployed to ensure the child’s survival and thrival (I’m a poet) but those forces are solutions of last resort, not our first-order go-to guys. The assignment of costs to the people who produced those costs voluntarily is intrinsically the most just assignment possible. The assignment of costs to the people who produced the costs involuntarily, but avoidably, is less just than assigning the costs to voluntary cost-producers, but more just than assigning the costs to random strangers (who after all, had no sex at all, as far as we know). The assignment of costs to the people who produced the cost involuntarily and unavoidably is no more just than assigning the costs to random strangers, but is more efficient in most cases because random strangers almost never fall in love with unwanted babies; parents (even unwitting parents, even parents derived from rape) very often do. The emotionally committed generally do a more efficient job of meeting a child’s needs than do the emotionally uninterested. Not a universal law, but a pretty good guideline/ baseline truth. (Heard on TV some years back: conservative pundit telling liberal pundit that the conservative cared more about the conservative’s children than the liberal cared about the same kids. Liberal: “That’s not true!” Conservative: “OK, what are their names?”)

    I believe that the “rights that are protected” include a person’s right to engage in PIV sex without fear of having to support a child for 18 years afterwards. This is a legal right that must be extended to both men and women.

    I find this ridiculous. There is no right to engage in consequence-free PIV sex, and supporting a child for 18 years (or more – don’t forget the small but predictable proportion of severely handicapped children who will require lifetime care from their parents or from the society at large) is not an unreasonable consequence of letting ones’ penis orgasming inside (or near) a fertile vagina, or accepting a male orgasm inside (or near) one’s own fertile vagina. Heck, I’d even argue there’s no right to engage in PIV sex, or sex at all, per se. I was physically capable of PIV sex at age 12. I wasn’t socially ready until I was 16; I probably wasn’t emotionally ready until age 21 or so. (Sorry, B, L, M, K, and others.)

    But while society (our general overseer, if not source, of rights) made it legal for me at 16, I’ve never really had a “right” to it. If I get sent to jail (even without a conviction), I can lose my privilege of engaging in sexual activity of any kind, even masturbation. (Seriously. In Colorado, as in many states, all sexual activity in the jail system is strictly prohibited, and they actually put resources into keeping it at a bare minimum, because so much jail sexuality would be oppressive and/or coercive, if not outright violent rape.) If I get a disease that causes ED, I don’t have any (legitimate) right to publicly-funded Viagra to ensure my ability to exercise my “right”. (Though society may decide that my boners should be a priority, and fund it as a privilege.) Super-fugly poor stupid rude women who can’t even get any traction at closing time in low dive bars full of horny desperate men, don’t have the right to make someone go home with them; neither do the men.

    This “there is no right to sex” thing is a relatively new understanding (except for the ugly unpopular women, and to a lesser extent poor ugly unpopular men, both groups of whom have always gotten the short end of the stick in terms of sexual privilege). In some states a few decades (or even just years) ago, I could go and have unprotected PIV sex with my (soon-to-be-ex-)wife anytime I wanted, even now that she’s filed for divorce, and even if she vociferously objected she would have no recourse because (in that specific context) I had a specific legal right. (And in some states there are still all kinds of awful loopholes that would indemnify such a horrific assault.)

    In other places (not so much in the US, but even here to some extent) and even earlier times, there were even wider presumptions of sexual privilege; prima noctis is mostly a myth but there was definitely considerable truth to the idea that a rich nobleman could take pretty much any non-noble woman that he desired, and if she didn’t like it, what a shame for her. Definitely true in much of Europe; true to my knowledge in many parts of Asia; don’t know if it was true in Africa but it wouldn’t surprise me. “Rape”? Rape is violating some man of property’s property without paying him his weregild, commoner! Or in more outright wealth-segregated society, rape is when a poor man violates a rich man’s “property”, but the converse is not a crime at all… (Again being eurocentric because that’s the culture of my most vastest knowledge, but I know the world historical situation was pretty friendly to Mr. Friendly I Own That Pussy Because Look, Gold And A Sword, and am not going to argue the point with latter-day MRAs who want to argue, ingeniously if unpersuasively, that It’s Always Been A Matriarchy. Some slight truths, a lot more noise, in that argument, and this post is Epic enough as it is.)

    (Side note: I am very delighted to live in a time and place where the idea that my daughters are chattel property is ridiculous to most people, if still somewhat of a reality in some important, but evolving, respects.)

    We’ve moved past the idea that people are entitled to sex…and note that even in the truly Bad Old Days, the nobleman who indisputably put a baby in Susie Commoner’s uterus was socially and sometimes even legally expected to come across with some financial support. A purported right to heterosexual sex (for a man) is just the old sexual entitlement updated to require at least casual verbal permission from the female of the pair, without even the fig leaf (in the mindset of the “I should totally get consequence-free sexytimes action” population) of requiring support for children conceived as a result of the consequence-free fun. The law requires the support, because the law is somewhat morally advanced over the irresponsible hedonist. (No offense intended, responsible hedonists. Party on, you condom-wearing, cycle-monitoring, but responsibility-taking-when-push-comes-to-labor-pains sexual animals.) For a female, a purported right has a lot less historical patriarchy-baggage, but still involves quite a lot of dodgy assumptions about agency. Social progress on this is not uniform; my (sometimes beneficently, more often malignantly patriarchal) church teaches that my wife has a right to sex from me and vice-versa; I, and modern sexual morality theory, have to demur to a very large extent. (A right of first refusal is, I think, justified by the contract terms, for most marriages or committed LTRs. The consequences of declining that first refusal are more open-ended and depend on the terms of the partnership.)

    Nowadays most civilized people accept that sex is an agreement between two (or more) adults who are not otherwise legally barred for coupling – not an entitlement, certainly not a right. If it’s a right, then get Jennifer Aniston down here to my place. Sure, she’s aging and Brad Pitt implied that she was dull in the sack, but I don’t care. Zooey Deschanel, if Jennifer is busy. No? Ah, because I have no right to either of those women, or to my wife for that matter.

    Now, if by “right” you mean the somewhat distorted view of a “right” wherein “the state can’t stop me from doing this” – true, you do have the right in that sense if you aren’t in jail or under 18 or gay in the Marines before 9/21/2011 or something. The state is no longer in the business of volitional-sex-among-consenting-adults-prevention. But the state can darn sure make sure that you meet your legal obligations that are the logical consequence of PIV and other forms of heterosexual intercourse. Those legal obligations aren’t an infliction on your right to party; they’re the fairest way we’ve found yet to allocate the inevitable material post-party costs and burdens.

    “When I signed up for the Pro-Choice movement – it was made VERY clear to me that women may have an abortion for any and all reasons. They might be afraid of the pain of childbirth – that’s a valid reason. They might not feel emotionally ready to be a mother. They may be financially unable to support the child. These are all valid reasons.”

    Few people believe this – about 23% (Guttmacher) in recent polling, about the same number as think abortion should be totally banned. Even those theoretically supporting unrestricted abortion rights would demur on many, many scenarios, particularly when asked about the strongest “no matter what the reason” terms. (Even when they accept those terms, they say it should be LEGAL – not that it’s right, or morally acceptable, or cool, or part of necessary abortion rights theory, or whatever. Heck, I believe it should be legal, and most people here would consider me to be morally pro-life.) While consensus is not the arbiter of morality, surely a position that most folks regard as extreme can’t just be asserted as the way things ought to be without at least a significant and spirited defense. A flat “I’m afraid of pain” is about the most pathetic excuse for an abortion – the termination of a human potential – that I can think of. I’m afraid of riding the bus in some neighborhoods, does that mean I don’t have to go to work to pay child support if my job is in the bad part of town? Hell no; suck it up and buy a taser, and get your ass to your job, dude. “I’m afraid I’ll die because I have XYZ syndrome which makes childbirth very dangerous for me” – OK. “I’m afraid of the owee” – sack up, largely nonexistent hypothetical lady. I’ve met most of your sisters; hardly any of you are that big of a wuss. “I don’t want to have kids because I fear pain so I’m totally on the Pill to avoid that awful situation”, that’s one thing; “I’m killing this kid rather than feel pain”, no.

    “There’s no way I can pay for this baby and the father is long-gone and the state won’t help me because I live in Jesusland and they hunt welfare recipients for sport at the State Fair” – ok, you’ve got a prima facie case for your abortion being reasonable, even though I’d start making a lot of arguments about other forms of support, church/charity, single working motherhood, etc., but at least you’ve got a reason comprehensible and theoretically sufficient for most people, especially women (who tend to be pretty judgmental about other women’s abortion decisions, from my experience talking with them). Or “I cannot stand children and would make the worst mother on earth” – though then you have the adoption argument, however naive many adoption proponents are about the ease and emotional impact of that process. Or “I’ve got four kids already and another one would push us onto public welfare” – ok, you’re balancing resources and trying to make a rational, if ultimately somewhat inhumane, decision.

    I do agree that, in principle, if we accept “women can have an abortion for the most trivial of reasons, at their whim, up to the ninth month when the baby is actually passing through the birth canal” as a guiding rule (and what an inspiring choice of guiding rules! Way better than “to each according to their need” or “do unto others”…) then strict gender egalitarianism would seem to imply the need for a similar principle for men. But *strict* gender egalitarianism is also a pretty messed-up perspective, also endorsed by only a small group of people, even less than absolute abortion rights I’d wager. (Basic gender egalitarianism being a different matter, naturally; most people agree that Jane and Joe should both be free to apply for the job as an IBM salesperson and should have an equal chance/equal treatment, but very few people agree that Jane should be able to cite ‘gender equality’ as a reason why she should get to apply for the job as an EMT who has to live 75 pounds unaided, when Jane is an 80-pound weakling who can barely get herself out of a chair; similarly, Joe doesn’t have the right to $20 million in publicly-funded scientific research to figure out a way that men can practically give birth, just because he’s oppressed by his penile heritage and lack of a womb to do the fetus-nurturing he yearns for as a human soul. Etc. The “strict” case fails on grounds of intrinsic nuttiness; men and women have a few substantial differences that make perfect equality both silly and unattainable, without excusing us from seeking reasonable equality. Forgive the digression, but it always pays to be clear about the side topics on Alas! threads. Or at least, it definitely doesn’t pay NOT to be clear.)

    So I guess my boiled down response to your posts is “nuh unh”, “you did the crime now do the time”, “in practical terms, what tiny minorities with poorly-thought-out moral theories want is politically and morally irrelevant”, and “if you stick your penis/vagina anywhere near a woman/man of childbearing years, you’d better be incredibly careful if you don’t want a squalling little tax deduction (which is totally rocking but doesn’t pay the full bill), and even if you are incredibly careful you need to be aware, and accept the reality, that Shit (and Babies) Happens.”

    “I think the comments regarding single motherhood are totally retrograde. It just seems vile to want to financially punish people in order to force them to stay in relationships they don’t want to be in. If you were saying we should restrict women’s financial options in order to prevent them leaving relationships they were unhappy in there would be outrage.”

    Off-topic but relevantly, “retrograde” is not automatically bad. Don’t mistake negative language for a negative concept. “Don’t steal, do your best at whatever you try, and treat other people as well as you can manage” is a retrograde set of notions in some unfortunate communities; doesn’t make them bad ideas, even in those places. Treating people decent is good practice in Haiti as well as in Hawaii, it’s just not as socially valorized there under current conditions. (Don’t mistake positive language for a positive concept, either. Hitler was a “dynamic” leader. Stalin made “innovative” changes to his society. I’ve posted that about a half-dozen times here, and I’ll post it a half-dozen times more; it seems to be a basic human built-in cognitive error, which I myself make as well.)

