Posts tagged ‘Roe v. Wade’

Respect a Man’s Choice, Too

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By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks

In Kai Ma’s recent AlterNet column “The Difference Between a Womb and a Wallet” (7/26/06) she applauds a U.S. District Court judge’s quick, contemptuous dismissal of Matt Dubay’s “Roe v. Wade for Men” lawsuit. Dubay sought to wipe out the child support payments he is obligated to make to an ex-girlfriend who, he says, used a fallacious claim of infertility to deceive him into getting her pregnant.

In opposing “Choice for Men,” Ma asserts that a “woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is not the equivalent of a man’s choice to financially opt out of fatherhood.” She cites the pain and discomfort of pregnancy, and the way motherhood “may limit our mobility or careers.”   These problems are very real; however, so are the problems created when men are saddled with child support obligations.

According to an estimate in Men’s Health magazine, 100,000 men each year are jailed for alleged nonpayment of child support. Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data reveal that 70% of those behind on payments earn poverty level wages. The “Most Wanted Deadbeat Dad” lists put out by most states are used both for police actions and to hunt and shame “deadbeats” through newspaper ads and publicity campaigns. These lists are largely comprised of uneducated African-American and Latino men with occupation descriptions like “laborer,” “maintenance man” and “roofer.”

Ma dismisses the burden of child support as being “a few hundred dollars a month.” However, in California, AlterNet’s home state, a noncustodial father of two earning a modest $3,800 a month in net income pays $1,300 a month in child support. The money–almost $300,000 over 18 years–is tax-free to the custodial mother. One can reasonably debate whether this sum is appropriate or excessive. One cannot reasonably dismiss it as being insignificant.

Ma portrays children as a mother’s albatross, forgetting that parenting is also the greatest joy a person can experience in life. Yes, in single mother homes the mother bears the burden of most of the childrearing, but the mothers also experience the lion’s share of the joys and benefits of having children. Noncustodial fathers are not so fortunate—they’re usually permitted only a few days a month to spend with their kids. Once mom finds a new man, they’re often pushed out entirely in favor of the child’s “new dad.”

Ma condemns men who “lie, deceive, break their promises, or pull a 180…who agree to marry but don’t,” and laments that “millions of women” have been “trapped into single motherhood for life with, often, next to no recourse.” Yet according to a randomized study of 46,000 divorce cases published in the American Law and Economics Review, two‑thirds of all divorces involving couples with children are initiated by mothers, not fathers, and in only 6% of cases did the women claim to be divorcing cruel or abusive husbands.

The out-of-wedlock birth rate in the United States hovers around 33%–given the wide variety of contraceptive and reproductive choices women enjoy, this can hardly be blamed primarily on men. Yes, in some of these cases the mother and father shared a relationship which the mother (and the father) may have expected would become a marriage. Yet these relationships fail for many reasons besides male perfidy. These include: youth; economic pressure and the lack of living wage jobs (how many couples fight over money?); and the mothers’ post-partum depression and mood-swings. It’s doubtful that many men really wake up in the morning and say to themselves “my child loves me and needs me, my girlfriend loves me and needs me—I’m outta here.”

Ma says men “shouldn’t be able to choose to abandon that child in the lurch.” Yet 1.5 million American women legally walk away from motherhood every year through adoption, abortion or abandonment. In over 40 states mothers can completely opt out of motherhood by returning unwanted babies to the hospital shortly after birth. If men like Dubay are deadbeats and deserters, what are these women?

Whenever a child is born outside of the context of a loving, two-parent family, there are no good solutions. Ma overstates her case, but she is correct that “Choice for Men” is a flawed solution. However, the current regime, which provides women with a variety of choices and men with none, is also flawed.

Dubay’s conduct is not particularly admirable, and he’s certainly not a candidate for father of the year; however, he does have a point. Over the past four decades women’s advocates have successfully made the case that it is wrong to force a pregnancy on an unwilling mother. Despite the backlash against Dubay, hopefully his lawsuit will result in a greater societal awareness that it is also wrong to force a pregnancy on an unwilling father.

