Thoughts about Men’s Opting Out of Child Support

When I posted about the initiative by a men’s rights group to make child support voluntary, I promised some thoughts of my own. Here’s how I’m processing it.

The argument of the men’s rights as I understand it is this: women who are pregnant (whether married or not) get to choose whether to carry the fetus to term. And even if they choose to carry it to term, they can choose to give the baby up for adoption. Because men don’t have the same rights, they are being denied equal protection under the law.

The men are right. The law doesn’t treat men and women alike. Neither does the reproductive process.

It’s nature’s decision, not the law’s, to have the fetus reside in the body of the mother and not the father while it matures and develops. It’s nature’s decision, not the law’s (one that I and most men heartily applaud, by the way), that women and not men should have the peculiar and comely equipment to provide crucial nourishment to the newborn child as it greets the world. It’s nature’s decision, not the law’s, that men are able to continue their hunter/gatherer/seller/worker activities straight through the pregnancy, birth, and early life of the child and that women are not. Yes, I know that women spend less time away from work for pregnancy and childbirth, but the fact is that our biology is different.

And let’s make sure we understand who gets to decide what. Yes, women in most states (not all, but most) get to decide whether to have an abortion during the early stages of their pregnancy. But no, women don’t get to decide whether to place a child up for adoption. As any couple trying to adopt a child can tell you, it takes the consent of both parents for adoption to occur. And even after they have both consented, each of them has a right for a few days to change his or her mind.

If the child is born, the father has no right to decide not to support the child. But then neither does the mother. If either parent fails to fulfill his or her duty toward the child, the state has an interest in protecting the child.

And that brings us to the argument I find most compelling. Assume for argument that the present system of calculating and collecting child support is unfair to men. The law (and after reflection, I) respond to this with an empathetic and tender shrug of the shoulders. The reason is that it’s okay for the system to be unfair to men, just like it’s okay for it to be unfair to women. The system isn’t about fairness between the mother and the father. It’s about taking care of the child.

A common argument of men asked to pay child support is that they didn’t want to have a child. In some cases, including the one that’s making headlines today, the father argues that the mother assured him there was “no way” she could get pregnant.

But be honest, who had more control over this pregnancy, the father, or the child? If the father wanted to make sure he didn’t conceive a child:

  • He could have avoided all sexual contact with women. There’s no law that says he had to engage in sexualized behavior; that was his decision.
  • He could have confined his attention to women he knew really well. There’s no law that says he had to engage in sexualized activity with people he didn’t know; that was his decision.
  • He could have avoided sexual intercourse. There’s no law that says petting must proceed to coitus; that was his decision.
  • He could have used a condom. There’s no law that says sex means unprotected sex; that was his decision.

How many of those decisions did the child get to make?

So the law intrudes to protect the rights of the child against both the mother and the father. Is it unfair to men? Perhaps. Is it unfair to women? Perhaps. Is it unfair to adults who have power and get to make decisions rather than unfair to children who don’t? Yes.

One comment

  1. bernie says:

    Did you read Roe v Wade? The basis for the Court’s decision had little to do with biology and everything to do with the right to privacy. The following from the opinion clarifies the rationale:
    “The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.”
    If you want to express an opinion, please address the law as expressed in the opinion. Address legitimate questions like the following. Which of these privacy concerns expressed by the Court, other than the actual medical risk of the pregnancy, is not a legitimate privacy concern for the male well as the female? And if the women can flush a baby down the toilet, as a matter of privacy, what possible justification is there for denying a man the same privacy rights? After all, respecting the female’s right to privacy results in the destruction of a human life; respecting the same privacy rights of the male has substantially less impact on the fetus. If the woman wants the baby after the man aborts, she pays. What could be more fair? If she can’t support the child, then get rid of it; it’s not the man’s job to pay for an irresponsible decision by the woman. Per the law, its not much different than a wart in the first trimeater anyway. One last point: women fought long and hard for the right to abortion. Those that don’t like the logical progession of social change that flows from Roe V Wade have their sisters to blame not men who demand nothing more than similar privileges under the law.

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