    Some human relationships are volitional, and it does indeed seem rather vile to apply financial pressures (particularly from something as powerful as the state or the larger society) to keep people in volitional relationships. If my wife (credibly) threatens me with a $10,000/month marital support payment if I divorce her for her physical abuse of me (that scenario totally circumstantial, btw), that’s pretty monstrous of her, and the state’s role, if any, in helping her make this threat realistic is similarly monstrous. AT&T should not get to hold a $5000 reconnect fee over my head if I cancel my cell service, unless I freely and informedly consent to such a provision (probably to get a killer monthly rate; TANSTAAFL). And so on.

    But other relationships are non-volitional. I’m my daughter’s father. I helped make her; I voluntarily had sex with her mother with the deliberate intention of making her. Even if she had not been an intentional pregnancy, I was having sex in a context where it was understood that children were possible and that both their mother and I would have responsibility for their care. As far as I can tell, all volitional heterosexual intercourse (and quite a bit of heterosexual non-PIV sex) has, or should have for cognitively competent, rational, forethoughtful humans, the possibility of children as an understood – possibly a possibility that is vigorously defended against, but if it happens it happens.

    Is there a possibility of hetero sex where the parties have a different understanding? Absolutely. I fully support the right of men and women to make contracts that state one or the other of them will have all or no responsibility for any children that result inadvertently from their protected sexual union. (I don’t support such a right of contract in cases where protection is not being used, because you cannot legally agree to forego sensible precautions against an undesired outcome and protect yourself against the predictable consequences of same; your car insurance company will not honor your policy if you deliberately go around ramming people.)

    However, such contracts should also be easily broken in the overriding eventuality of a child needing support and not having a sufficient quantity of it. Fine, Emancipated Emma tells me that she’ll take care of a baby if we have one and she will let me off the hook – but if in year two she finds herself eating Ramen every meal and trying to choke down enough to make breast milk, my contract of non support is no longer binding. That child’s right to live overrides my right to get my freak on without consequence per our contract.)

    (I’ll leave largely unaddressed the unlikelihood that a sensible woman, not of enormous independent means, would agree to such a contract in the first place.)

    There are also undoubtedly people who are capable of having sex (and having it) but who aren’t cognitively competent etc.; these people might well bear a diminished responsibility towards their offspring simply because they didn’t or don’t understand the mechanics, or causality, or things even more basic. That’s a special case, however, and I don’t think that the special consideration that a severely retarded couple might deserve in this matter translates in any way to the expectations surrounding people of non-severely-impaired mentation. It’s more complicated (and raises uncomfortable consent questions) when one or more partners are not capable of understanding, while another or others are so capable, but again, tiny fringe of hard cases != a useful guide for the majority population.

    In large part, I think the disagreement about framing these issues (“sex can be consequence free!” vs “all sex has potential consequences and most everyone is liable”) comes from a split in our handling of modern sexual morality. We have a working understanding that “people planning to have children” and “people planning never to reproduce” have somewhat different rules concerning their sexual behavior, whether those rules are religious, social, legal, or whatever. Unfortunately for the second group (and sometimes for their children), human action is rarely infallible and our ability to prevent pregnancy, while approaching (but not reaching) 100% in the ideal case, is rarely practiced in the ideal case. Many, if not most, people in the latter group end up getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant. It is perhaps natural that they want their old rules of relatively consequence-free sexual morality to continue to be in force, but social order, the human rights of babies, and (out on a rhetorical limb here) basic decency all militate against that “solution”. Once someone is bulging, the rules switch back to the “people having children” set of rules. That may still allow abortion, ending the support obligation, particularly in extreme circumstances – but it pretty much forestalls any and all “a kid? I don’t want a kid. No thanks!” ex-post-facto intercursive regret.

    And since, with very rare exceptions, 100% birth control is not achievable – some condoms break, some birth control pills are mis-manufactured, some vasectomies heal up, etc. – anyone engaging in heterosexual sex consisting of pretty much anything past kissing and boob/butt-caressing is accepting implicitly the possibility of conception. And even the butt-caressing can do the job, if the guy is doing the caressing and masturbated or otherwise has semen on his hands somewhere. Nature loves her some pregnancy! (Which can be awfully painful for people trying for years without success to conceive, while next door the teenage neighbors are getting pregnant, again, from heavy petting.)

    If you’re having anything even close to sex, pregnancy *could* happen, pretty much no matter what you’ve done to stop it. Responsible people with super-regular metabolisms and plenty of cash for redundant layers of birth control can sometimes 100%, when they are totally (and somewhat grimly) serious about it, and can even use 100% as their planning figure for “expected lifetime conceptions” – but 99+% is the best you can actually attain. Thus, there is absolutely no excuse, with the exception of a woman completely without a uterus or a man completely without testes, for thinking “we’re 100% safe”. Hardly anyone aged 10-60, outright sterilization cases a partial exception, can make that claim. (And even many of the outright sterilization cases have been surprised. Uteruses have regrown, very rarely – more likely, the woman actually had two to begin with and doctors only saw and removed one, or the hysterectomy was partial but the woman thought it was total, or the pregnancy is intraabdominal, or other weird and (theoretically) wonderful applications of the Douchebag Chaos Theorist Principle of Fertility – Nature Finds A Way, and of course vasectomy spontaneous reversals are far from unknown.)

    So we split our morality concerns among two populations, one group of which is under strict scrutiny (“they want to control women!!!” as the Marcottes would have it) and the other of which is more or less off the hook, in ordinary times. That conceptual split saves serious people a lot of time in arguing sexual morality (at least among moderns who don’t believe in any type of coerced sexual relationship) in the genuinely infertile, among the exclusively and unrapeably homosexual, among certain classes of transpeople, etc. If Barry and Larry and Darryl want to engage in furry-based Sailor Moon cosplay during their 100% all-man gay sex sessions, or if Schala the transperson with a non-reproductively-functional set of genitalia has wild sex with everyone they meet, I (and other moderns) really have a hard time assigning sexual morality dimensions to their behaviors. Sexual ethics, maybe; is Barry disclosing his HIV+ status to his bareback partner Darryl? Did he pay for that Sailor Moon outfit, or just rent it and is going to return it in an abominable state totally in violation of the rental agreement? Did Schala tell the truth when someone asked him/her what kind of genitals they could expect to find when they went home to continue the makeout session? Etc.

    But 99% of that is ethics, not morality, which has to do mostly with the next generation and what happens with helpless people towards whom we have moral obligations. If you aren’t engaged in making the next generation, then you aren’t really part of the topic area of “sexual morality”, because sexual morality is about creating and preserving the viability of the species (which requires moral behavior and moral choice), not about judging the individual bits-fiddling of individual bit-fiddlers. Go nuts, Sailor Moon. God (in my perspective) doesn’t care, until your seed starts spilling near ova.

    But an awful lot of people who think of themselves as not making the next generation, actually are. Less nowadays than in the days before semi-reliable birth control, but still massive quantities; 49% of American pregnancies are unintentional (Guttmacher) and 54% of those pregnancies end in abortion, meaning we end up with about 1/4 of American childbirths coming to people who did not intend to make a baby. That’s a lot of babies; more than a million delivered a year of 4 million (US figures, naturally).

    Those kids, whether mom and dad planned them or not, have to eat and have a home and go to school and learn to read and have clothes and go to the doctor. RonF and I are willing to pay the taxes for the welfare benefits for a few of those families – the ones with morally upstanding narratives of effort but failure or bad luck, rather than noneffort and entitlement or obviously stupid choices – but we certainly aren’t willing to pay the taxes for welfare benefits for 1/4 of American children. (Well, I’d personally be willing to make a deal wherein we socialize childrearing costs in exchange for a near-end to abortion – we’ll pay for your baby either way, but in return there’s no abortion for anything but life-threatening conditions – but I’m an outlier, and also I don’t think the deal could be enforced without a massive change in mores, which change would make the deal unnecessary.)

    That adds up to: mommy and daddy got to step up. Even if they were just having some fun in Vegas, even if they totally used the Pill and a condom and a vasectomy too, even if they agreed that there wouldn’t be no babies no way no how, if the agreement founders on economic reality when mom’s trust fund turns out to be mostly Enron stock or dad’s independently wealthy gay other lover who totally wants to raise the baby decides to bail and move to Aruba to look for Natalee. Agreements and contracts are fluidly abstract; children’s needs for food and shelter are distressingly concrete.

    Finally…(oh thank the FSM, the assembled masses cry out!)..but don’t relax yet, you’ve got pages yet to read, and there WILL BE A QUIZ and YOU WILL BE GRADED AND JUDGED AND SORTED INTO VOCATIONAL GROUPS SO PAY ATTENTION:
    “My argument was that holding the father responsible for the mother’s choice to have the child reflects negatively on her agency. We do not hold the mother completely responsible for the consequences of her own choices; we think the father needs to be responsible for the choices of the mother. How is that not Patriarchy?!”

    You specified you were being tongue in cheek, so maybe this is needed only as a discourse to your sarcasm victim, but both the mother and the father have equal if different responsibilities towards the child; they are not responsible for one another’s choices, though they may have to (fairly or unfairly) bear the consequences of those choices when the choices are bad. (I say fairly because, surprise, the homeless drummer for the failed punk band turns out not to have any reliable income? This is not a surprise to anyone smarter than dirt, and things that aren’t a surprise that you could have avoided are not unfair when they happen. I cheated on my wife; I knew what could happen if I was caught. It is not unfair that she’s divorcing me. Similarly, it’s not unfair that Frank ends up with an enormous child support and custody obligation when Meadowflower Moonchild does exactly what she said she would do, and disappears into the tundra ten minutes after handing Baby Bobbie to Frank. Frank knew it going in.)

    The mother (having accepted motherhood and deciding to keep the child) has a responsibility to healthily bear, to the best of her ability, and nurture the child particularly when it is very young. The father (not having as much of a right to not “accept” fatherhood, but boo hoo – fatherhood is accepted when you get an erection near a childbearing-age woman and do something about it, right?) has a responsibility to support the mother-to-be during her vulnerable period, if she needs that support (most if not all do, and even those that don’t would usually prefer it in my experience) and to support the young child. Both parents then have a bare-bones responsibility for the physical well-being and adequate support of the child until the child reaches an age where, in its society, it can be considered self-responsible; 18 or so in the good old US of A, younger than that in some other countries with less of an extended-childhood tradition. Both parents have a moral, if not a strict legal, responsibility to provide moral, cognitive, educational, experiential support to the child essentially for the life of the parents – sometimes these moral obligations get written into the law, for example, in most US states you are required to make provision for a young child’s education even if that just means accepting the “free” public school. There are some exceptions for children who do such terrible things after growing up somewhat that it becomes justifiable to cut off contact in self-defense; you don’t have to fix Charlie Manson, but you do kind of have an obligation (even if the court disagrees) not to make him in the first place. For example, my teenaged stepson sexually assaulted one of our daughters some years ago; we are no longer required (by law, morality, or tradition) to support him in our home. (He lives with his father now and no other children; if dad had not been available, the state or a private charity would have put him in a home if we were unable to work out a safe arrangement for all concerned.) If my stepdaughter asks for money for college, I feel some moral obligation to help; if my stepson asks, I do not feel that obligation. Children aren’t moral voids, they have some responsibility for their own life course after a certain point. This digression, again, provided to cover the “but what about Charlie Manson the teenage rapist” objection, not because it’s a key element of my argument.

