Men v. Roe

Toast passed on this BBC article with the note, “Wow. The National Center for Men… It'd be funny if it weren't so, you know, not funny.” And then I saw this AP article, on the same subject, which is a lawsuit prepared by The National Center for Men to challenge the issue of male reproductive rights. As expected, The National Center for Men is arguing that “a man involved in an unintended pregnancy should have the choice of declining the financial responsibilities of fatherhood.”

The case was filed on behalf of Matt Dubay of Saginaw, Michigan, a 25-year-old computer programmer who has been ordered to pay $500/month in child support to a daughter he had with his then-girlfriend last year. (Or, as the article says, “a girl born last year to his ex-girlfriend.”) Dubay asserts that his ex-girlfriend told him that she couldn’t get pregnant because of a physical condition, and that he made her aware he didn’t want a child.

Nothing I’ve read so far indicates that Dubay took any precaution to use birth control, just in case. (Or, you know, as a charmingly quaint homage to the 80s, when we all learned to use condoms to protect ourselves against a deadly STD called AIDS; phew—glad that’s behind us!) But Dubay’s freedom to act irresponsibly was encroached upon by the “girl born last year to his ex-girlfriend,” and The National Center for Men thinks that’s totally unacceptable. So their solution is to require women to comply with whatever men want to allow them to get back to their carefree selves.

"The problem is this is so politically incorrect," [said Mel Feit, director of the men's center]. "The public is still dealing with the pre-Roe ethic when it comes to men, that if a man fathers a child, he should accept responsibility."

Feit doesn't advocate an unlimited fatherhood opt-out; he proposes a brief period in which a man, after learning of an unintended pregnancy, could decline parental responsibilities if the relationship was one in which neither partner had desired a child.

"If the woman changes her mind and wants the child, she should be responsible," Feit said. "If she can't take care of the child, adoption is a good alternative."
Got that argument? A man and a woman make a child together. If the man doesn’t want the child, he should be able to opt out of the responsibility, and the woman should be responsible. Of course, the flip side of this coin, which is left out of the article, is that men’s rights advocates also believe if a woman doesn’t want the child, she should be forced to be responsible to carry it to term at the man’s wishes. (In the latter case, this is usually referred to as “fathers’ rights,” although they like to leave any reference to “fatherhood” out of the discussion of the former, as in this case, where the child is not even referred to as his daughter; the use of language alone is informative as to how these men want it both ways.) You’ll notice in both cases, the woman is expected to be responsible—by allowing the father freedom from child support payments, by either getting an abortion or giving the child up for adoption if she can’t support the child on her own, or by not getting an abortion or giving up the child for adoption even if she doesn’t want a child but the father does. Funny how that works.

"There's such a spectrum of choice that women have — it's her body, her pregnancy and she has the ultimate right to make decisions," said [Feit]. "I'm trying to find a way for a man also to have some say over decisions that affect his life profoundly."
Men have plenty of “say” over this decision—but it all happens before the pregnancy. They have “say” over the women with whom they choose to have sex. They have “say” over whether they choose to discuss in depth with a partner what they would do in the case of an unintended pregnancy—and what their partners would do. They have “say” over whether they put a condom on.

Once a woman is pregnant, men’s legal “say” ends. They don’t have the right to demand abortion, and they don’t have the right to demand carrying the fetus to term, because conferring those rights would allow them to exact control over another human’s body, which is simply an untenable position. And no matter how much you don’t like that, it doesn’t belong in the courts. Take it up with the Almighty, or the Intelligent Designer, or Mother Nature, or whatever, which in its infinite wisdom decided that only one sex should have the ability to get pregnant.


On a side note, all of this discussion about what a woman should or shouldn’t do is really extraneous to the key issue, which is child support, one of many issues targeted by fathers’ rights advocates, which is almost exclusively a misnomer for deadbeat misogynists. Trish Wilson writes extensively on this topic (you can start here).

And as a further aside, let me issue the reminder that sometimes doctors make mistakes. I’ve known several women who were told they could not get pregnant, and then—voila!—they did. Women may tell you in good faith that they’ve been told they can’t get pregnant; if you don’t want a kid, wear a condom, anyway.

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