Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Choice of Parenthood

To Mary B who posted a message to the GB Podcast addressed to me:

Concerning the men\'s rights conversation...I came upon a similar conversation not long ago about an op-ed piece of foxnews about men bewailing the fact that they have no say in stopping a woman\'s choice to abort their child.

No, Mary, this isn’t even close to a “similar” conversation. The issue above concerns a man violating a woman’s rights. I’m probably the most pro-choice person on the planet, and support women’s rights with regard to abortion 100%. Neither the state nor the male involved should have any say in what she does with her body. Trying to compare a law that would allow one person to violate another person’s body, with someone saying that both men and women should be treated equally as far as opting in or out of parental rights and obligations under the law, is not a reasonable comparison. Nothing I suggested violated any woman’s right to choose any option that is now legally available to her under our current laws, which are quite generous regarding allowing her to abandon her parental rights and obligations at nearly any point during her pregnancy, and even for some time after the birth. I support fully her right to birth control, abortion, and to give up her child to the state or an adoption agency after the birth. All of those options are, and should be, available to women. And bringing the concept above into the dialog and calling it “similar” is ridiculous.

In your podcast, someone suggested that men, who father a child and don\'t want it (or any of the responsibilities attached) should be allowed to opt-out of their responsibilites by signing a waiver.

Correct, exactly as women are allowed to do once they give birth. Why would you allow women to give up their parental rights and obligations with no questions asked, but then tell men they get no option at all? How is that equitable? She has the option to choose, and I am happy to give her that. She should have it. But I don't see any justification for only granting this option to women. I don’t see how denying that same legal option to men represents equality.

I totally disagree...

I gather. And since you already can’t tell the difference between simple equity versus allowing one person to violate another individual’s rights (as you compare impeding a woman’s right to choose with giving a man equal access to dissolve his parents rights after the birth), I’m not surprised. If I was so confused as to think those two ideas were “similar” I might think it’s fine to discriminate as well.

This is not a conversation that should be had AFTER the woman conceives, but BEFORE.

“This” doesn’t even require a conversation. “This” is about discriminatory laws that grant women rights that every “person” should have, but that men are denied. Nobody should have to talk about this because the laws should be treating the sexes equally in this regard. In today’s society, with discriminatory laws, it’s about the guy’s only recourse, I agree, to see if this woman would be willing to abort; but that assumes as well she won't change her mind if an accident actually occurs--and where is his guarantee then? But "a conversation" doesn’t solve the root problem, which is that nobody should be forced into parental obligations without their willingness to take that on. Would you be willing to change the laws to force women who have babies to keep them whether or not they feel, or are, prepared? Or do you think only women should have that legal right to opt out, and not men? How do you justify that disparity?

Men who are that concerned about having a say about the outcome (and their related responsibilities)

Clarification: This is not about the male being bothered about the “outcome.” Whatever the woman chooses as the outcome is her choice—down the line, by law, as it should be, because it’s her body. It IS about the “related responsibilities," though, which you mention as parenthetical, even though it’s the prime point—again demonstrating you just don’t understand what this conversation is actually about. We either force people—men and women—who produce a baby to stick with it for 18 years, or we allow them—both of them—to opt out. We don’t stick it to one for 18 years with no choice, while we give the other opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to freely choose to give up her “related responsibilities.” I grant her that choice, happily. However, I also believe men should have equality in this regard where you do not.

Again, would you be so quick to say that any woman who has a baby must keep it and raise it as an obligatory parent? Are you consistent and fair in your approach to choice in this matter? Or do you discriminate against men, while you’re happy to let women have the choice to abandon their “related responsibilities”? Why should she get to choose parenthood, while he is forced into it without an option?

should sit down with the gal they are interested in and ask what her stance would be if she were to get pregnant.

No, they “shouldn’t”—because it doesn’t matter. Whether or not they conceive and have a baby together by accident is not the question here. The only question is, once that child is born, is it right to allow women to opt out of parenthood, but not allow men to opt out? How is that justifiable?