    Is it somewhat unfair that men have less of a right to legally, if not physically, un-accept parenthood than women do? Women can give up their children more easily than men can, by and large; mom who drops kid off at hospital pleading incompetence vs. dad who declines to send in child support payment with the same argument, the treatment of the two is obviously going to be different.

    Yes, it is unfair. However, the unfairness does not seem cosmic in scope to me. It is mitigated by the available options to men (get a vasectomy – 99+% effective, or, crazy talk, don’t have sex with childbearing-age women) and also mitigated, in an informal assessment of equity, by the greater burden that women bear as a result of biology. Fine, it’s less than optimally fair that men can’t demand a paper abortion; it’s less than optimally fair that women do all the dying in childbirth, too. Less seriously but of wider impact, it isn’t fair that women take most of the nonlethal health risks, or (on average) have to significantly reduce their future sexual attractiveness in order to bear the kids, either. Suck it up, boys.

    Now. We’ve been talking mostly about paper abortions, where a man “aborts” his financial, legal, moral, etc. responsibilities but the baby itself is left a-ok (if hungry and wondering when mom is going to get back from her flexible-hours McJob). What about real abortions?

    It does seem to me that in fairness, a man’s right to demand physical abortion of his child should be equal to that of a woman, at least in principle. I share the revulsion expressed in that Star Trek episode about my genetic material being out there replicated without my intent or consent. Obviously this is a much more distressing scenario if it results from a rape or a deception than if it results from a simple accidental contraception; an accident may be an accident but an accident that someone plans may represent a significant moral or legal tort.

    But as a pro-life-in-moral inclination person, I think that such aesthetic considerations (“I don’t want a baby! Baby doesn’t go with my wardrobe! Those were my zygotes, I don’t want them hodgepodged into some gamete with that trollop’s zygotes!”) are pretty weak-ass when compared with the child’s right to live.

    What about more serious objections? (Not to dismiss entirely the “I just didn’t want a kid” objection for the rare individual male for whom this is a genuine source of existential pain, but seriously guys, I have never met more than an occasional Internet weirdo who has even made this claim, let alone presented evidence that they were happier when gamete-less.)

    What about the guy who has decided, with good reason, to become an impoverished poet and leave a cultural legacy as his life’s work, rather than take more lucrative employment to support a family?

    What about the guy who has knowledge of his family’s genetic heritage and is aware that his children are likely to represent a net drag on society, for whatever reason? (“All us Smiths are drunks” may not be a good enough reason for an abortion, but it does strike me as a reasonable reason to decide not to reproduce in the first place.) Or who knows that his children are likely to develop Expensively Long-lived But Helpless Syndrome at age 11?

    What about the guy who claims to hate children intellectually or emotionally? Such people tend to be emotionally-crippled damage cases (apologies for ablist language, but crippled is crippled), but requiring the emotionally-damaged to function emotionally with a child is maybe not the smartest plan regardless of whether we believe they’d nut up and do a decent job of parenthood if they got over their BS “I hate kids” claims. (I wager 95% of the people I’ve seen make this claim would prove out to be perfectly reasonable people who just needed to grow up – but that 5% remainder is real. Charlie Manson didn’t come out of a vacuum.)

    What about the guy who simply lacks the ability to be economically productive, by genetics, by rearing, by temperament, by situation? It’s a *responsible* choice for such a no-account to forego reproducing, is it not? I know RonF has often expressed unhappiness when people who don’t support themselves nonetheless choose to make a baby. I’m less hostile to their reproduction (roses can grow in a shitpile) but I see the point; particularly if a guy has already had a couple of kids, and has seen them turn out to be on a low-achievement track as well.

    What about the guy who’s just really, really (genetically) stupid or otherwise unfit, but who got “lucky” somehow in the reproductive lottery? (The one interesting truth in that MRA rant about It’s Always Been Matriarchy – about 80% of women throughout history have had at least one child, about 30% of men did. This is one very real reason for differential evolutionary pressure on different types of behavior; Mrs. Khan gets very little by conquering Asia because she was already going to be able to have about as many babies and sexual partners (social structure permitting) as she wanted, most likely, while Mr. Khan gets to become the ancestor of 10% of the human species and enjoy unlimited sexytimesfun to boot. Sets up a bit of a differential reward for engaging in the risky behavior of engaging in land wars in Asia, no?) Anyway, Mr. Genetic Loser has no business having children but he might have some anyway. What if he recognizes his genetic Chicago Cubs status and decides to try not to, without foregoing sex altogether?

    All of these examples are, I think, reasonable cases to one or another degree for arguing that a man should have an input into whether a woman has an abortion. At the very least, if he wants the woman to abort their child, he should feel socially empowered to tell her so, and even if society does not expect her to kowtow to his preference, would it be the end of the world if there was something of a presumption of taking that preference into real consideration? Nobody wants “hey, babe, I’m not ready for a kid, so scrape that uterus tomorrow, k?” to be a dispositive argument….but is “but I just started my thesis and I have Reye’s Syndrome and my kidneys failed when I was 10 and both my parents were schizophrenic”…does that not perhaps deserve a moment’s thought?

    Indeed, while I am generally unfriendly to most MRA concepts (the stupid ones, while finding some of the intelligent ones reasonably compelling), the idea that when it comes to *physical* abortion men are a somewhat oppressed class is fairly credible. Women, legally and to moderns, morally, essentially control reproductive decisions. The male role is secondary in most cases. There are extremes here; few women are going to deliberately conceive in direct contradiction to their regular sex partner’s express wish, and few women not overwhelmingly opposed to reproduction are going to automatically abort the conceived children of their responsible, child-desiring partners. But such consideration is purely optional, howevermuch it may redound to the credit of the individual woman. Just as “good” (read: morally more advanced, if still backwards) slaveowners cared somewhat about their slaves’ wellbeing and just as “good” polygamists to some degree took their wives’ sexual desire into consideration before deciding whom (if anyone) to make love to on Tuesday night, a “good” woman is likely today to take her sexual partner’s thoughts and feelings about their conception seriously, even though there is absolutely no requirement to do so.

    So we don’t have a matriarchy or anything very close to one, but in this one area of reproductive control women do have a disproportionate level of power. Much more so today, when women’s formal rights are a lot more likely to be recognized and the consequence of choosing abortion is a hefty bill and a bad week of recovery, rather than social ostracism and ZOMG YOU HORRIBLE SLUT GET OUT OF OUR TOWN. Pre-Roe, pre modern feminism, men still had the balance of power; women could still make the technical decision to abort but had to be very tough-minded to carry out the decision without support from the male-dominated society in the form of legal clinics, legal rights, etc. In fact, a lot of the early feminists decried the abortion industry of the day because back then an abortion was often, if not always, done at the MALE’S behest – he had his fun, now he wants to avoid the consequence.

    I certainly don’t advocate a return to that genuinely monstrous state of affairs. “You have to get an abortion because I want you to for selfish reasons” is about the worst thing I can think of that a man can sincerely say to a woman. But I wonder if “I want you to get an abortion because of these very good reasons” should be completely dismissed.

    I would also find a discussion of that question a useful touchstone of MRA priorities. If they really feel oppressed by women’s superior grasp of the reproductive machinery, then advocating for genuine abortion rights (in however diluted or suggestive/prescriptive, not coercive, a form) would seem to be the honest approach. Advocating only for “paper” rights, by contrast, seems to indicate that one’s priorities are actually about avoiding responsibility, not taking it on. (I can think of no greater assumption of responsibility than deciding that a human life should be cut short.)

    So if Amp has managed to do enough methamphetamine (snorted off the bosoms of his Republican tax-avoiding CPA prostitute attorneys, now that he’s a big successful comics guy) to stay awake to read this whole post, and wants to start a thread to discuss those questions, I’d be an enthusiastic and respectful participant. (Other mods could also start that thread, though with less amphetamine and hooker-CPA-breast action, I assume.)

    And now, having cut-and-pasted to avoid the very real possibility that this fucking NOVEL is going to bounce higher than Solyndra’s last payroll (Topical Humor +1 point), I go to bed.

  33. 33
    Schala says:

    Super long novel by Robert…

    And now explain to me how expecting child support even in the case of a certified doctor vasectomy, after the normal delay…is somehow not slut-shaming.

    Or I guess every man that wants to avoid paternity can turn gay. I’m sure the Tea Party would love that solution. Recruit more for the gays! /sarcasm

    I’m glad I don’t produce sperm (AFAIK anyways), because a baby I would have conceived would like, die. Because I would be unable to support it. I can’t reliably maintain even just minimum wage employment. Yet I’m not visibly disabled. So I’d be told to just man-up and get a job (ironically, as a trans woman). And kill myself as a result (because prison would kill me a lot more horribly). If you think child molesters are badly treated in prison, guess how feminine-looking trans women are treated in an all-male prison?

  34. 34
    chingona says:

    And now explain to me how expecting child support even in the case of a certified doctor vasectomy, after the normal delay…is somehow not slut-shaming.

    Explain how it is slut-shaming.

  35. 35
    Schala says:

    Explain how it is slut-shaming.

    If you have heterosexual sex at all, and something happens, thank you for playing Russian Roulette, better luck next time.

    I’m sure this kind of argument would be very popular in abstinence-only sex-ed, because it’s the only solution to the quandary (since you can’t will yourself to be gay).

    It’s also the solution tories propose to teen pregnancy.

  36. 36
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Two reasons I don’t think that counts as slut-shaming:

    1 – There’s no shame involved. “Slut shaming” isn’t a name for when something bad happens because of sex – it’s a name for a case where people are either made to feel inferior, or presented as such, because of their perceived sexual activity.

    2 – No one here is talking about the general case of unwanted consequences of sex. This isn’t “you had sex and something happened”. It’s “you had sex and a baby happened”. Babies may or may not be desired outcomes of sex, but they are always people – and that is what this is about, not the sex.

    I also would like to point out two different lines of argument that seem to have become entangled here in the pro-”men’s choice” argumentation. One of them is “all people, including men, should have a right to engage in sex for pleasure (provided mutual consent and reasonable precautions) without negative consequence. Child support is a negative consequence and thus a violation of that right” – I oppose that argument, as I have stated above, because I believe that in general, people do not have a right to avoid the direct consequences of their actions (and I don’t count people’s negative attitude to the action, e.g. slut shaming, as a direct consequence of the action, so I’m not defending that).

    The second argument is “Here is a case where the father clearly demonstrated that he does not wish to have a child and did everything in his power to prevent it, and a child resulted anyway because of [the incompetence of a doctor/the actions of the mother/divine intervention by the Archangel Gabriel/etc.] (delete as applicable). Isn’t it unfair for him to have to pay for the rest of his life given how hard he tried to prevent this very outcome?”

    Even though my mocking tone in the previous paragraph may suggest otherwise, I actually find this argument somewhat compelling. It’s never nice to hear of someone having to pay due to circumstances that were not only outside their control but directly against their wishes. I hate it when I hear about people without health insurance going bankrupt due to illness, and I hate it when I hear about people without home insurance losing everything in a fire, and I can see how in some cases an unwanted child may be equally disruptive to someone’s life. And I am not opposed to laws being passed to grant welfare to anyone in any of these cases. If the government or a charity or whomever can remove the burden from the person suffering unfair circumstances, I have nothing to say but “yay!”. But here’s the thing – people don’t have a right to maintain the same standard of living that they had before something bad happened to them. They have a right to a minimum standard of living that ensures their dignity, health, and ability to rebuild their lives. But that’s not what most people are arguing for here – child support payments are not insignificant, but for most men who are called on to pay them, they are affordable.

