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.

This entry posted in Choice for Men, crossposted on TADA. Bookmark the permalink. 

324 Responses to Why Choice For Men is Wrong

  1. 301
    EasilyEnthused says:

    @Mythago 298:
    Well, I disagree with your evaluation of what it means to have “access to abortion.”

    How about this, then: IF WOMEN did have complete, absolute right to abortions at no cost to them, would you then agree with C4M?

    I suspect you would not – which makes this a moot point.

  2. 302
    mythago says:

    EasilyEnthused @299: I, too, think that the world would be a better place if people only had children when both parents enthusiastically wanted a child and all parents loved their born children. That’s not really an argument, though. You’re proposing to replace the current system (parents are responsible for their children, regardless of whether they intended or wanted to be parents, with limited exceptions) with an opt-out system. You don’t acknowledge the severe downsides of a C4M system, you incorrectly claim that women have a “legal guarantee” of non-parenthood, and you are completely silent as to how courts are supposed to sort out parental rights when one parent claims they never wanted a kid in the first place.

    And women do not “convert a fetus into a child”. A fetus develops all on its own.

  3. 303
    mythago says:

    Well, I disagree with your evaluation of what it means to have “access to abortion.”

    We’re talking about your claim that women have a “legal guarantee” of not having to be parents if they don’t want to be parents because abortion. That claim is false.

    WRT abortion, you are misunderstanding my point. I am not saying “women have no free choice therefore men shouldn’t either.” That’s the choice view, which as I noted in @199, I don’t share. I hold the results view, which is that the choice of the parents is irrelevant to the issue of the parents’ obligations.

    The correct question to ask me would be “if Roe were overturned tomorrow and abortion was legally murder from conception on, would you support allowing mothers to unilaterally walk away from their legal obligations at birth?” And the answer is no, I would not.

  4. 304
    EasilyEnthused says:

    @Mythago:
    “You are completely silent as to how courts are supposed to sort out parental rights when one parent claims they never wanted a kid in the first place.”

    Certified letter? How about text messages between myself and the mother where I express before the sex act that I don’t want to have children? The mother, on video, promising if she gets pregnant she’ll have an abortion and won’t hold me responsible for child support? How about an e-mail from the mother to the father saying “You don’t need to pay me child support.”

    C’mon – you’re familiar with standards of proof and authentication issues – but our courts are able to handle those things over issues of life and death, – so why should child support be more tricky?

    And, yes, women do convert a fetus into a child. A fetus develops with the calories and oxygen supplied by the mother. If the mother does not exist, the fetus will not survive.

  5. 305
    lauren says:

    “A parent who do not want their own children makes for a shitty parent. And that child would have been better off if they were not born in the first place – hence we discourage the mother to continue with the pregnancy.

    If there is no other willing parent to help you support that child – you have an ethical duty to abort the fetus before it becomes a child.

    If a FETUS is not wanted by both parents, an abortion should happen. ”

    This is so offensively disgusting I don’t even know what to say.

    There are a lot of people who were raised by single mothers. The world would not be better off without us. And “you should have been aborted so your father didn’t have to pay child support”. Fucking seriously?

    Maybe you are all too bus trying to protect yourself from evil money grabbing women or whatever, but I would think the common decency of considering “hey, some people reading this thread might have been raised by single parents. Maybe we shouldn’t tell them that the world would be a better place if they all had never existed.” isn’t too much to ask.

    (and this is not just directed at easily enthused. The fact that so many people agree that “women who will be single mothers should abort on priciple” is horrifying.)

    (edited because I can’t get the blogquote to work)

  6. 306
    EasilyEnthused says:

    @Lauren:

    I sincerely apologize – I did not mean to imply that you should not have been born or anything along those lines.

    I was raised by my mother after my parents divorced. My father was suicidal and had to go to the only clinic that would accept him – 4 states away – so I was effectively raised alone by my mother for many years with no support from my father – however my father did love me and did his best to support me emotionally during that time.

    My father was willing to support me, but unable to do so emotionally or financially. But my father’s breakdown came after I was already a child and going to school – so my mother, who was willing AND able – did so alone.

    That said, if my mother was pregnant with me and my father suffered the breakdown during that period of time – I would have preferred my mother to abort me at that time and wait to have me after my father’s recovery – so I could’ve had the support of both parents during my entire childhood.

  7. 307
    Solo says:

    @mythago:

    In other words, we’d allow either parent to instantly abandon all rights and responsibilities to their child within a fixed window.

