Since we’re on the subject of women’s control of men’s parental rights, I might as well bring this up (Digital Journal, 3/3/13).
Layne Hardin is a Louisiana man. He dated a woman named Katherine LeBlanc for a while and, before they broke up, the pair traveled to Houston where he deposited his semen with a sperm bank there. Hardin and LeBlanc signed some sort of stipulation with the sperm bank, Texas Andrology Services, under which only LeBlanc could use Hardin’s semen to have herself impregnated. He wanted LeBlanc to be able to use his semen in case she wanted a child in addition to the one she already had. At some point later, Hardin got a vasectomy.
As I said, Hardin and LeBlanc eventually went their separate ways, and he began dating a woman named Tobie Devall. They too eventually separated, but apparently Devall wasn’t finished with Hardin. According to the lawsuit Hardin has filed against her, Texas Andrology Services and the fertility clinic, Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates, Devall went to Houston and had no problem obtaining his semen, having herself impregnated and, in the fullness of time, giving birth to a son. The boy is now two years old.
Hardin says she did that to get back at him for breaking up with her, but whatever her motivations, there’s a larger picture. That is that, even though Hardin plainly doesn’t want kids, he’s got one. He took reasonable precautions to ensure that only LeBlanc could be the mother of a child of his, but, because the fertility clinic and his ex-girlfriend ignored his wishes, he has a son whom he could be made to support should Devall so desire. She could go to court any time and Hardin would be forced to pay not only future child support, but past support as well. She apparently committed a moral and legal wrong, but the law and the courts stand ready to support her anyway.
And what of Hardin? What would happen if he went to court to enforce his parental rights, gain access to his child and begin to play a real part in the boy’s life? It depends on which state he filed his claim in, but in many states, he’d have at best a difficult time. Since he’s not played a part in his son’s life to date, the court would look askance at allowing him to become the boy’s father out of the blue. Eventually, Hardin might succeed in getting some minimal visitation along with the child support he’d be required to pay, but it would be limited at best. In some states, all he’d get is ‘no.’
But if Devall wanted his support and she was the one who went to court, it’d happen like clockwork. He’d be assessed some amount and given some minimal parental rights. And of course if Devall ever receives some form of welfare, the state will go straight to Hardin for reimbursement.
We’ve seen variations on this theme before. The woman who retrieved semen out of her boyfriend’s condom and used it to inseminate herself is one example. There he argued that he shouldn’t have to pay to support a child who came into being without his consent, against his will and by deceit. Too bad. Despite all those things, the court said only one thing mattered – his biological relationship to the child. He was genetically the child’s father so he had to support the child for 18 years. The same will be true in Layne Hardin’s case should Tobie Devall so desire.
And that of course is dramatically different from the rights of a biological father who wants an active role in his child’s life. As I’ve described before, Supreme Court precedent requires an unmarried father to not only provide his DNA, but to play the role of father – supporting the mother, paying the bills, changing diapers, etc. to have parental rights. If he doesn’t, regardless of how hard he tried to do so, he’s out of luck. The Supreme Court places his parental rights firmly in her hands. Nurture rules his rights.
But when it comes to parental duties, only one thing matters – his DNA. If he’s the biological dad, he can be called on to provide support at any time. Is his offspring an adult, say, 30 years old? Mom can get a court order for back support. Never mind the fact that the “child” will see none of that money. She can cash in on a lump sum any time she chooses. A father’s parental obligations are ruled by nature.
As contradictory as those two dueling legal precepts are, they do have one thing in common. Mom gets to decide. If she wants his money, she can get it, no questions asked. If she wants him out of his child’s life, she can do that too just by refusing him access (See the Dissent in Lehr v. Robinson).
It’s all a nice, neat legal package in which unmarried fathers find themselves utterly under the thumb of the women who bear their children.
Of course it’s not all about fathers, though. Let’s not forget the children who are deprived of a father, allowed a father or allowed several fathers, all depending on their mother’s wishes. She can raise the child alone, with the biological father, with a man who believes he’s the father but isn’t, with a boyfriend or stepfather. Whatever she wishes is permitted by the law even though much of what she might opt for is unquestionably detrimental to the child. Courts routinely claim to be acting in the best interests of children, but they’re just kidding. They don’t really mean it. What they’re doing is acting in the interests of the mother. They do it countless times a day, five days a week, every week of the year.
Although no court will care, at least Layne Hardin recognizes the potential for emotional trauma to a little boy who, at some point in his life, will come to realize just how his mother contrived to bring him into the world.
Hardin complains that he could be sued to pay child support for the 2-year-old boy, despite never authorizing the use of his sperm or having met the child. However, he says his greater concern in the situation is the emotional impact. He said: “It don’t stop when he’s 18. This is forever. This ripple effect affected me and my family. When he gets old enough and realizes how he was brought into this world, then his ripple effect starts.”Indeed. But it’s a mother who decided all things about this little boy and his father, Layne Hardin. Unless Hardin prevails in his suit against her, there’ll be no consequences for Tobie Devall, a fact that won’t be lost on other women who may be tempted to ignore the wishes of a man regarding paternity. Count on it; as long as we allow women to do what they please about children, injustices like this one and countless others, will continue to occur.