    I do not think that men who cannot afford child support because they either are living in poverty or so close to it that they cannot spare anything if they want to keep themselves fed should pay child support. I do think that child support should still be paid, but in these cases, I think it should be paid by the welfare system. That, and only that, is a matter of human rights.

    I am also not opposed to laws that will arrange for an alternative means of child support in specific cases where there is clear evidence of the man having done everything humanly possible to prevent pregnancy short of abstinance – say, when the man was given an incorrect diagnosis of sterility AND he was assured by the woman that she cannot get pregnant either. If the government wants to be generous to people who suffered specific sets of negative circumstances, and can do so in a non-discriminatory way that includes these men (say, a welfare law that protects the lifestyles of all those who suffer from any sort of medical misdiagnosis), then I have no objection. But that is not the government protecting a right – that is the government going above and beyond the rights and handing out bonus privileges. Frame it that way, and it’s a different discussion – one about costs versus benefits of government policies. But I don’t accept that anyone’s rights are violated if such a policy is not instituted.

  37. 37
    Jeremy says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but if a mother gives birth and says she wants nothing to do with this child and would like to give the child up for adoption, and the man she identified as the father (or a man who claimed to be the father and DNA test proved it) says he wants the child, would not the father receive the child and the mother would have to pay child support regardless of her wants?

  38. 38
    Robert says:

    If you have heterosexual sex at all, and something happens, thank you for playing Russian Roulette, better luck next time.

    I’m sure this kind of argument would be very popular in abstinence-only sex-ed, because it’s the only solution to the quandary (since you can’t will yourself to be gay).

    Slut-shaming, as I understand it, entails making someone feel bad about their sexuality in an attempt to control their behavior. I don’t want or expect anyone to feel bad about their sexuality, nor do I wish to control the specifics of their behavior; rather, I believe there is a general principle of responsibility which requires people to acknowledge the predictable possibilities of their actions, and allocate their resources in accordance with the moral situations that can potentially develop from those possibilities.

    “You have to pay for your babies because sex is evil and you must pay for your crimes…you whore” is slut-shaming. “This child is incontrovertibly yours and you voluntarily had PIV sex, so you have to pay half this child’s expenses” is not.

    I’m glad I don’t produce sperm (AFAIK anyways), because a baby I would have conceived would like, die. Because I would be unable to support it. I can’t reliably maintain even just minimum wage employment. Yet I’m not visibly disabled. So I’d be told to just man-up and get a job (ironically, as a trans woman). And kill myself as a result (because prison would kill me a lot more horribly). If you think child molesters are badly treated in prison, guess how feminine-looking trans women are treated in an all-male prison?

    Leaving aside the complexities of your situation as a trans woman, which I do not understand, what’s preventing you from maintaining minimum wage employment? You can type. You can think. I hire people with less adequate qualifications every day, and pay more than minimum wage. Not to pry, but is there some psychological condition which simply makes you incompetent to perform predictable tasks over time? I will admit that I have a hard time thinking of someone who can carry on a vigorous argument online as being incapable of putting the same type of energy into paid work, but I will also admit that I don’t know everything and (having suffered from depression on and off myself) I do understand there are situations where everything looks OK but the person is just barely maintaining functionality without any major responsibilities beyond self-care, and doing a job would be unthinkable. Mandolin explained the spoons thing a couple months ago, and I get that sometimes there just are no spoons left.

    If that is the case, then my suggestion to you in my capacity as Grand High Poobah of Reproductive Morality is a) nail down for certain your fertility status and b) refrain from sexual activity that could produce a child if that nail-down is less than overwhelmingly conclusive. Because “I can’t work” really doesn’t cut it when the instant problem is “the baby is hungry and needs clothes and a roof”. (And not to put too fine a point on it, but presumably you have a roof and heat and electricity since your computer works…so you could provide at least that level of care, while hopefully your partner in conception could provide the funding needed for other baby needs.)

    Heck, while we’re knocking off fine points, there’s nothing wrong with an arrangement where one partner pays the bills and the other partner is just there for the kid. 90% of child care for the first few years consists of not a whole lot more than being a sentient creature in the same physical space, available to prevent wolf attacks and provide the occasional bottle.

  39. 39
    Robert says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but if a mother gives birth and says she wants nothing to do with this child and would like to give the child up for adoption, and the man she identified as the father (or a man who claimed to be the father and DNA test proved it) says he wants the child, would not the father receive the child and the mother would have to pay child support regardless of her wants?

    Every polity has its own rules; at least here in Colorado, yes, that would be the case unless there was some clear-cut reason why the father simply could not care for the child. (He’s in prison, he’s homeless and drug-addicted, etc.) The welfare of the child is the foremost consideration. The mom might get more consideration for her preferences than the dad, depending on the judge, but yeah, if mom says “I don’t want it” and dad says “Gimme”, dad takes the baby and the primary custody, and mom gets assigned a support order.

  40. 40
    chingona says:

    What Eytan and Robert said. Slut-shaming isn’t “something I wish hadn’t happened happened anyway despite my best efforts.” Slut-shaming is casting moral judgment on someone for something bad that happens to them.

    I once met a woman who was pregnant unexpectedly. Quite unexpectedly. She had had her tubes tied eight years before. And because her periods were irregular and she was a fairly large woman, she was six months along before she realized she was pregnant, far too late to have an abortion. (If she would have even wanted to have one. We were in a waiting room together, and it’s not the kind of thing you ask someone you just met.) The expectation that she and her husband would take care of that child isn’t “slut-shaming,” and neither is the expectation that a man who has taken reasonable precautions and nonetheless impregnated a woman would provide for the resulting child. Slut-shaming would be saying they are dirty, bad people who deserve to be poor because they couldn’t keep it in their pants.

  41. 41
    Schala says:

    “You have to pay for your babies because sex is evil and you must pay for your crimes…you whore” is slut-shaming. “This child is incontrovertibly yours and you voluntarily had PIV sex, so you have to pay half this child’s expenses” is not.

    The former only sounds more crude than the latter, but if the result is forcing abstinence on someone (or else, get into debt!), well yeah, I oppose that. And it is slut-shaming, and changing behavior.

  42. 42
    Schala says:

    You can type. You can think. I hire people with less adequate qualifications every day, and pay more than minimum wage. Not to pry, but is there some psychological condition which simply makes you incompetent to perform predictable tasks over time?

    In fact, if I was living alone, I would be unable to have self-care. I’m forgetful and can’t reasonably live alone for a host of reasons, including rent being too high for that possibility. I lived with my parents, separately, then one of my brothers who is disorganized. The apartment with my brother was unliveable, but my standards were equally low… so unless someone tells me something needs to be done, I don’t clean up, because I don’t see the need beyond spills and stains, and dishes.

    As for jobs. Well, I’m socially anxious, to rather paranoid (but not panic attack) levels, and am no good in social situations period (don’t pick up cues and body language, don’t know about my own). Also, I’m a picky eater in that certain foods can make me gag if I merely imagine them (their taste because I have some on my fingers, for example), preventing me from going in fast-food (because those foods include relish, mayonnaise and mustard – yes, my hot-dogs and hamburgers are always plain).

    So I can work in trans-friendly environments where I’m told what to do in specifics (something vague and I’m bound to get it wrong), am able to ask questions, and that is not too far from home (or work from home in such a job). Something that involves minimal (or no) contact with the public, including through phone. I’m not strong enough physically to do heavy lifting (though I did have such jobs before, I was fired for performance issues from them).

    Videogame tester was a nice job, the environment was okay. The pay was iffy (minimum wage), the schedule was even more iffy (one week can be 5 days, the next 0 – all dependant on seasonal-based contracts with gaming companies), but the work itself was good. But they got hit by recession, and 75% of the people working there don’t anymore.

  43. 43
    Schala says:

    If that is the case, then my suggestion to you in my capacity as Grand High Poobah of Reproductive Morality is a) nail down for certain your fertility status and b) refrain from sexual activity that could produce a child if that nail-down is less than overwhelmingly conclusive.

    I’ve never been able to ejaculate in my life. Or orgasm AFAIK. I won’t penetrate anyone, and physically probably can’t due to a combination with underdevelopment, innate slight resistance to testosterone…and absence of the stuff due to meds I take every day. I can get an erection, but not enough to do much.

    Also, I probably could reasonably romantically date a woman…but I have personal self-esteem issues that might not work out with a cis woman (inferiority complex due to cissexism, regardless of what she thinks), but that are fine with a man (I never felt like one, so I don’t feel inferior, I’m not in that category).

    So I seriously doubt the issue would arise.

    I’m against it on principle, because I think it is unfair. As long as there is no male pill that is 100% or near-that effective, it puts unfair burden on men to not have sex with anyone they wouldn’t trust with their lives forever (never would betray you, run away, or lie to you).

  44. 44
    DirkS says:

    Roe vs Wade states that once a fetus is viable beyond the womb, the state could regulate or even prohibit abortion. Given the ever advancing medical technology, there will come a day when some or most abortions could be replaced by removal of the live fetus and growing it in vitro or implanting it in a surrogate carrier. Pro-life will likely become the majority opinion when termination of a pregnancy is possible without killing.
    If the father, or anyone else, wants to keep the child, should the mother pay child support?

  45. 45
    Fernando says:

    “1) Studies have found that the weaker a state’s child support laws, the higher the number of single mothers.

    If weak child support laws lead to an increase in single motherhood, then what would a law saying that men bear absolutely no responsibility do? We’d have an explosion of single motherhood, way worse than what we’ve already seen. That’s not a problem caused by legal abortion, but it is a problem that would be caused by giving men a “get out parental responsibility free” card.”

    This argument is implicitly stating that social wellness should override individual liberties, I’m not going to argue whether this is moral or not, but would you be willing to apply this implicit thought to other individual liberties if such liberties were found to cause a social ill (e.g. no fault divorce increases divorce rates, which are generally deemed to be bad, would you null it for the betterment of society?) ?

    “2) When a woman has an abortion, the fetus dies before ever becoming a person (in virtually all abortions, including most late-term abortions, the brain’s cerebral cortex isn’t even functioning yet, due to the lack of dendritic spines). In contrast, deadbeat parents cause deprivation and suffering to existing, real people with functioning brains.”

    Why do you assume that the man in question would forgo his rights and obligations AFTER the child is born and not BEFORE he is born?

  46. 46
    chingona says:

    if the result is forcing abstinence on someone (or else, get into debt!), well yeah, I oppose that. And it is slut-shaming, and changing behavior.

    Let me try this another way. If a person takes reasonable precautions and still gets herpes, that’s not slut-shaming. It’s life. It’s not slut-shaming that herpes has no cure. It’s just the current state of medicine. If your partner knew or should have known that they had herpes but they told you that they didn’t have any STIs, leading you to take fewer precautions, well, that sucks, but you’ll still have to deal with having herpes, and that fact is not “slut-shaming.” And it’s not “forcing” abstinence on someone or slut-shaming to say that the only 100 percent sure-fire way to not get herpes is to be abstinent.

    Most people manage to make their way through life by taking reasonable precautions and doing their best to roll with the punches when something they didn’t want happens anyway.

    Now, I’m sure some people reading this are thinking “But pregnancy has a cure! And it’s totally unfair that women get to take advantage of it and men don’t!” But like Amp said, that’s biology. If they came up with a cure for herpes but for some weird reason it only worked on women, I would say they should keep researching until they got one that worked for men, but it wouldn’t be slut-shaming or unfair to provide the cure to the women in the meantime.

  47. 47
    Schala says:

    Now, I’m sure some people reading this are thinking “But pregnancy has a cure! And it’s totally unfair that women get to take advantage of it and men don’t!” But like Amp said, that’s biology.