    There is no child at that point, so the issue isn’t about withdrawing support from a child+.

    There’s a time window during which potential parents can step forward to pledge support (An opt-in). At that point both parties can make an informed decision as to whether they want to continue the pregnancy. With few exceptions, neither gets to change their minds once the window has passed*. Because of biology the woman retains greater control, i.e. the right of control over her body which permits her to an abortion even if the father(or woman in a lesbian couple) wishes otherwise. It also means that a willing father is solely on the hook to support the child if he wants it, she doesn’t and she decides to carry on with the pregnancy. If neither wants the child, it goes to the state for adoption++.

    I think it is better for all parties to have a reasonable idea of the support they can expect in raising the child. IMO, C4M (or C4P) is easier to swallow if abortion issues are cleared up and we picture two eighteen year olds not thinking things through. If you are thinking of a narcissistic middle age man spewing his DNA wily nilly, then it sucks that his irresponsible behavior is being inadvertently shielded by C4M**.

    if Roe were overturned tomorrow and abortion was legally murder from conception on, would you support allowing mothers to unilaterally walk away from their legal obligations at birth

    If that were to happen, C4M and C4W would be lost because we have narrowed the window to immediately after conception. The whole C4M argument rests on the understanding that a fetus is not a person and therefore potential parents can still affect their obligations. Science gives us more choices. I’m sure there is legal precedent for progress altering the cost equation to the point where laws are rewritten.

    A side drift, but I’m curious, what would happen if after PIV, the woman went on fertility treatment (I don’t know the specifics, but assume it is effective almost immediately) and had six babies. Are you morally okay with him being obligated to support four children, or would you want to cull of all but one fetus***?

    + Everything I am saying operates under the assumption that abortion is available with no financial burden or shenanigans.

    * Under those circumstances the C4M promoters should quit whining about much heftier and aggressive child support collection. Compensating the custodial parent for any opportunity cost wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

    ++ I believe the majority of such children spend many years in foster care, so I don’t get how has been considered a transfer of parental obligations rather than abandonment

    ** I don’t agree C4M will increase irresponsible behavior. What are the odds of contracting a STD versus the risk of pregnancy? If a horrible death isn’t motivation enough to use a condom or ask that your partner use one, I doubt no-C4M would be.

    *** Yes, the language is cold, because a fetus is not a child.

    PS: Apologies if this has been said a million times already.

  8. 308
    mythago says:

    C’mon – you’re familiar with standards of proof and authentication issues – but our courts are able to handle those things over issues of life and death, – so why should child support be more tricky?

    I’m not even talking about the evidence. I’m talking about the fact that right now, “but I didn’t want to be a parent in the first place” is not a basis for challenging child support or custody. If you’re the legal (which usually means the biological) parent, you’re on the hook. You can dispute the fact of parenthood, or the amount or circumstances of support and custody, but that’s pretty much it. Allowing the argument “but I never wanted that kid in the first place” means it’s going to be raised every goddamn time somebody doesn’t want to meet their legal obligations, and the court will have to sort that out. As I said before, thanks for thinking of us lawyers, but I can’t get behind this one.

    BTW, you may also want to think carefully about what C4M means outside of family courts. Remember, parenthood is not just about money. Oh, I’m being charged with neglecting my kid or not protecting him from harm like a parent is obligated to do? Sorry, but I never wanted to be a parent in the first place, so as a matter of law I should be treated as having exercised my ‘choice’ to have no responsibility for this child.

    ETA: How about an e-mail from the mother to the father saying “You don’t need to pay me child support.” How about it? Didn’t we already deal with the fact that the obligation is to the child and not the mother?

  9. 309
    chingona says:

    I swore I was done with this, and I’m not even sure what I’m about to write will be productive, but what the hell …

    If we’re talking about a C4M that gives men a right to withdraw support provided the woman still has an opportunity to have an abortion, would that right expire along with viability, the same way a woman’s right to have an abortion shrinks drastically after 20 weeks? So in the case of someone who doesn’t realize she is pregnant until she is too far along (it happens – I’ve given two real-life examples in this thread and I know of others), would the man also lose his right to withdraw support? If we’re trying to construct a parallel right out of fairness to men, it would have to, wouldn’t it?

    So … couldn’t a woman who wanted to “entrap” a man just put off taking a pregnancy test until she was too far along to abort?

