When a women gets pregnant, there is a defined period during which she can make a choice about what to do with the baby – raise the child, put the child up for adoption, or have an abortion. However, as the law stands right now, men don’t have any say into that choice, yet the women’s choice will have a dramatic impact on his life for decades to come.
In Michigan, a lawsuit has been commenced to challenge this. Matt Dubay of Saginaw, Michigan was ordered to pay $500 per month in child support for a girl born last year to his ex-girlfriend. Mr Dubay states he told her many times that he did not want a child and also that his ex assured him repeatedly that because of a physical condition she could not get pregnant.
The argument, which I agree with, is that men should have the same rights as women do to terminate parental responsibility for an unwanted child as women currently do either through abortion or adoption.
As most people seem to concentrate on the hot button issue of abortion it’s important to emphasize the adoption side of it – a woman can at any time voluntarily end all financial and other responsibility for a child by giving the child up for adoption. Most people do not find it morally repugnant that a woman wants to put a child up for adoption – nor would they demand that once the adoption has occurred, the woman pay child support because she is the biological parent.
Opponents of giving men choice have several arguments that on closer examination don’t really hold much water. Let’s take a look at them.
1. This is just an excuse for men not to pay child support. I’m sure for some men that’s true, but there are a lot of reasons why someone may not want a child other than paying child support. In any event, this really just begs the issue. Before a child is born, the law gives women a choice (abortion) as to whether they want to be financially responsible for a child. After a child is born, the law gives women a choice (adoption) as to whether they want to be financially responsible for a child. Why should men be denied these choices?
2. The best interests of the child. This argument is basically that we should be concerned with what’s best for the child, not the parents, and the more money there is to raise the child, the better. Well, some of the most dysfunctional families I’ve seen in my practice are the wealthy ones, so I don’t even agree that more money = a better childhood.
But let’s leave that concern for another day and assume that more money is better for a child. In making any other decision in her life, the mother needs to consider her financial resources. Why should this be different – if you want a child and can’t afford it, why should you be allowed to coerce someone else to pay for it. Hey, I want the largest house in the best part of town, and I know that would be best for my child – perhaps someone should be forced to pay for that. After all, it’s all in my boy’s best interests.
I’d also point out that as a society we don’t obligate sperm donors to pay child support. The only practical difference in the child’s life between Mr Dubay and a sperm donor is that Mr Dubay is not anonymous.
I also find it a bit hypocritical that the best interests of the child are brought in at this stage – after all this is the stage at which the woman has the right to decide whether the child should be conceived or not. If it really is all about the best interests of the child, then abortion would need to be prohibited in all but a few extreme cases.
3. False comparison between men and women. This argument is basically that deciding whether to have an abortion or whether to put a child up for adoption are very different decisions than deciding whether to pay child support. But it’s not really. In deciding whether to have an abortion or whether to put a child up for adoption the woman is essentially deciding whether she wants to take on responsibility — including financial responsibility — for a child. All that’s being asked for is that a man has the same opportunity, during the same time period, to decide whether he wants to take on responsibility including financial responsibility for a child.
4. Men should keep their pants zipped. OK, this is really the silliest argument I’ve seen. Last time I checked (and high school biology was a long, long time ago) it takes two to create a child. Yes, obviously sex can lead to children, but again that begs the issue. The issue is that once pregnancy has occurred, there is a huge discrepancy in the rights and choices that a man has and the rights and choices that a woman has.
People say Dubay should “step up and be a man” even though he doesn’t want parental responsibility. Would they say the same thing to his ex if she put her child up for adoption? Would they say that a woman who puts her child up for adoption should “step up and be a woman” and pay child support? Or, what if the roles had been reversed and Dubay lied to his girlfriend that he had a vasectomy and as a result she got pregnant – would she be demonized by people who are pro-choice that she was wrong to get an abortion? Double standards die hard.