    Safe Haven laws don’t mind if you didn’t inform the putative father. Have Safe Haven laws for men, where an agreement can be reached (maybe by contract) prior to possible creation of the fetus.

    It’s not like adoption agencies ask child support payments from the woman who gave it for adoption (without informing the father, possibly because she doesn’t know herself). So the funding can come from the same place as that which funds adoption agencies.

    Men who receive child support are a minority, even if they have full custody. Also. So let’s not act as if the law was applied completely gender-neutrally. Some assigned-male-at-birth (yes, this includes trans women who fathered children) parents, with 50/50 custody, STILL pay child support, and receive none. It’s not like their 50% time with the kid(s) isn’t already costly.

    My impression is that her income (as a non-custodian parent) matters only if it surpasses a certain threshold, his (also as a non-custodian parent) matters all the time – and if he doesn’t have one, he should get to work to have one, now. Also, having to get to court to adjust it? Not everyone can afford lawyers. Especially if you just lost your job, or want to relocate for better opportunities.

  48. 48
    Ampersand says:

    This argument is implicitly stating that social wellness should override individual liberties, I’m not going to argue whether this is moral or not, but would you be willing to apply this implicit thought to other individual liberties if such liberties were found to cause a social ill (e.g. no fault divorce increases divorce rates, which are generally deemed to be bad, would you null it for the betterment of society?) ?

    I wouldn’t say that social wellness should always override individual liberties; rather, they are constantly in tension, and need to be balanced.

    As I’ve said many times, if we lived in a society in which that state provided enough resources so that children of single parents are guaranteed a middle-class lifestyle until they become adults, then I’d favor choice for men. (But of course, taxes would have to be higher in order to pay for that.)

    In the case of choice for men in our current society — in which welfare is extremely stingy and unreliable — the gain in liberty for men is not worth the increased deprivation for children.

    The best evidence on no-fault divorce indicates that it didn’t cause a significant increase in divorce over the long term. But certainly I can think of many other cases where I’d argue that reducing some individual liberty is worth it. Speed limits, for example. The requirement that children be educated. Some building codes. Food safety laws. Laws against child abuse. Etc, etc..

    Why do you assume that the man in question would forgo his rights and obligations AFTER the child is born and not BEFORE he is born?

    I don’t. Be either way, the result is the same: A living, born child who is materially deprived. That result is “a social ill” that society has a legitimate interest in avoiding.

    To use an extreme analogy, if I hide a time bomb in city hall, set to go off in nine months, it’s no excuse for me to say “at the time I planted the bomb, it didn’t go off.” Nor is it an excuse if I say “well, my partner had the skills needed to defuse the bomb and I didn’t, so I don’t bear any responsibility for what happens if she chooses not to defuse the bomb.”

    Of course, kids are not bombs, but the point remains: You don’t get out of responsibility because it takes nine months for your child to be born.

    But, again, if we just had a society in which child poverty was wiped out by government income transfer programs, then I could favor choice for men.

  49. 49
    Ampersand says:

    Safe Haven laws don’t mind if you didn’t inform the putative father. Have Safe Haven laws for men, where an agreement can be reached (maybe by contract) prior to possible creation of the fetus.

    I haven’t read Safe Haven laws in every state, but I can tell you that in Oregon (where I live) the Safe Haven law is gender-neutral; either parent can bring the infant to a hospital, police station, or fire station and leave it there. (pdf link). I just checked about 20 states at random here, and found only one state (Georgia) that had a Safe Haven law available only to mothers.

    So Safe Haven laws for men already exist, except in Georgia.

    It’s not like adoption agencies ask child support payments from the woman who gave it for adoption (without informing the father, possibly because she doesn’t know herself).

    Because the birth mother is no longer legally the mother of the child. The new adoptive mother is responsible for supporting the child, however, and if she and the adoptive father divorce (assuming it’s a hetero couple) then she might end up having to pay child support.

    Men who receive child support are a minority, even if they have full custody.

    Citation, please? And is this adjusted for income?

    So let’s not act as if the law was applied completely gender-neutrally. Some assigned-male-at-birth (yes, this includes trans women who fathered children) parents, with 50/50 custody, STILL pay child support, and receive none. It’s not like their 50% time with the kid(s) isn’t already costly.

    And plenty of men (and some women) pay no child support at all, even if they’ve been ordered to by a court. There are a lot of injustices in the system; there are many horror stories of how the system fails, told by both fathers and mothers. And I don’t doubt that many are true.

    So if you want to try and overhaul and rationalize the system (or, rather, systems, since each state has its own system) to make it work better for fathers, mothers AND children, I’d favor that.

    But what we’re talking about here is not a systematic overhaul that helps everyone, but a band-aid patch that will help some men by making things even more unfair for children than they already are. That’s obviously not fair.

  50. 50
    Ampersand says:

    Roe vs Wade states that once a fetus is viable beyond the womb, the state could regulate or even prohibit abortion. Given the ever advancing medical technology, there will come a day when some or most abortions could be replaced by removal of the live fetus and growing it in vitro or implanting it in a surrogate carrier.

    You know, people have been saying this for decades, but the point of practical (as opposed to theoretical) viability has barely budged at all. So I’m not convinced this is going to happen in my lifetime. But sure, as a hypothetical example, we can discuss it.

    If the father, or anyone else, wants to keep the child, should the mother pay child support?

    If there’s a born, living child and the father is raising it, then the mother should pay child support. The exact circumstances of the birth don’t change that at all. (There are some gender-neutral exceptions to this — for instance, if the custodial parent is a millionaire and the non-custodial parent isn’t — but in general, in our society, I think the non-custodial parent should always pay some child support).

    If it’s “anyone else,” then that’s probably an adoption, and the biological mother and father’s legal rights and obligations to the child have been terminated. However, the child’s new legal parent(s) are obligated to support it.

  51. 51
    james says:

    The welfare of the child is the foremost consideration. The mom might get more consideration for her preferences than the dad, depending on the judge, but yeah, if mom says “I don’t want it” and dad says “Gimme”, dad takes the baby and the primary custody, and mom gets assigned a support order.

    Hmm. If at the moment of birth the mum, dad and judge were all in the room and the decision was made, this is how it would go. In reality getting things to court takes time and judges make decisions based upon the current relationships with the child. Unmarried fathers have very little standing to develop a relationship (with information problem, legal timescales, and the mother having custody by default) and so find it very hard to contest an adoption based on it. If the baby has been living with carers who hope to adopt before the case comes to court, very few judges would remove the child from people it knows and place it with a stranger.

    That’s quite proper – decisions are made in the best interest of the child. But it’s also not quite right that this gets used as an exploit in order to sever the mothers relationship with the child over the father’s wishes. It’s manipulating a situation so the court’s choice is forced.

  52. 52
    Ampersand says:

    James, do you have any quantitative studies, or other research, supporting the claims you just made?

    I’ve certainly heard anecdotes from fathers talking about being mistreated in just the way you described. But I’ve also heard anecdotes from mothers about courts that treat the slightest sign of interest from fathers as equal to, or greater than, the mother’s contribution.

    I suspect that both kinds of horror stories are true — there are a lot of judges out there, after all, and different judges can have opposing biases — but if you’re claiming that the system in general acts in a certain way, it would be helpful if you could cite some non-anecdotal evidence.

  53. 53
    james says:

    I haven’t read Safe Haven laws in every state, but I can tell you that in Oregon (where I live) the Safe Haven law is gender-neutral; either parent can bring the infant to a hospital, police station, or fire station and leave it there. (pdf link).

    You’re right father’s won’t get prosecuted for abandonment. But can you explain how they can do this against the wishes of the mother without being prosecuted for kidnap?

    Because the birth mother is no longer legally the mother of the child. The new adoptive mother is responsible for supporting the child, however, and if she and the adoptive father divorce (assuming it’s a hetero couple) then she might end up having to pay child support.

    This is circular. You’re saying the birth mother isn’t responsible for paying adoptive parents child support because the birth mother isn’t responsible for paying adoptive parents. But, why shouldn’t financial support carry over after adoption. Surely, given a choice between adoptive parents and adoptive parents and a CS cheque every month the later would the second be in the best interests of the child?

    Historically, the only reason it’s the case is that choice-4-women has existed for unmarried mothers – it was a deliberate policy choice that young unmarried women should be able to have an unwanted child adopted (regardless of what the father thought) and get on with their lives. Some of that had changed some still exists, but it’s worth stressing that’s the historic background to the current law on adoption and it’s way more extreme than anything choice-4-men advocates are proposing.

  54. 54
    Ampersand says:

    But can you explain how they can do this against the wishes of the mother without being prosecuted for kidnap?

    Sure, there’s inequality there — but it’s caused by biology, not by biased laws. (Except in Georgia). And that inequality cuts both ways. Why is it that we see so many more fathers abandoning their infants than mothers? Biology. Why is it that mothers go through the pain and danger of pregnancy, but not fathers? Biology.

    If you want to talk about ways to equalize the biological inequities of childbirth, then my ears are open. But you seem to want to ignore the ways biological inequality harms women, while fixing the ways it harms men. That seems odd.

    By the way, once again, I’m quite open to supporting C4M — getting rid of child support laws altogether, in fact — if we have a generous welfare system which guarantees that all children will be raised in a middle-class household, economically. So I have nothing against “freeing” fathers from child support laws — but only if it’s done in a way that doesn’t make things worse for children and mothers.

  55. 55
    Ampersand says:

    BTW, Eytan Zweig, I just wanted to say that I thought your posts here have been excellent.

  56. 56
    rox says:

    Adoption is totally corrupt to begin with. Watch teen mom, do you see girls who don’t want their babies? Really? Sobbing hysterically because they miss their babies forever and ever?

    The larger percentage of women who allow their children to be taken and sold to rich people wanted their children and were in dire circumstances that impeded their ability to parent.

    I personally feel that we should help them (men and women alike) when they are facing parenting and financial obstacles. But pressuming we are going to take babies from poor people, then it makes no sense to convince them they are too poor to deserve their own child— that rich people deserve the child instead AND that now the poor people who can’t even have their own children should give money to the rich people?

    Huh?

    Further more I think it would be fine to do this, but if so you need to give biological parents equal custody rights as custodial parents, seeing as a majority never wanted to be parted from their children to begin with. I’m fine with just abolishing adoption outside of abusive situations and providing support to parents who need help.

  57. 57
    Schala says:

    And plenty of men (and some women) pay no child support at all

    Proportions kept, I read a statistic somewhere that men defaulted on payment less often than women. That only counts when court ordered support exists though. Though those women were a slight minority of the overall group of child-support-payers.

  58. 58
    chingona says:

    If the baby has been living with carers who hope to adopt before the case comes to court, very few judges would remove the child from people it knows and place it with a stranger.

    I don’t know how the weight of case law comes down, but in the Baby Richard and the Baby Jessica cases, courts decided in favor of biological fathers who weren’t informed at the time of adoption and removed children from homes where they had been living for years to return them to the biological fathers.

  59. 59
    Solo says:

    @chingona

    My knowlege of these two cases is superficial, but from the wikipedia articles in both instances the biological mother wanted the biological father to gain custody . Also, the biological parents married after regaining custody of the child. That’s a case of biological mother not being obstructive(which I expect happens often) and weighing in behind the father, not so much a case of courts valuing single fathers as parents.

  60. 60
    Dianne says:

    But can you explain how they can do this against the wishes of the mother without being prosecuted for kidnap?