Jeffery M. Leving is the Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood. 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.

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March 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

Women Have a Choice; Men Should Too

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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.

March 5, 2009 at 8:22 pm 1 comment

Vasectomies – The Only Choice Left for Men?

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More and more young, single and unmarried men are choosing a radical form of birth control- vasectomies. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unwanted. As a man, there are traditionally two methods of birth control; condoms and relying on a woman’s word that she has reliable birth control. There are clear drawbacks to both methods. Major pharmaceutical companies have recently shelved near-ready male birth control pills and injections. They cite “lack of interest” as their reasoning to cease the multi-billion dollar investment, but that choice has left young men who do not yet want to face the enormity of being a father dangerously turning to vasectomies.

Many media commentators, pro-women advocates and even legislators subscribe to the ideology “if a man doesn’t want to father a child, he should have used birth control.” The bias in that argument is very simple- couldn’t you say the same thing about women? Yet, if a woman gets pregnant, wanted or not, she then has the option of aborting or keeping the child. She alone has the decision, and should she decide to keep the child, the man has no choice but to financially step forward and pay child support or face jail time.

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 and any child support responsibility with as much ease as going to the dry cleaners. 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.” Yet, men who share in the responsibility of child rearing and financial support have no choice, with their own bodies or futures. Fatherhood is not a right or a privilege that they can opt into when they feel ready. It is instead something that is thrust upon them, partly due to a lack of choice in their options of birth control.

Research shows that many men are unwillingly drafted into fatherhood. The National Scruples and Lies Survey of 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 partner.

Experts, politicians and pro-choice advocates claim that the current system is necessary because it protects children. In reality, over time, choice for men would greatly benefit American children. If men had the same birth control options that women have, then the number of unwed births (and the huge social problems associated with them) would be reduced. Choice for men means better parenting for children because more men will be able to become fathers when they are married, willing, and stable- a huge benefit for children and society as a whole.

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

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys
and founder of www.dadsrights.com. He is the author of “Fathers’ Rights” and “Divorce Wars”  and serves as the Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood.

March 5, 2009 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

ABORTION: When Fathers Can’t Protect Their Children

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By Jeffery M. Leving

In reading President Bush’s recent message to the anti-abortion rally about protecting “the lives of innocent children waiting to be born,” I was struck by the lack of mention of the father’s complete inability to protect his own unborn child. In fact, no one seems to acknowledge a father’s rights to have a say in whether his child gets to live.

It’s been 30 years since the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe vs. Wade. Despite the passage of that time, the issue remains a fiercely contested debate, with each camp remaining adamant in it attempt to out shout the other. Yet in these three decades, one voice continues to be unheard — that of the fathers of unborn children.

As a family law attorney, I work daily with anguished fathers who have little or no say in the lives of their children. The agony of these men becomes unimaginable when the child is not yet born and they have no way of protecting the life they helped to create.

With the anniversary of such a significant ruling upon us, a new Congress and debates raging in legislatures across the country, activities on both sides see now as the time that will make or break Roe. But now is also a chance to balance the rights of the father with those of the mother, putting the focus on the child, and creating the most equitable law possible.

Depriving fathers of a meaningful voice will not solve the problem for anyone. This course would only deny fathers equal protection and due process. Moreover, many children will be far beyond the protective reach of their fathers who want to be included in such a pivotal decision.

Under the Supreme Court rulings made over the course of these three decades, fathers were denied any voice in the issue, whether they were married to the mother or not.

The government has turned the issue of reproductive rights back to the states, and we, as concerned Americans in every state, should use this ruling as the basis to create the fairest and most realistic law possible. To do this, every voice must be heard, even that of fathers.

Jeffery M. Leving is co-author of the Illinois Joint Custody Law and President Emeritus of the Fatherhood Educational Institute (FEI). A family law attorney, he is author of the book “Fathers’ Rights” and currently serves on the Congressional Task Force on Fathers, Families & Public Policy. Leving is the founder of dadsrights.com

March 4, 2009 at 10:07 pm 1 comment


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