Would she want to terminate, have the baby, give it up...? If she is not on the same page as he is, then they should go their seperate ways

If the law were not discriminatory this conversation would only matter to women and anti-choice men. If she wants to keep a baby in the event of an accident, but he won’t pay for the child for 18 years, then the concern is solely hers, not his. The only reason it’s his concern currently is because we have a society that dearly wants to make people, men and women, pay for having sex. ”By god, he’s going to own up to this mistake and do his duty and live up to his responsibility and suck it up for 18 long years!” because that’s what he “should” do. But the mother? Well, if she’d like to opt for adoption, that’s cool. And frankly, that second part IS cool. I’m all for adoption. But I don’t see why you don't think she should “have to” suck it up 18 years for her mistake like you think he does? I assume you are in support of allowing a woman to relinquish parental rights after the child is born? Am I right? But a man has to pay and can’t back out because…?

because regardless of contraceptives, pregnancy happens sometimes.

Right. And when it does, the woman has the choice, and I agree with it, to abort. And if she decides to have the baby she also has a choice to be a parent or to give away parenthood to other people, and I agree with that, too. All she has to do is agree to relinquish her parental rights and sign on the dotted line, and she's not legally responsible for the child any longer. And men can’t do this, because…? It’s an “accident.” And we don’t expect a woman to pay for 18 years for an “accident.” And that's very wise and humane of us. Likewise, why should I turn heartless when the person confronted by this same “accident” is a man? He becomes a vilified demon for wanting to give up the child because he's not ready. She becomes a self-less saint. If a person is not ready for parenthood, s/he should not be legally forced to bear the responsibility of becoming a parent.

This is an important part of the \'sex talk\' that should be included in sex-ed and discussed with both male (and female) children and their parents.

Ultimately, as it is the woman’s body that is impacted until the birth, this is far more her concern. The man, in fact, after conception, does not, and should not, have an ounce of control over the woman's decision. If the man has an anti-choice position, or would want a child if an accident occurred, I can clearly see why it would be a concern for him, as well. But if he’s pro-choice, and doesn’t want a child, why should he be concerned about an accident or what this woman does if an accident occurs? How is her body his business? Unlike FOXNews, I think what she decides do with her body is solely her business, not his. He doesn’t need to be up in her business, because it’s not his business what she does with her body. It’s 100% her business and her body, and due to that, he gets no say. And if he doesn’t care if he gets no say, then it’s not something he should need to worry about. If he’s the sort of guy who wants to control her body—to keep her from having an abortion—then yeah, he needs to have the talk you suggest, because what people do with their own bodies is respected under our laws (at least in theory), and he’s going to have to live with her abortion if that’s what she chooses. But again, she has the right to say she would never abort, but then, confronted with the reality of a pregnancy, she also has the right to change her mind. So the conversation really didn't help him as much as he thought it woulddid it?

The most important missing element is \'communication\' prior to copulation. That would solve a great many problems before they become problems.

I actually studied communication quite a lot in college: Interpersonal, intrapersonal, communication psychology, and so on. And I am pretty good at hearing what people are saying, not hanging up on how they say it. You sound very fair and level, but what you are saying is about as intelligent and fair-minded as telling African-Americans during the pre-Civil Rights era that calling ahead to see if the restaurant serves blacks would solve the problem of them having to deal with discrimination. If they'd just have that "conversation" before going out to eat, the problem would be solved. No. Not even close. The problem is the laws, and it should be fixed at the legislative level, not by asking men to simply do their best to suck it up and learn to negotiate legal discrimination.


  1. Agree wih you 100% here, Tracie.

    While it is entirely hypothetical at this point, I'd like to know how you would view the problem if abortion wasn't the only option for a woman who did not want to carry a fetus to term (e.g. if artifical wombs existed).

    Do you think an anti-choice male should have the right to get the fetus implanted into an artificial womb if his partner wishes to have an abortion (assuming of course that the risk posed to the woman by such a procedure was comparable to the risk posed by abortion)?