    It’s my understanding that “safe haven” laws are a pain in the social work butt because of this and other problems. The law states that any person can leave an unharmed infant at certain locations (hospitals, fire department, etc), no questions asked. The idea is to prevent child abandonment by scared teens who can’t figure out what to do with the baby they just gave birth to. So far so good.

    But what do you do with the babies? They aren’t adoptable because there’s no way to prove that the parents have relinquished their rights. The baby sitter could have dropped the kid off for all anyone knows. Or the disapproving grandparent, the father who doesn’t want to pay child support even though the mother wants to keep the child, etc. So now there’s a baby who can’t be adopted, returned to its birth parents or even identified. What do you do next? Honestly, I have no idea what the standard answer is, but I hope it involves making a due diligence search for the parents and making sure that there isn’t a parent out there mourning the inexplicable absence of their child.

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  62. 61
    machina says:

    Amp:

    By the way, once again, I’m quite open to supporting C4M — getting rid of child support laws altogether, in fact — if we have a generous welfare system which guarantees that all children will be raised in a middle-class household, economically.

    But that’s impossible without shifting all working and lower class children to middle and upper class households.

    Anyway, I’d like the choice because it’d allow greater honesty. I’ve felt in the past I’ve had to tip toe around my preferences because if a pregnancy resulted I felt I would have to support whatever decision was made. I don’t think any good or productive conversations have come from that. You can argue about the lack of resources, but I don’t think a child support payment makes up for an absent or disinterested parent.

  63. 62
    mythago says:

    2ndnin @10, not sure what you’re referring to. If you mean states that allow an unmarried mother to put up her child for adoption without the father’s consent, like Utah and Oregon do, remember that those laws are not about freeing the father from child support; they’re about making it easier for married couples to adopt with the least inconvenience from the biological parents. Utah is particularly draconian in that regard IIRC, and the law does not allow a man to ‘opt out’ so much as it takes a “use it or lose it” view of an unmarried father exercising his parental rights wrt adoption.

    As Dianne @60 observes, “safe haven” laws don’t cut off anyone’s parental rights or obligations. All they do is prevent prosecuting the parents for abandonment, in the hopes that a scared parent will leave their newborn in a hospital rather than a Dumpster. As I understand it, normally the procedure is to try and locate the parents to reunite them with their child. Otherwise, the State has to institute proceedings to sever the unknown parents’ rights.

    Which is, of course, the answer to james’s disingenuous question about adoption: we don’t require a bioparent to pay support post-adoption because adoption transfers the parent-child relationship. After an adoption the biological parent has no more legal relationship to the child than you or I do.

    As an aside, I think it’s pathetic, if typical, to see that once again all the discussions are about child support and not about any other obligation or relationship between parent and child – it’s the old sexist meme that men should and do have nothing to contribute to parenthood except a paycheck.

  64. 63
    mythago says:

    BTW, Robert, sorry about things being sucky for you and I hope that you and your family come out of this with the best possible results in the circumstances.

  65. 64
    2ndnin says:

    Mythago, the purpose of the law is largely irrelevant rather the effect of the law. If genetics was really a major factor in the law wouldn’t we see mandatory DNA testing for paternity / maternity at birth against a register of all people? That way the ‘correct’ responsibility could be assigned (no ability of mothers to not identify the father, no false paternity etc.).

    The discussion seems to tend towards child support because the rest is not mandated by law. An absent parent is not locked up or has a license revoked for not being affectionate enough (applies to a non-absent parent as well) however these issues do arise for child support.

    As has been mentioned before a man’s capability to stop a pregnancy ends at conception so it makes sense that his liability does as well because his choice was not to have a child. Otherwise the argument should apply to women as well (ruling out abortion) because they knew the effects pregnancy would have. The judicial ruling above could equally read that the fact that a woman endangers her life / alters her body during a pregnancy is just SOL because that’s biology not law so having sex results in babies. We don’t write it this way (I believe) because of the risk to women and the foetus / baby / whatever if we do not allow safe medical abortions, so falling back on biology seems crass.

  66. 65
    mythago says:

    2ndnin @64: the effect of the law is to deprive fathers of their legal relationship to a child based on a) their marital status and b) their involvement in the pregnancy, in order to facilitate transfer of his and the mother’s parental status to an adoptive couple. That’s not really the same as permitting a father to make an informed decision to ‘opt out’ of his status regardless of what the mother does.

    It’s true that caring parenthood can’t be mandated by law. But what I’m talking about is that the discussions rarely tend toward “I don’t want to be forced into the moral responsibility of caring for another human being” or “The mother, if she wants, can force me to make the ugly choice of ‘fathering’ a child I didn’t want or traumatizing that child by absenting myself from his life.” It’s all about money as if that were the only, and most important, thing between a father and child.

    The argument does apply to women as well, as has been pointed out roughly a thousand times or so. A woman’s obligation towards her born child does not depend on whether she had the ability or opportunity to end the pregnancy. There is no I Couldn’t Afford An Abortion get-out-of-child-support-free option. The default is that a child’s parents are legally and financially responsible for that child, and have all parental rights regarding that child. It’s not the kid’s fault that Dad snuck the condom off before sex or that Mom was a minor and her parents wouldn’t let her get an abortion.

  67. 66
    chingona says:

    Anyway, I’d like the choice because it’d allow greater honesty. I’ve felt in the past I’ve had to tip toe around my preferences because if a pregnancy resulted I felt I would have to support whatever decision was made. I don’t think any good or productive conversations have come from that.

    I don’t think there is anything stopping you from telling your partners that you feel really strongly that you don’t want to father a child and that you hope they’ll choose to have an abortion if an accidental pregnancy occurs. Except perhaps the concern that if you’re honest, they might not want to have sex with you or the concern that if they’re ambivalent about what they’d do, you would then have to decide if you still wanted to have sex with them. I think the concern that men wouldn’t want to have sex with you might apply equally to a woman who says she has no intention of having an abortion. It’s been a long time since I’ve been single/casually dating, but my experience and that of my friends has been that for the most part we don’t have those conversations until it’s too late, but that’s not the fault of the law. It’s just our own comfort/maturity/desire to have sex without getting bogged down in what-ifs.

  68. 67
    2ndnin says:

    Precisely, the effect of the law is what is important not what it was written to support. As it stands the law is not exactly fair.

    From what I have seen if the discussion goes away from money towards moral responsibility it tends to get bogged down in either ‘you had sex, live with it’, or ‘man up and take responsibility’ rather than actually looking at why a man may not wish to father children at that time but may want to be sexually active.

    Those arguments are beside the point Mythago, we aren’t discussing after birth requirements but the pre-birth post-sex part. That women bear an unfair amount of responsibility and risk in pregnancy is an artifact of biology. The rulings and support we see for abortion are generally about her body her choice but surely (if the same should apply to a man) her choice to risk pregnancy and all it entails was made when she had sex. That she bears an unfair responsibility is just an artifact of biology. The judicial ruling quoted above gives men no choice and says that it is fine since it is biological not legal, the same standard could equally be applied, don’t have sex if you don’t want to be pregnant. I don’t see many people following that line though so there is at least subconsciously some support for sex unrelated to reproduction since abortion laws support ‘any reason’ not just life threatening ones.

  69. 68
    mythago says:

    2ndnin @67: The intent of the law is important because it is why the laws have the effect that they do. The Utah law is written to kick unmarried fathers out of the picture, and that’s exactly what it does. It isn’t C4M.

    The rulings and support we see for abortion are generally about her body her choice but surely (if the same should apply to a man) her choice to risk pregnancy and all it entails was made when she had sex.

    ….what are you talking about? The “rulings we see for abortion” have to do with the woman’s privacy interest in her own body vs. the government’s interest in preserving fetal life. That’s it. It has nothing to do with whether she “chose” to risk pregnancy. There is no separate extra privacy right for rape survivors, say.

    And abortion, again, has nothing whatsoever to do with a parent’s obligation towards his or her biological children. The legal default is that once you have a kid, you have obligations to that kid. They’re not qualified with “unless your husband had sex with you while you were sleeping and you didn’t choose to risk pregnancy”, say. There’s no “exemption for child support because your boyfriend abused you and wouldn’t let you go to an abortion clinic”.

    Because, see, while we’re talking about how the adults want to fuck, there’s this person who didn’t have anything whatsoever to do with contraception or abortion or C4M or getting married later and wanting not to be bothered with pesky pre-existing offspring. We don’t set aside that person’s right to the support and care of his or her parents unless there is a very good reason – such as, other people have stepped in and taken the place of their parents.

    “You had sex, deal with it” would indeed be slut-shaming. I don’t see how “your desire to have consequence-free sex is not your son’s problem” is.

  70. 69
    chingona says:

    abortion laws support ‘any reason’ not just life threatening ones.

    All pregnancy is potentially life-threatening.

    The judicial ruling quoted above gives men no choice and says that it is fine since it is biological not legal, the same standard could equally be applied, don’t have sex if you don’t want to be pregnant.

    As a society, we generally take the view that impositions on a person’s physical body are more significant than financial impositions, such that we all pay taxes but we don’t go work on forced labor crews three days a month.

  71. 70
    Sebastian H says:

    “A woman’s obligation towards her born child does not depend on whether she had the ability or opportunity to end the pregnancy. There is no I Couldn’t Afford An Abortion get-out-of-child-support-free option.”

    Sure there is, adoption. And newborns are VERY easy to get through the adoption process if you really want to end your parental rights. And that is true even of non-white adoptions. (It is 2 year olds and older that have serious problems being adopted).

    Now I’m not at all supportive of the bill in question. As far as I’m concerned contraception should be more available, our abortion laws should be more like France’s (almost no legal abortion after the 3rd month without extensive and well documented proof of medical need), and if a child is born–extreme difficulty in getting out of child care unless you give up for adoption. But it isn’t at all true that failing to have an abortion means you can’t easily get out of child support (if you are a woman willing to put your fetus up for adoption).

  72. 71
    2ndnin says:

    We agree there Mythago, the law doesn’t care once the child is born because it sees you as having a responsibility to that child.

    The state of the law currently (and society) is ‘you had sex deal with it’ for men. So if it is slut shaming one way I don’t see why it wouldn’t the other way provided the guy took efforts to prevent pregnancy. My point is that if you view it that way, that a guy rolls the dice each time he has sex / a sexual act, then the argument for ‘a woman’s privacy’ is or should be negated because she chose to give up her privacy with the sexual act.

    I am not anti-abortion though and believe that given the current state of technology and contraception it should be legal however that having that right comes with responsibility. In my mind we should arrange child support in advance with the parents signing a support contract or having someone else do so such that the care of the child is well formed and understood. That means that yes men are given a ‘free ride’ but that the situation is better defined than the current quagmire that exists.

    Having an agreed contract type support means we could have social support for children because the appropriate parties would simply be billed or given a ‘loan’ to cover unexpected situations. Single mothers could be supported to get the child to 18 / age of majority before repaying as appropriate to the state. It would no longer be a black hole / issue to retrieve money they way it is now if we actually defined what a child needs from it’s parents or guardians.

  73. 72
    mythago says:

    Sebastian H @70: And what if the baby’s father objects to the adoption? The mother can’t adopt out “her half” of the parental rights and obligations.

    2ndnin @71: The state of the law currently is “you have biological offspring, you are responsible for it” for men and women. I understand you would like it to be slut-shaming and unilateral for men, because then your argument would be stronger, but it’s not.

    Your privacy argument is ludicrous. If a woman ‘gives up her privacy’ by having sex, then you presumably believe it would be OK for the government to jail her if she eats junk food – after all, she has no privacy right in her own body anymore, yes?

