Roe v. Wade for Men

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.

Comments

  1. Excellent post and great follow up to the original story.

  2. Well as a woman I would love to have a choice what to do with a pregnancy that doesn’t involve a surgical procedure, giving birth or having to raise the child. Perhaps I would like something where I just sign something on paper and it is as if the pregnancy didn’t happen. Oh wait that doesn’t exist for us women. I guess in some of these cases if this goes through men will be able to just walk away with their decision while us women will bear the financial, emotional and physical ramifications of these unplanned pregnancy.

    When a couple makes a decision to have sex – safer or not they take the risk that a child will be conceived.I know 3 babies who are the result of vasectomies that didn’t work and one tubal ligation that didn’t take as well.

    The woman is given the choice because she is the one who carries that future life inside her. She is the one who will have to give birth or go through the surgical procedure.If the woman chooses to give the child up for adoption does the man not have a say- does he not have to sign away his parental rights at the same time? Can he choose to go for custody then?

    When they come up with something that I can just sign away my pregnancy and it didn’t exsist then I think men should be allowed the same.

  3. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with you regarding the issue of abortion and it’s somewhat unfortunate that the media has styled this case as “Roe v Wade for men.” That’s because I think the arguments regarding adoption are much more compelling (and as you point out, the issue of abortion raises a whole lot of other complex questions).

    Since writing this I’ve also learned that many American states have what are known as “Safely Surrendered Baby Acts.” See for instance, the California government’s information page about this here:
    http://www.babysafe.ca.gov/res/pdf/SSBFactSheet.pdf

    Under these Acts, a woman can simply surrender a baby at a hospital, fire station, police station, etc. with no questions asked. If she does this, she has no responsibility for the baby. Yet a man does not have the choice to do this.

  4. I suspect most of these babies that are surrendered are either very young mothers( I am a nurse – I’ve seen 12 year old coming into the hospital with possible appendicitis – turns out they are in labour! and unaware they are pregnant) or Other women concealing their pregnancies. This program was really implemented to stop the “garbage pail” babies. The ones women deliver in private and toss. Sad but this is an necessary alternative and a choice for those women who feel they have no other choices.

    The father really has very few rights if the mother doesn’t identify him as the father and he is unaware she is pregnant either. You can’t do much about this – the nature of the fact that once the sperm meets the egg the man really doesn’t know what happens next unless he is involved in that woman’s life. Doesn’t child support usually start when he is aware of the child as opposed to once that child is born if he is unaware of the pregnancy?

  5. Nice job on this story.

  6. bellablue says:

    Jenny,

    I am sorry, but I do not agree with you. I am woman too and I feel that as such, I have all the rights and men basically do not have any. If I were pregnant and I made the decision to keep the child, even though the father did not want a child, I would never ask for financial or emotional support from him. I would already be taking something from him, namely, the opportunity to have a child when he is ready, and the joy of having a child when he is in a relationship with someone he really wants to have a child with.

    I have two friends who lied to men in order to get pregnant. Both women told their respective men that they were on the pill, when they were not. Both had children. One demanded financial support and the other woman never told the father. I can not understand either of these actions, nor can I understand why a man should be held financially responsible when a woman commits what is basically a fraudulent act. This essentially amounts to stealing sperm. What if a man was somehow able to steal a woman’s egg and use it to create a child? People would be horrified. It would most certainly be seen as theft.

    As a woman, I have the body that can get pregnant. Therefore, if I am in a casual relationship, it is up to me to protect myself against pregnancy. Having said this, if a couple is in a loving marriage and they decide to have a child together and later split up, then I fully agree that non-custodial parent should pay support.

    You see Jenny, we do, as women, have choices other than those that involve a “surgical procedure, giving birth or having to raise the child.” We have the choice to use birth control (two forms to err on the side of caution), or just simply abstain. In today’s society, we have many options. We do not have to force men to have children when they do not want them. Perhaps, as women, we should have this discussion with the man before we have sex.

  7. AdventureED says:

    I have read this article and I believe this case needs to be reheard at the Supreme Court level.

    I think that to entitle this case Roe v. Wade for Men hinders the arguement in that it allows the court to focus on only half the problem argue that one a child is born both parents are equally pursued in terms of support for the child.

    This case needs to be entitled “MEN’s Right to Choose”. Women have been granted the right to choose murder over motherhood prior to a childs birth via the Roe v. Wade decision. However if she elects to birth the child and via the Safe Haven Act she has thirty days to walk into any hospital and hand the child over to any hospital staff and then turn and walk out of the childs life. She automatically forfeits all rights and responsibilities to the child (finacial and otherwise) and the child will be given up for adoption. Due to both of these additional “RIGHTS TO CHOOSE” granted to women but not to men,,forced maternity and parenthood do not apply to women in the U.S.A.

    Men on the other hand are denied these additional “RIGHTS TO CHOOSE”. In fighting this battle we need to focus more on gaining for men BOTH of these additional rights to choose that have been granted to women and under the same terms and conditions that it was awarded to women.

    Also,,the old Jim Crow laws of the south which discriminated against blacks in the 1950’s and 60’s was ruled to be Unconstitutional and a form of Institutionalized Discrimination because it denied blacks the same rights to choose that were awarded to whites. (ie,,the right to choose where they could sit on the bus, what restaurants they could eat in etc.) The federal courts ruled this disparate treatment of blacks to be a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Any agency or business that serves the public that also gets any of its working capitol (monies) and/or materials (paper, pencils, desk, ANYTHING) from outside the state is in violation of Interstate Commerce if they practice this form of Discrimiation. The States DHHR and Child Support Enforcement Agencies get outside monies from the federal government to run their agencies and I’m sure most all materials used in the running of those agencies comes from across state lines as well. They are therefore also in violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause when they give to women certain rights that they then deny to men.

    If I could get the legal and financial support I would be willing to fight this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. I have myself been ordered to pay support for a child I did not want. I have thus far chosen civil disobedience over obeying any law that discriminates against me in this manner.

    Let me know your thoughts,

    Aaron A. Edison

Trackbacks

  1. […] In her comments on my post about the so-called Roe v. Wade case for men, Jenny raises a number of interesting questions about what rights and responsibilities an unwed father in Canada has in regards to his unborn children when he is no longer in a relationship with the mother. […]

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