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December 17th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A Wisconsin man has been ordered by a judge to refrain from fathering any more children until he can show he can support them.  Read about it here (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 12/4/12).

Corey Curtis, 44, has fathered children with six different women and currently owes over $100,000 in back child support.  So Curtis was in court to be sentenced for failure to support his kids.  Circuit Court Judge Tim Boyle gave him three years probation, but required Curtis, as a condition of his probation, to not father any more children, presumably until he pays what he owes.

Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Sommers told the judge he did have some authority regarding Curtis’ reproduction rights. Sommers cited a 2001 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling upholding a judge’s power to order a defendant, as a condition of probation, to not procreate again unless he can show he can financially support the child.

“I will make that a condition of the probation,” Boyle said immediately, sentencing Curtis to three years’ probation.

Hmm.  At first glance of course, this guy needs to acquaint himself with the facts of life.  He needs to grasp the idea that he can have sex with a woman while protecting himself against producing yet another child.  All those children are his and he needs to take his share of responsibility for them.  If he was unable to do so at the time they were conceived, he should have taken the elementary and cheap precautions available to ensure that they weren’t.  It’s too late for that now, and, if the judge’s admonition actually convinces Curtis to start doing what he should have been all along, then I won’t get too upset about it.

But all that is at first glance, and there’s a lot more to the issue than that.

For example, what Judge Boyle did was, in effect, tell the poor that they can’t procreate.  Well, that’s not quite true.  What he did was tell poor men they can’t.  Women?  That’s a different story.  After all, suppose Boyle placed a woman under the same conditions of probation he issued against Curtis.  Suppose then that she ignored the order and became pregnant again?  Would he put her in jail for contempt?  Could he?  Or would Roe v. Wade prohibit him from doing that?  Roe says that the decision to have or not have a child is a question for a woman and her doctor to decide and in which the state may not intervene, at least until six months gestation.  Would imprisoning a woman for conceiving a child violate her privacy rights?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can see them being raised in any such hearing on her contempt of court.  But apparently there’s no such right of privacy accorded to men protecting their right to decide whether to father a child or not.  If there is, the Wisconsin Supreme Court hasn’t heard of it, and neither have I.

But beyond narrow legalities, Judge Boyle mentioned this:

“Common sense dictates you shouldn’t have kids you can’t afford,” the judge said.

Indeed, that is common sense and an opinion with which most of us agree.  Or do we?  In fact we don’t agree with the idea that people should be able to support their kids.  The way I know that is called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and many other governmental assistance programs designed to help parents (almost exclusively mothers) care for children they can’t support.  So the legislatures and executives of the federal and various state governments in fact agree that, when parents (again, almost exclusively mothers) have children they can’t support, it’s the taxpayers’ job to lend a hand.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not for an instant suggesting that We the People should stand by and let little children starve in the cold because their parents ignored their financial responsibilities to them.  My point is that what Judge Boyle said is altogether sensible, but it’s applied to men and rarely to women.  Women have far more options than do men for preventing conception and unlike men, once conception occurs, they have several safe and effective ways of terminating same.

Average Single Mother Less Financially Responsible Than Average Single Father

And yet women are far less financially responsible than men when it comes to their children.  For example, about 42% of children are now born to single mothers, but nationwide, single mothers earn on average only about $23,000 per year according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  ((Single fathers earn over 50% more than that on average.)  That doesn’t go very far when trying to support an adult and at least one child.  And of course that $23,000 is the average, which means millions of mothers earn less.  So in fact, there are millions of mothers nationwide who violate Judge Boyle’s “common sense” dictate about supporting the children you bring into the world.

True as that is, when was the last time you heard a governmental official condemn a mother for having a child she can’t afford?  For that matter, when was the last time you saw a governmental official propose that we do something about it?

As I hope I’ve made clear, I have little-to-no respect for Corey Curtis.  He’s behaved stupidly and irresponsibly.  But so do mothers who do the same thing he’s done – procreate without sufficient means to support the resulting children.  And yet those mothers not only get a pass in legislatures, the courts and the news and entertainment media, often as not, they’re extolled as virtuous and courageous.  Indeed, the “brave single mother” has become very much part of our national mythology.

Let me again be clear; the path towards eugenics is a treacherous one, whether Judge Boyle realizes it or not.  Government-ordered “no procreation” decrees are nothing I would ever recommend.  What I would recommend is that we start educating our children not only about the biology of sex, but about its ethical and practical sides as well.  Kids need to learn from an early age that, for example, if they can’t afford to raise a child, they need to take precautions against having one.  They also need to learn that if they do have a child, both parents are responsible for its care, nurture, shelter, education, etc.  Girls need to learn that fathers are necessary to the well-being of children, that maternal gatekeeping and paternity fraud aren’t acceptable.  And both need to learn that parental alienation is destructive to kids.

But however we treat mothers and fathers when it comes to being financially responsible for their children, we need to treat them equally.  So far, we don’t.

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