Women Have a Choice; Men Should Too

March 5, 2009 at 8:22 pm 1 comment

A 25-year-old computer programmer has done what has long been thought impossible–he has united the pro-choice feminist left and the pro-life right. Matt Dubay of Saginaw, Michigan is the plaintiff in a new lawsuit in which he seeks to wipe out the child support payments he is obligated to make to an ex-girlfriend. He says he had made it clear to her that he didn’t want to be a father at this time, and that she got pregnant after she had repeatedly assured him that a physical condition rendered her sterile.

National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy, conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly and numerous commentators from all sides have criticized Dubay’s “Roe v. Wade for Men” lawsuit. Yet when commentators make the arguments against choice for men–“if a man doesn’t want to father a child he should have used birth control,” “men need to take responsibility whether they wanted to have the child or not”–one can often detect a little confusion in their eyes, as if a part of them is whispering “uh, wait a minute, but couldn’t you say the same thing about women?”

One and a half million American women legally walk away from motherhood every year by adoption, abortion or abandonment, yet somehow nobody labels them “deadbeats” or “deserters.” In over 40 states a mother can return the baby to the hospital within a few weeks of birth–completely opting out of motherhood with less hassle than it takes to return a DVD to Best Buy. Yet if the mother decides she wants to keep the child, she can demand 18 (or in some states 21 or 23) years of child support from the father, and he has no choice in the matter. 

Feminists have long based their support for Roe v. Wade around the slogan “My Body, My Choice.” Women’s rights legal advocate Jennifer Brown denounced Dubay’s suit, explaining that “Roe is based on an extreme intrusion by the government…There’s nothing equivalent for men.”

However, 100,000 men each year are jailed for alleged non-payment of child support, and federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data reveal that 70% of those behind on payments earn poverty level wages. When states force a man to be financially responsible for a child he never wanted, and jail him if he comes up short, isn’t that a terrible state intrusion too? Don’t the sacrifices required to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support over two decades take a heavy toll on a man, too?

Research shows that many men are unwillingly drafted into fatherhood, just as Dubay claims he was. The National Scruples and Lies Survey 2004 conducted in the United Kingdom found that 42% of the women in the survey said they would lie about contraception in order to get pregnant, regardless of the wishes of their partners. According to research conducted by Joyce Abma of the National Center for Health Statistics and Linda Piccinino of Cornell University, over a million American births each year result from pregnancies which men did not intend.

Under choice for men, unmarried fathers would have a one-time right to relinquish their parental rights and responsibilities within a month of learning of a pregnancy, just as mothers do when they choose to give their children up for adoption. Women would still be free to exercise all of the reproductive choices they now have.

Gandy, O’Reilly, Brown and others claim that the current system is necessary because it protects children. In reality, over time choice for men would greatly benefit American children–if women knew that they could not compel unmarried men to pay to support children they did not agree to have, the number of unwed births (and the huge social problems associated with them) would be reduced. Choice for men means better parenting because more men will be able to become fathers when they’re married, willing, and stable–a huge benefit for children.

Women’s advocates correctly note that pregnant women often have legitimate reasons for not wanting to be mothers, including youth, finances and the lack of a suitable relationship or marriage. Yet all of these apply equally to men. Women have a choice–men should, too.
Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

Glenn Sacks’ columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at www.GlennSacks.com or via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.

Entry filed under: Birth Control, Child Support, Fathers' Rights, Men's Rights, Women's Rights. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

System to Protect Children Tramples Fathers’ Rights Hounding Low-Income Dads Won’t Pay

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Joanna  |  March 11, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Unless a man has proof that a woman ‘tricked’ him into getting her pregnant, I can’t see a way around child support. I wouldn’t believe someone (even a woman, if I was a man) if they said they were sterile with out documentation. That might sound like a lot, but many people get STD tests before getting physically involved in a relationship, and if you say you’re sterile, I’d like you to prove it.

    Men (and women) need to practice more self control when it comes to sex. Besides abstinence and sterility there’s no 100% method of contraception and every time you have sex you take a chance. Many chances, not just of pregnancy, but of getting an STD.

    I feel many men don’t think enough with the brain above their shoulders when in the heat of the moment. Many men don’t like condoms and would rather forego them and take risks. That’s the clincher.

    Men do get a choice, before conception. There may be cases of betrayal or deception, but there are more women who become pregnant by a man who just wasn’t worried about the possible outcome of their actions.

    Men and women need to realize that every time they have sex with a person of the opposite sex, who is not sterile, you run the risk of creating life. If that was the thought in the head of every horny tennager in the world, every woman or man looking to score, maybe we wouldn’t have so much child support owed.

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