    The child has a right to support and protection from its parents. That’s why contracts make no sense. Can I contract away your rights without your consent?

  74. 73
    marmalade says:

    a guy rolls the dice each time he has sex / a sexual act, then the argument for ‘a woman’s privacy’ is or should be negated because she chose to give up her privacy with the sexual act.

    Each partner ‘rolls the dice’ each time they engage in a potentially fertile sex act. If that sex act results in a conception, then yes, at that point for a man the case is closed: he has partial responsibility if that pregnancy results in a child. It’s not HIS body that will be impacted by either a painful, uncomfortable full-term pregnancy or an invasive, painful procedure at a clinic. The invasion of privacy – if you can even call it that – borne by a man by having to provide partial support for a child is not on the same scale as the invasion of privacy borne by a pregnant woman given no option but to carry a fetus to term.

    Single mothers could be supported to get the child to 18 / age of majority before repaying as appropriate to the state.

    So bunches of 35 to 60 year-old women should get bills from the state for $50,000 to $100,000 (half the cost of raising a kid to adulthood in the US) per child after each child reaches the age of 18? While the fathers, with their greater earning power from wage imbalances and freedom from childcare responsibilities, should pay nothing . . . not even contributing to the taxes to support these half-orphaned kids?

    That means that yes men are given a ‘free ride’

    Yeah. I guess so. Wow.

  75. 74
    mythago says:

    marmalade @73: It’s a false dichotomy to balance child support vs childbearing. BOTH biological parents have the same responsibility towards their born children. The difference for women is that, because the developing fetus is physically in their body, they have (depending on where they live and the stage of pregnancy) the right to terminate the pregnancy without the government stopping them. Men don’t have this corresponding right, because they don’t get pregnant.

    C4M is really a clumsy attempt to try and mimic the woman’s (limited) right to an abortion, without the biological reality of a pregnancy that could be aborted. And it ends up giving men GREATER rights than women, because currently a woman’s obligation to her child doesn’t go away if she was unable to exercise the choice to abort a pregnancy. (Not even if the now-seeking-to-bail father was directly responsible for her inability to abort.)

  76. 75
    marmalade says:

    It’s a false dichotomy to balance child support vs childbearing. BOTH biological parents have the same responsibility towards their born children.

    I agree absolutely.

    The top 2ndnin’s post @71 seems to imply that those are equivalent invasions of privacy – arguing that if men don’t get a legal ‘out’ (based on privacy) for partial childsupport, women should not get a legal ‘out’ (based on privacy) from going through pregnancy/childbirth. Or that if abortion is legal based on privacy consideration, men should have protection from childsupport requirements based on the same principle.

    They are not equivalent in the least. I don’t agree that requirement for childsupport can even be considered an invasion of privacy.

  77. 76
    machina says:

    chingona@66

    There’s nothing stopping me from stating preferences but it’s a weak statement to say, “In the event of a pregnancy I have this preference but I’ll support whatever your decision is”. Calling it a “strong preference” doesn’t make it a stronger statement because it boils down to supporting her decision. You’re right that I can make a decision to not to have sex with a woman based on incompatible preferences. I’ve only done this once but in that case she took it more as a rejection of herself than a reproductive decision. I think it would have been a stronger, and more informative, statement to say, “In the event of a pregnancy I have this preference and I would make this decision”. I agree that people don’t have discussions very often, but I think that’s because there’s not much to discuss.

  78. 77
    machina says:

    I’ll add to the above that I think that growing up knowing their father did not want to be so is terrible for the child. However, this happens already. Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop women having abortions, making drugs illegal doesn’t stop people from becoming addicted to drugs, making divorce reliant on fault doesn’t preserve marriages and making fatherhood compulsory at conception doesn’t make men want their children. The welfare of the child can improved by compulsory child support payments but I think that this is a questionable benefit in many cases given that they are then bound in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want that relationship. That’s the only positive of the law I can see, otherwise it just enforces dysfunctional relationships.

  79. 78
    Schala says:

    If a woman ‘gives up her privacy’ by having sex, then you presumably believe it would be OK for the government to jail her if she eats junk food

    Isn’t that a slippery slope argument?

    The man gives up his privacy by having sex, if it results in a child later on. And can then be jailed for not paying child support. Not if he eats junk food.

    The child has a right to support and protection from its parents.

    The objection is not to the child’s right to support and protection, it’s that, absent this being provided by parents, it still ends up being provided by society, through taxes or charity. And while I totally agree that first dibs on support should be on parents, I disagree that you have to force them into parenthood if they had no intention from conception to take part in it.

    It feels like being Jean Valjean and arrested for stealing bread to feed starving people and having to serve 20 years in forced work in prison for it (minus the being obsessively pursued for a decade after though). A gross injustice to me.

    So I can’t stand by a notion of “have sex, potentially pay 18 years, no way out” even if I want the child to have a right to decent liveable treatment.

    I’m against conscription for the same reason.

  80. 79
    mythago says:

    Schala @78: What do you mean by ‘gives up his privacy’? You seem to think it means ‘giving up the right to do whatever he wants’. That’s not what privacy, as it relates to abortion, means.

    The objection is not to the child’s right to support and protection

    The fuck it isn’t. You just compared having a child to being imprisoned for 20 years on a charge of petty theft.

  81. 80
    chingona says:

    I’ll add to the above that I think that growing up knowing their father did not want to be so is terrible for the child.

    And C4M would change that how? Oh, my biological father signed a piece of paper saying he wouldn’t provide even the most basic physical needs for me? Oh, well, that changes everything!

    There’s nothing stopping me from stating preferences but it’s a weak statement to say, “In the event of a pregnancy I have this preference but I’ll support whatever your decision is”

    You could try, “In the event of a pregnancy, I have this preference, and if you make a different choice, I’m going to be a real asshole about it.” You might not get laid very much, but putting a government stamp of approval on your assholishness isn’t going to help that problem anymore that it will help your hypothetical future unwanted child feel psychologically better about the whole thing.

    The welfare of the child can improved by compulsory child support payments but I think that this is a questionable benefit in many cases given that they are then bound in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want that relationship. That’s the only positive of the law I can see, otherwise it just enforces dysfunctional relationships.

    It’s funny because I know plenty of situations that started out on what seemed like a very wrong foot (from we just broke up and then a week later she found out she was pregnant, to she’s pregnant and we’d only been dating for three months, to yikes! we’re only 17!) that all ended up with very close father-child relationships. I also know situations where men were married for years to their children’s mother and then simply walked out on the family and disappeared or became nothing but a resentful check after the divorce. Parenthood, planned or not, is, like many things in life, what you make of it.

    As it stands, I’m pretty sure most women take into account “Is he going to be an asshole about this?” when making decisions about abortion. In fact, I can think of at least two women who might not have had abortions, except that they were pretty sure the guy was going to be a total jerk about things and didn’t want to be dealing with him in any capacity for the next 18 years.

    The more I listen to the C4M people, the more it seems like the flip side of guys crying into their beers 20 years later because some ex-girlfriend had an abortion. It’s not about the kid and it’s not about the money. It’s just about being in control. Some men can’t stand the fact that there is one thing over which women have control.

  82. 81
    Fernando says:

    @ Ampersand says:
    September 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    “I don’t. Be either way, the result is the same: A living, born child who is materially deprived. That result is “a social ill” that society has a legitimate interest in avoiding.”

    What if the man opts out at a point where the mother still has the possibility to decide to abort (e.g. Before the fetus is viable or before it’s considered late-term abortion) if she believes that she isn’t prepared to have a child alone?

  83. 82
    machina says:

    chingona,

    And C4M would change that how? Oh, my biological father signed a piece of paper saying he wouldn’t provide even the most basic physical needs for me? Oh, well, that changes everything!

    You could try, “In the event of a pregnancy, I have this preference, and if you make a different choice, I’m going to be a real asshole about it.” You might not get laid very much, but putting a government stamp of approval on your assholishness isn’t going to help that problem anymore that it will help your hypothetical future unwanted child feel psychologically better about the whole thing.

    My argument is that it would improve things for the child because having a parent in your life that doesn’t want to be in your life is generally worse than having them sign out during pregnancy. A self-confessed “asshole” is better legally separated from a child, right?

    It’s funny because I know plenty of situations that started out on what seemed like a very wrong foot (from we just broke up and then a week later she found out she was pregnant, to she’s pregnant and we’d only been dating for three months, to yikes! we’re only 17!) that all ended up with very close father-child relationships. I also know situations where men were married for years to their children’s mother and then simply walked out on the family and disappeared or became nothing but a resentful check after the divorce. Parenthood, planned or not, is, like many things in life, what you make of it.

    Do you think in the cases where there developed very close father-child relationships that the fathers would have signed out? Personally I don’t think many men would sign out. Having an implicit ability to sign in would be good too, I think.

    As it stands, I’m pretty sure most women take into account “Is he going to be an asshole about this?” when making decisions about abortion. In fact, I can think of at least two women who might not have had abortions, except that they were pretty sure the guy was going to be a total jerk about things and didn’t want to be dealing with him in any capacity for the next 18 years.

    Sure, and some probably guessed wrong. Having a sign out would hopefully take the guesswork out of it.

    The more I listen to the C4M people, the more it seems like the flip side of guys crying into their beers 20 years later because some ex-girlfriend had an abortion. It’s not about the kid and it’s not about the money. It’s just about being in control. Some men can’t stand the fact that there is one thing over which women have control.

    Women would still have control over abortion. I think this is a matter of the rights of individuals against those of the state.

  84. 83
    chingona says:

    My argument is that it would improve things for the child because having a parent in your life that doesn’t want to be in your life is generally worse than having them sign out during pregnancy.

    In what sense would it improve things? In both cases, they have an absentee father, but in one case they are slightly less poor.

  85. 84
    EasilyEnthused says:

    @Chinoga
    If a father is paying child support, he could apply for visitation with the child. In that case, he could use that time to expose the child to poisonous ideas upon the child (religion, disdain for the mother, etc.).

    I’m not saying men are more prone to this type of treatment of a child, but I think it is a possibility that a parent who does not want a relationship with their biological child but is forced to be financially responsible for them could become bitter at the child or the parent who got them into that situation. That bitterness could be taken out on the child during visitation.

  86. 85
    chingona says:

    If a father is paying child support, he could apply for visitation with the child. In that case, he could use that time to expose the child to poisonous ideas upon the child (religion, disdain for the mother, etc.).

    Well, sure, and some women don’t seek child support for precisely those reasons. If they don’t end up on welfare, it doesn’t become an issue. But it’s just as true of a non-custodial parent after a divorce, and custodial parents can seek orders denying the visitation if the behavior is bad enough (though I’m sure it’s a nightmare for all involved). Arguably, the father who never lived with his children would be less likely to do that because he’d be less invested – both in the child and in his relationship with the mother.

  87. 86
    Ampersand says:

    EasilyEnthused, thank you for being a C4M advocate who is making a “best interests of the child” argument, rather than assuming that the best interests of the father is the only legitimate concern. That’s rare.

    That said, your argument seems INCREDIBLY speculative to me. Is there ANY evidence at all to support the theory that children of single mothers with no contact with their fathers are better off than children of single mothers with some contact with their fathers? Or evidence that children of single parents in states with weak child support laws are better off than their counterparts in states with strong child support laws?

    As far as I know, the social science evidence strongly supports the idea that receiving child support is helpful to children with nonresident fathers, and is mixed on if contact with nonresident fathers is good for children (but with the plurality of studies finding that contact is good for children). (For example).

  88. 87
    Sebastian H says:

    “The fuck it isn’t. You just compared having a child to being imprisoned for 20 years on a charge of petty theft.”

