November 13, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Monday’s post wasn’t the only thing I have to say about the idea, promoted by men’s rights activists for many years, of giving men the right to “opt out” of their partner’s pregnancy. Here’s the link to the National Post article by Sarah Boesveld (National Post, 11/8/13). I want to revisit this because, as I said in my last piece, although much of the feminist take on the idea is nonsense, much of it isn’t. Boesveld and other feminists, and the National Post and other publications should be commended for saying what should have become part of common public discourse long ago. As it stands, Laurie Shrage wrote a piece in the New York Times, Anna March did the same in Salon.com and now there’s Boesveld (Salon.com, 11/2/13).
And of course, long before any of them came former president of NOW, Karen DeCrow, who wrote to the Times back in 1979 to say that if women have abortion rights, gender equality demands that men have the right to opt out of responsibility for a child.
Justice therefore dictates that if a woman makes a unilateral decision to bring pregnancy to term, and the biological father does not, and cannot, share in this decision, he should not be liable for 21 years of support. Or, put another way, autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice.
Which brings us to the major divide in feminism between those who still argue for equality of the sexes and those who demand all the rights that men have and more, but none of the responsibilities. Reading what feminists write and say every day, one could be excused for concluding that the former group had become extinct, driven out of existence by their Eternal Victimhood sisters. After all, how many of the sentiments expressed by Shrage, March and Boesveld — or for that matter, Cathy Young, Christina Hoff Sommers and countless others — do you find on NOW’s website? If you answered “none,” you get an ‘A’ for the day.
So it comes as a breath of fresh air to read Boesveld’s many statements and quotations that are simple, obvious, true and just.
“If a man accidentally conceives a child with a woman, and does not want to raise the child with her, what are his choices? Surprisingly, he has few options in the United States,” Prof. Shrage argued in an op-ed published in The New York Times in June…’
Well, actually he has one choice — do his best with the choice she makes. If she keeps the child, he’ll pay child support for at least 18 years and more like 21. That’s true whether or not she allows him any contact with little Andy or Jenny; it’s true regardless of how much he wants to be a father; it’s true regardless of how little he wants to be a father; it’s true regardless of whether he’s prepared emotionally, psychologically or financially; it’s true regardless of his career aspirations and how fatherhood may affect them. Shrage is right; men in that situation have few choices — one.
“In consenting to sex,” she writes, “Neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent.”
I’m glad someone finally stated the obvious. It’s a concept few state legislatures seem to grasp. Everyone knows that sex makes babies, but what everyone also knows is that it doesn’t do so every time. Indeed, with modern contraceptive methods, it doesn’t happen very often. There are about 5.5 million pregnancies in the United States every year, at least that we know of. (There aren’t reliable statistics on miscarriages.) There are about 250 million Americans over the age of 15. I’m going to guess that all those people have sex a lot more often than 5.5 million times in a year.
So what Shrage said is correct. There can be no realistic expectation that simply engaging in sexual intercourse necessarily means acceptance of conception, pregnancy and childrearing. More to the point, even if the woman does become pregnant, she has options that relieve her of all of the above. She can abort the fetus or place the child for adoption. Technically, the father can choose adoption, but he can’t do so without her consent. The mother is not so restricted. As I’ve chronicled many times, mothers bent on placing a child for adoption can avail themselves of some fairly simple and straightforward expedients for doing so without any intervention by the dad. Moving to Utah for the duration of her pregnancy is perhaps the easiest of those.
And while we’re on the subject of adoption, it’s worth noting that Shrage’s comment directly contradicts the basis for all putative father registries. When laws creating PFR’s are passed, state legislatures routinely include some snarky bit of language to the effect that all adults know that sex is where babies come from. Therefore, according to the sages of Albany, Lansing, Salt Lake City and elsewhere, because a man knows that biological fact, he also knows that the particular sex he had with the particular woman in fact did result in pregnancy, that she chose not to abort the fetus and that she then chose to place the child for adoption. Very possibly, he knew none of those things, but the blanket statement serves as cover for legislators who want to do everything they can to get children away from their fathers.
The current legal arrangement doesn’t represent the ideal of equality to which feminism strives, Prof. Shrage said. In fact, there is a double standard at play.
“If we don’t think women should pay this price for having sex and we think motherhood shouldn’t be forced on them... then a man, just because he had sex, shouldn’t be penalized in this way if an accidental pregnancy happens and for some reason the woman wants to keep it,” she said.
Imagine that. She means real equality of the sexes as opposed to that promoted by NOW and countless feminists and feminist organizations. According to Shrage, women shouldn’t be the only ones in society to have reproductive rights, and March agrees with crystal clarity.
Women can opt out now — men should be able to as well.
There are many things that may not be equal when a man and a woman have consensual sex. One may lie to the other about the use of contraception or his/her biological ability to father or conceive a child. Indeed, a study done three years ago of 500 women in two Washington State community colleges revealed that an astonishing one-third of them admitted to lying to their boyfriends about taking The Pill in order to trick them into fatherhood. In short, there may be inequality of information between the two.
Most of the time, that’s not true, however. Most women who say they’re using contraception are. Relatively few men lie to women about a vasectomy or an inability to father a child. And of course most sex is consensual. So overwhelmingly, men and women who have sex are in the same boat. (I know that produces a rather unusual visual image, but what can you do?) So why shouldn’t men and women have equal decision-making power about whether to shoulder the responsibility for any child conceived thereby?
As I’ve pointed out before, the reasons given by women for terminating a pregnancy are almost exclusively practical ones. They’re not ready for motherhood, they don’t have the money, haven’t completed their educations, don’t think their relationship with the father is stable enough, etc. All of those things may be true of men too, but, as things now stand, only one person gets to decide whether the parents of the child will raise it to adulthood.
Simple fairness demands that men be accorded opt-out rights.
Besides, if you’re uncomfortable with the astonishing number of abortions performed in this country every year (about 1.2 million) my guess is that giving men the right to opt out would dramatically reduce the number of all those “unintended” pregnancies, so many of which end in abortion.
As Shrage, March and Boesveld make clear, all this is easy to understand and only fair. That must be why the great majority of feminists who write, speak, blog, comment to blogs and threads, etc. are dead set against it. Go to March’s piece in Salon.com and click on the blog post attacking Shrage and read the comments calling March every possible pejorative term. What unites them all is that they just don’t get it. The concept of equality is utterly alien to them and the very idea that men might actually benefit from some proposed change in the law drives them absolutely bonkers.
Still, it’s good to know that there are feminists like Shrage, et al — people who aren’t afraid to look at both sides of that = sign.
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