    And if we’re talking about a C4M that would make a man not responsible for a child that he didn’t know about until after it was born, it seems to me that a man also would not have any rights to a child he didn’t know about until after it was born. If he found out through mutual acquaintances that she had had a baby and wanted to see his kid, if he wanted to be a parent, it would just be too bad, wouldn’t it?

    We’ve placed parental rights and responsibilities hand-in-hand. I don’t really see how you can create a C4M that allows men to get out of their responsibilities without radically reducing their rights. I realize some of the C4M advocates on this thread may not identify as MRAs, but to the extent that any political support for C4M would have to come from that quarter, it seems to run smack into the priorities of the father’s rights types.

    Mythago has brought this up before, but there doesn’t seem to be much support for an opt-in that makes women the only legal parents of children, which would be a really straight-forward way to do it.

  10. 310
    mythago says:

    Solo @306: The fact that people can be bad at risk assessment doesn’t mean that they do no risk assessment. The STD argument is silly. Most are not fatal to people in developing nations, and let’s face it, most people underestimate their risk of catching an STD. But to the extent that people weigh the risk of pregnancy and parenthood in making sexual choices, C4M would completely eliminate any incentive for men to make choices that would minimize those risks, and shifts the full cost of those risks to women. Even if this is Magicland where abortion is free and always available, it’s not like blowing your nose.

    Right now, people do have an idea of the support they can expect when raising a child. How does C4M change that?

  11. 311
    chingona says:

    One more thing, going off of the abortion example I used above, it seems to me there is a legal incoherence to the C4M argument because the right to an abortion doesn’t stem from the same place as parental rights and responsibilities. The right to an abortion stems from the concept of the right to privacy in medical decisions/bodily autonomy, and it declines as the fetus becomes viable. That many woman end up choosing abortion because they don’t want to parent is tangential to the whole issue. Trying to construct C4M as a parallel right lacks coherence because a man has no parallel medical decision at stake. So you have people on this thread arguing that it should only apply to pre-existing agreements or in the first 12 weeks or … if he didn’t know about the baby until it was too late to bail out earlier. One of these things is not like the other.

  12. Pingback: Choice for Men and Male Heterosexual Responsibility | Alas, a Blog

  13. 312
    Solo says:

    The STD argument is silly. Most are not fatal to people in developing nations…

    Contracting AIDS was pretty much fatal for a very long time and still isn’t a picnic. The point was that most men irresponsible enough to not use protection for casual sex are unlikely to change their minds whether C4M is or isn’t around. The pill keeps pregnancy at bay, but leaves you wide open to pretty much everything else. Self interest isn’t working logically.

    C4M would completely eliminate any incentive for men to make choices that would minimize those risks, and shifts the full cost of those risks to women.

    Why would you assume that women are so spineless? If you are in a relationship with someone so unwilling to look out for your well being, you are better off not sleeping with that person. I think this would strip away the delusion that by default everyone will end up in one big happy family.

    Even if this is Magicland…

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t many developed nations already count as Magicland, or are moving toward it? Magicland is a 99.999% effective contraceptive for both sexes.

    Right now, people do have an idea of the support they can expect when raising a child. How does C4M change that?

    Yes, but everyone says it is not enough to even cover the child. With C4M we could have a justification for not only compensating the child, but also the parent at much higher rates.

  14. Pingback: Choice for Men and Male Heterosexual Responsibility – Richard Jeffrey Newman

  15. 313
    mythago says:

    Solo @311: Yes, self-interest is not working logically; that’s the point. I think the fact that this thread is about ‘omg women trapping men into pregnancy’ and not ‘omg women giving men fatal STDs’ is a pretty clear indicator of people’s risk assessment.

    C4M has been touted here as a way of discouraging predatory females. Why should we assume that it would change the behavior of women, but not of men? This has nothing to do with women being ‘spineless’. Again, why is it reasonable to assume that women are careless, predatory or selfish but men never area?

    You can’t have it both ways. If fatherhood is not such a big deal as to affect men’s sexual behavior, then there’s no reason to see fatherhood as being such a burden that it should be alleviated through C4M. If, instead, it is a very big deal, then why should we assume that men will remain just as careful when the fear of unwanted fatherhood is eliminated?

    I do not understand what you are talking about with your last two paragraphs. Even if Parent A can afford to raise a child alone and then some, that does not excuse Parent B’s obligations to the child.

