Oh ScienceBlogs, you’re usually so great, but this post made me want to die of teh clueless. It’s about a “man’s rights” to abortion, and basically argues that since women have the right to terminate pregnancies, men should have the right to refuse to support the children they beget. The author even includes a handy poll, which asks, “What should a man’s legal obligation be when he impregnates a woman?” and offers the following as options:
1. Should be responsible for paying half of whatever the woman chooses.
2. Should only be responsible for half if both choose to have the kid.
3. Should never be responsible for half.
4. Should be allowed to force the woman to abort.
…none, of course, which represent the current law. Men are never on the hook “for paying half of whatever the woman chooses.” They typically pay whatever they choose, and sometimes are ordered by a court to contribute what the judge deems to be a fair amount. The post concludes with these two paragraphs:
Now, mind you, I think that the choice of whether to have the kid or not should always lie with the woman (it’s her body), but I think the man should be able to choose whether he wants to be a dad or not. I think that if she chooses abortion, it’s his responsibility to pay half. But I think that if she chooses to have the child, with or without him, he should have the right to say, “without me, please.”
Right now, the courts always place the welfare of the child first. Is this the right thing to do in this day and age? What do you think?
See, that’s the thing with child support: It’s for the child. The court places the welfare of the child first because the child is dependent on financial contributions from its parents and/or the state. No one is legally obligated to be a dad in terms of providing the kind of emotional support that parents should ideally provide; the state, however, does have an interest in making sure that children are fed and financially provided-for. That’s where child support comes in. The courts can’t force you to be a decent human being, but they can make you pony up a little cash to make sure that the kid you helped create has something to eat and some clothes to wear.
Child support is a separate animal from reproductive rights. Reproductive rights are fundamentally about bodily automony, and they begin and end with your own body. The right to abortion isn’t a right just because we think women should be able to opt out of parenthood; it’s a right because forcing a woman to maintain a pregnancy for nine months against her will is an impermissible infringement upon her physical being. The fact that a desire to opt out of parenthood may be a factor in some women’s decisions to have abortions doesn’t change the reality that abortion rights are based on the right to control your own body. When there’s another person involved — a child — your obligations and freedoms change.
Is it unfair that once pregnancy occurs, a man does not have the right or ability to end it? I guess, in the same way that it’s unfair that women have to carry a pregnancy for nine months, or undergo an invasive surgical procedure to end it. That sucks. It’s not “fair.” But by virtue of having to bear that burden for nearly ten months after intercourse, women also have reproductive rights that are different from men’s. Those rights extend through pregnancy.
It may not feel “fair” to be on the hook for child support when you don’t want a kid. But children still need to be cared for, and it strikes me as pretty unfair to demand that a woman undergo a surgical procedure which she may believe to be morally wrong or be stuck with the full financial responsiblity of raising a kid by herself.
And what happens if a woman doesn’t want to remain pregnant, but the man wants the child? Should he have the legal right to force or economically coerce her into giving birth?
I understand that some dudes are really put off by the idea that there’s one thing they may not have full control over. But as long as there are differences in reproductive capabilities, there are going to be differences in the rights that come along with those capabilities. And insofar as children are distinct human beings with the right to be financially cared for, the men who helped create those children should be partially responsible.
Thanks to Texas Reader, who really held her own in the comments, for the link.
- Two Words: Shut Up. by Jill November 19, 2007
- On Baby Emma by Jill April 27, 2010
- A Little More on Motherhood and Choice by Latoya September 5, 2008
- Cutting back on babies to save the earth? by Jill September 12, 2007
- Beyond Stupak: Reproductive Coercion in the Health Care Bill by Jill November 24, 2009