    I didn’t make it, but that wasn’t a metaphor. That is a straight up description of reality. If you don’t pay child support you go to jail. So essentially you risk being imprisoned for many years on a charge of petty unprotected sex.

    I don’t totally agree with where Schala goes with the argument, but you aren’t even being remotely fair to it.

  89. 88
    EasilyEnthused says:

    I completely agree that my above theorization was speculative. I was just responding to “In what sense would it improve things? In both cases, they have an absentee father, but in one case they are slightly less poor.”

    That’s just one hypothetical way that having an angry man in a child’s life might be better than not. I have no idea if it’s common.

    Also, it’s a small point – but I don’t think I would like to claim that I am a C4M “advocate.” If currently implemented in the form my friends in the MRM advocate – it would certainly result in a situation that came at a great expense to the children of our world while giving too many men (undeserved) escape from responsibility.

    I would simply like our legal system to remove incentive for women to mislead a man into fatherhood. If you have sex with me, secretly hoping to have a child while promising me you’re on birth control and would have an abortion if you got pregnant – you are not a person A) I want raising ANYONE’S CHILD B) someone I want to make payments to for the next two decades or risk going to jail. Simple as that.

    For some reason, the opponents of C4M here haven’t mentioned going after the father of a sperm donor for his money if the mother comes down on hard times. Why is that? I mean, what really matters most here is the child’s interests, so why don’t we go after sperm donors?

    I would suspect that we don’t want to punish fathers for the bad decisions of the mothers?

    I know hope that what I just typed above would be really, really rare. But the way our current system is organized – there is absolutely no “safety valve” for a man who has been victimized by a woman. And the patriarchy sure isn’t about to do anything about changing THAT narrative – of men being victimized by women.

  90. 89
    mythago says:

    Sebastian H @87: You do realize that “being locked up for not paying child support” applies just as much to men who enthusiastically and deliberately fathered a child, right? Are such men being punished for having sex, in your view?

    Imprisoning parents who don’t pay child support is, at least in theory, based on a court’s determination that a parent can pay X amount of child support but is simply choosing not to do so, and thus is in contempt of court. If you wish to argue that such orders are abused or don’t sufficiently distinguish between parents who can’t pay and those who simply would prefer to blow their money on hookers, that’s a different point. But you’re arguing that every single parent who doesn’t pay child support is in the same moral position as a starving urchin who steals bread and earns 20 years in prison as punishment. That’s horseshit.

    EasilyEnthused @88: One might just as easily, and with equal lack of evidence, argue that men who are required to pay child support may decide “well, heck, as long as I’m a father I might as well do the whole thing,” and end up being closer and more attentive to their children.

    The reason we don’t go after sperm donors is the same reason we don’t go after birth parents when a child has been adopted.

  91. 90
    Susan says:

    I would simply like our legal system to remove incentive for women to mislead a man into fatherhood.

    It’s impossible to come up with any numbers on this, but I have the feeling, and maybe it’s only that, that this is an urban myth, mostly. Motherhood is such an arduous life sentence – worth it, however – that I have trouble imagining that there are many women who “mislead” men into fatherhood in order to extort “payments for the next two decades.”

    I’ll note here too that the majority of monies ordered by the courts as child support payments are never paid.

  92. 91
    Ampersand says:

    I would simply like our legal system to remove incentive for women to mislead a man into fatherhood.

    In fact, states with tougher child support laws also have lower rates of single motherhood.

    Either the incentive you’re worrying about either doesn’t exist at all, or exists but is overcome by other factors (such as men being more careful about birth control when child support laws are stronger).

  93. 92
    chingona says:

    But you’re arguing that every single parent who doesn’t pay child support is in the same moral position as a starving urchin who steals bread and earns 20 years in prison as punishment.

    I believe that Jean Valjean was actually a father, stealing bread for his starving children, ironically enough.

  94. 93
    mythago says:

    Susan @90: One wonders what incentive there is for a woman to “mislead a man into fatherhood” for purely financial gain anyway. Unless he is rich, rich, rich, child-support payments are not going to offset the costs of rearing a child (which include opportunity costs, housing costs, reduced ability to earn income due to childcare responsibilities, and so on).

  95. 94
    Susan says:

    I have to agree, mythago.

    I’m thinking that the “urban myth” I reference is (a) a paranoid fantasy (and a note to all you paranoid men, ever heard of condoms?) (b) an excuse after the fact used by guys with more hindsight than foresight. (“It’s not my fault, she tricked me!” since “she raped me!” is not available.)

    What do I know. I just think, with you, that the motivation cited is insufficient.

    I told my sons, “Here’s the deal, like it or not. If you impregnate some girl, at that point the control is out of your hands. If she wants to abort the pregnancy, you can’t stop her. If she wants to carry the baby to term, you can’t force her to abort. If she wants to give the baby away for adoption, the only way you can stop her is to take custody yourself. If she wants to keep the baby and raise it, you’re on the hook for child support for 18 years. Think ahead.

    Reality is full of places where you can get hurt if you don’t think ahead. So far neither of my sons has fallen into this particular hole.

  96. I have written before–in a post I don’t have the time to dig up–about what happened between myself and the woman who was my lover when I was in my twenties. We had not been seeing each other for that long yet–in the end, we ended up being together for nearly seven years–and we were having sex, using condoms. (I also think it’s important to note that this was in mid-1980s.) One day, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I didn’t know what she would do if she got pregnant. I was committed to the idea that the choice was entirely hers, but I was not ready to be a father for any one of a number of reasons, and so I asked her what she thought she would do. She said she didn’t know. I pressed her on it and she kept saying she didn’t know. This terrified me, for what I imagine are obvious reasons.

    So I decided that I didn’t want to have PIV sex with her anymore, not even with condoms, and that I didn’t want to make a decision about what I thought our sex life should be like, until she made a decision. I made it clear to her that I wasn’t asking her to sign a contract, that I understood the reality of being pregnant might move her to change her mind, but I did not feel comfortable having sex with her unless she could tell me what she thought she might do. And so, at my insistence, we stopped having PIV sex–though we did not stop being sexually involved. We were not perfectly abstinent–I was in my early 20s and in very uncharted territory, both personally and for the times–but that does not change the point I am going to make next.

    After some time, my girlfriend told me she’d decided that she would have an abortion if she got pregnant. We talked about it a bit and it made me comfortable enough to start having sex again. Years later, though, after we’d been together for about five years, she told me that she’d lied to me, that she had known all along that if she and I conceived a child, she would have kept it. She’d told me she would have an abortion because she didn’t want to lose me, but even as she told me that, she was suspicious that I had started the whole conversation simply because I’d wanted sex with no strings attached. She was telling me now that she’d lied, she said, because she had finally realized that I was not “that kind of guy.” (I am writing this quickly and using shorthand, so i would appreciate that any discussion of this comment not try to delve too deeply into our relationship; what I am writing here simply does not do it justice.)

    I was, of course, devastated. I really felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, but the point here is that, whatever my girlfriend’s lie might have said/done to our relationship–and clearly we were able to work it through since we ended up being together another two years or so–if she had become pregnant and decided to keep the child, the fact of her lie would not in any have released from my obligation to the child we had conceived and to which she was choosing to give birth. My relationship to that child once it was born would have been entirely separate from my relationship to its mother in terms of responsibilities, obligations and even emotional attachment. (And I am not talking here about the practical issues involved in that kind of relationship; I am talking about the fact of the relationship itself.)

    And now I am off to teach technical writing. Please forgive any sloppiness, as I have been typing very quickly.

  97. 96
    EasilyEnthused says:

    I’m sick of hiding behind this.
    My wife reads my blog, but doesn’t follow my entire postings so here it is:

    A couple months ago, my wife and I had a scare. We’ve been together for almost 5 years, and married for 1. One of our first conversations before we started dating was that we would both use protection and if she got pregnant, she would abort.

    After she missed her period a few months ago, she said that if she was pregnant, she would have the baby. I had no choice in the matter. After a long discussion, she admitted that this had been her mindset for the past few years – even before our marriage. Sure, I could stop having PIV sex with MY WIFE from here on out … but …

    I love my wife – and I am preparing better to facilitate a child in the near future. But women who have “baby-fever” LIE. They LIE to get what they want from the men they want to have babies with. The fact that our legal system has no recourse for men is a travesty.

    (“Baby-fever” is supposed to be read as a joke. However, some women are willing to do very wrong things to have a baby.)

  98. 97
    mythago says:

    Easily Enthused @96: But, what? Your wife has lied to you and said that she wants to have a baby whether you do or not. If you continue to have sex with her, you are doing so with the full knowledge and consent that if she gets pregnant that you will become a father. How, exactly, are you being tricked into parenthood here?

    You do have other options: get a vasectomy (not 100% effective but pretty darn close), stop having sex with her, divorce her. You are affirmatively, and with full knowledge, continuing to swap bodily fluids with somebody who has lied to you about her intentions – not just changed her mind, but deliberately deceived you so that you would do what she wanted. “Baby fever” is not, in fact, a recognized mental illness or organic brain disorder that warps your wife’s behavior.

    (By the way, if we’re going to throw around “man, that opposite sex is such bullshit” anecdotes here, plenty of men LIE, too. They* LIE that they have taken steps to prevent pregnancy, say, by keeping the condom on. They LIE that they will stick around and be a responsible daddy to their babies. They LIE that she shouldn’t have the abortion because he’ll be there for the whole pregnancy. They LIE that of course they will pay for half the abortion if she ever gets pregnant and they’ll support her if that’s what she chooses. If you think only women “get baby fever” you are delusional.)

    The legal system doesn’t have a whole bunch better recourse for your wife if it’s you who comes down with baby fever, btw. She isn’t entitled to have a free abortion at government expense.** If you had, say, LIED about having had a vasectomy, or if you impeded her getting an abortion, or if she didn’t discover that she was pregnant until it was too late, then she would be SOL if you said “No, I don’t want to put our child up for adoption.”

    *And to be very clear, “they” refers to “the particular men who behave this way” not “all, or even most, men”.

    **ETA: certainly not in the United States, anyway, where as a practical matter abortion can be very difficult to obtain outside of large urban areas.

  99. 98
    Susan says:

    (“Baby-fever” is supposed to be read as a joke. However, some women are willing to do very wrong things to have a baby.)

    @EasilyEnthused,

    The behavior you describe is deep in women’s hardwiring, for obvious evolutionary reasons. Also, I’m wondering what kind of relationship would require a woman to abort a pregnancy. Are you not aware that a lot of women would view this as a violation? Think about it for a minute.

    For an analogy, let me use a man sort of kind of forcing a woman to have sex. Yes yes it’s wrong, but in the end it’s behavior which has a high evolutionary value. (The more babies you have or father, the better your genome is propagated.) We’re talking upper brain (“morality”) vs. lower brain here. For most of us most of the time, whatever our allegations may be, the lower brain is in the pilot’s seat.

    You and your wife obviously have some work to do.

    Oh mythago, post immediately before mine, are you ever right on.

  100. 99
    EasilyEnthused says:

    @Mythago:
    You must’ve read over this part:
    “After a long discussion, she admitted that this had been her mindset for the past few years.”
    So – if she had gotten pregnant in the past couple years – even to despite our agreement – she would’ve been unable to have an abortion (emotionally.)

    I find it odd that both of your responses since my last comment are more concerned with MY relationship rather than the topic at hand – the ability for women who want to have a baby to ensnare men into child support for an unwanted child regardless of prior agreements. Interesting … perhaps you enjoy women having this power over men?