  16. 314
    Ampersand says:

    Solo, evidence seems to indicate that men do indeed become less concerned about preventing pregnancy in states with weaker child support laws. Why do you think this wouldn’t be the case for C4M, which is essentially a way to make child support laws even weaker?

    Why would you assume that women are so spineless?

    *rolleyes*

    1) Many human beings, both women and men, sometimes give in to what a sexual partner wants or demands, even if it’s not a good idea. This doesn’t necessarily make them “spineless,” and putting it that way is the act of an asshole. Please stop acting like an asshole. Try to remember that you’re talking about fellow human beings; try using some empathy for other people who find themselves in hard situations.

    If you can’t do that, then you’re not someone I want to talk to. And since I’m one of the moderators of this blog, if you’re not someone I want to talk to, then you won’t be posting here long. So please do better.

    (Keep in mind that there’s no shortage of people disagreeing with my views here. So I don’t need to keep you around in order to keep dissent around.)

    2) Obviously, some women will sometimes — for whatever reason — not stand up for what you think their best interests are. (Just like some men will not.) To say “they shouldn’t act in this way, and if they do they’re spineless” isn’t a practical or realistic response to a real problem, which is that some people will, in fact, behave that way.

  17. 315
    chingona says:

    I think the last sentence refers to this fantasy that if we had C4M, the state would step in to provide for these children at some generous rate. You know, out of these funds for adopted children. Or whatever.

  18. 316
    Solo says:

    @Ampersand.
    I apologize, that was unrealistic and poorly thought out. I’m not for baking any such expectations into the law or for mocking people for not looking out for themselves.

    To clarify 311′s last paragraph:
    My point was that since both parents enthusiastically agree to raising the child, the non custodial parent would have higher child support obligations than what we currently have, as well as an obligation to the parent who stays out of the workforce.

    So if two dentists earning 200K each consent to having a child and the woman drops out of work, the man would currently compensate the child at 25K at year. But that doesn’t reflect the sacrifice made by the mother. I’m saying he should pay the child 25K, and the mother another 50K while she is unable to work.

    C4M is contingent on all these other nice things coming along.

  19. 317
    Schala says:

    Well, I abandon my idea of trying to convince anyone here. The world will remain bleak for people, whatever I do, anyways. Not like it affects me, so I can be selfish in simply stopping to care enough to argue.

    I also won’t convince conservatives of stopping bullying, or stop gender clinics (or parents who bring kids there, thinking there is “something wrong with them”) from trying to make kids into gender-congruent-behaving robots. Two things that affected me moderately.

  20. 318
    Ampersand says:

    I apologize, that was unrealistic and poorly thought out. I’m not for baking any such expectations into the law or for mocking people for not looking out for themselves.

    Wow. Thank you for taking being moderated so well. It’s a bit unusual on the interwebs (although less ususual among the group of people who comment on “Alas”).

  21. 319
    mythago says:

    Schala @316: Did you really just mean to imply that people who disagree with you are morally equivalent to those who approve of transphobic bullying and forcing transgender kids to try and act cisgendered?

  22. 320
    Schala says:

    “Schala @316: Did you really just mean to imply that people who disagree with you are morally equivalent to those who approve of transphobic bullying and forcing transgender kids to try and act cisgendered?”

    No, I’m saying that even if people advocate for gender clinics to stop trying to convert kids a la Sissy Boy Syndrome, those clinics still exist, are legal, and have pinion-sur-rue (they’re THE official gender place, imagine). I’m speaking of Kenneth J Zucker in particular, though maybe other clinics exist elsewhere.

    I’m saying that advocacy for those things have not made them illegal.

    And gender identity disorder in childhood is very often considered a proxy for “pre-gay” diagnosis, so it’s legal ex-gay therapy on little kids, that the Canadian government happily finances (at CAMH, where there is the biggest gender clinic in Canada – regardless of the therapy itself being financed, the institute is).

    In the face of no possible change, I bow out. Regardless of the morality of the issue.

  23. 321
    Susan says:

    I think the last sentence refers to this fantasy that if we had C4M, the state would step in to provide for these children at some generous rate. You know, out of these funds for adopted children. Or whatever.

    Re-read this sentence substituting “you and me out of our own pockets” for “the state.” That’s where “the state” gets its money.

    As between me, a stranger to this whole transaction, and the biological father, who do you think should be charged with supporting this child? I know what I think.

  24. Pingback: Privilege & Activism « Inquisitive Spark