  2. The dilemma in abortion is that the woman's body is being violated by the unborn's. That's all the dilemma presents. She has every right to expel it from her body. Off the top, I see no reason that the the state (or the father), couldn't step in and take it. The courts have come down on viability as the dividing line. So, if it represents a separate life with its own legal interests, viable without the mother due to technology. Seems to me like an early stage Moses Law would cover it. As long as it isn't violating the mother anymore, her problem is solved. And I'd be willing to hear arguments, but I can't see how it would be anymore her concern what's done with the early stage infant after that, anymore than it's her business once she relinquishes rights to the state after a birth...?

    In fact, when the state says the unborn is viable, the mother should be able to abort and give the baby over to the state at that point. The problem is that where they set "viability" is a stretch. An infant delivered at the early viability line really doesn't do well without the mother's body--so calling it "viable" is a bit misleading/dishonest, in my view. If it was honestly viable, then there should be no logical reason to stop her from aborting and just letting the state take the child as though she'd dropped it of at the fire station.

  3. I think I agree generally, but I'm curious as to what you think of when the woman is married. I believe that the current situation in most states (including, fairly enough, states with marriage equality or some kinds of civil union) is that a woman's spouse is the presumptive second parent. Generally that person cannot opt out of parental obligations unless they demonstrate that the child was a product of adultery (e.g. with a paternity test) and the couple is separating for that reason.

    I think that that generally makes sense, insofar as the rights and responsibilities one legally has with respect to one's spouse include certain types of financial support. It would be more than a bit harmful to, for example, agree to raise a child with someone, and then renege later.

    Would you agree that this opportunity to "opt out" should probably not extend to spouses (maybe aside from cases where the couple is in the process of breaking up, as in the adultery/not-my-kid scenario mentioned above)?

  4. Tracie. . . you are awesome! I totally agree with a man’s right to opt out and it’s so rare to hear other people that agree with this point of view. It’s a total contradiction to have a law that allows women to give up financial responsibility i.e. abortion or adoption and disallows men to do the same. The arguments that I often hear are
    1. The dead beat dad argument.

    In my opinion, this dead beat dad thing is way over exaggerated. Where are all of these dads that don’t pay child support? Mostly they’re in prison. The only time a man (or woman in some cases) is not required to pay for child support is if the parent is incarcerated. If you are employed, Child Support Services garnishes your wages. If a case is open, and you are working, you have to pay. If you are behind—they charge interest. I you chose to have a baby with someone who is likely to go to prison, or unlikely to work well . . . well then who made the bad decision?
    Obviously you can’t draw blood from a stone, so if someone is unemployed it would be difficult to collect child support from them. I’m sure in an economy where some cities have unemployment rates as high as 25% this is more common, however, once that person does become employed the wages are garnished.
    If a woman makes an agreement and allows a man to opt out, it is never legally binding and she could change her mind at an instant.
    2. The Welfare state argument. If the state has to pay for these children that father’s don’t want to pay for then this is an argument against the welfare state, not against a man’s right to choose to be a father or not. She could chose to wait to have a baby when she is more financially stable by obtaining birth control, having an abortion, or she could even chose to give it up a baby for adoption. I am totally for a woman’s right to choose. All of these options are alternatives to welfare. If you are a man, however, with limited birth control options, you have no choice. There are promising options for birth control; however they are not available yet. It is also difficult for a childless man to get a vasectomy. Men should be able to go into a Planned Parenthood and get a vasectomy just as easily as a woman can get an abortion. If a man cannot support himself financially and he has a kid, he still has to pay even if he ends up being homeless or living with family. It’s just not fair.
    My point is men also deserve the right to choose.
    One other particularly ugly problem with child support is that it is based on the amount of time spen with the child. In my case I have been to court countless times over custody. I have been falsely accused of child abuse, had to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers to fight it and my ex has chosen to move out of state. The reason this has happened is because the less time I spend with my daughter, the more money she gets. It’s a heartbreaking dichotomy. Even though I believe in a man’s right to choose I would still chose to have the relationship with the kid, but I can’t stand the red tape that comes along with it.
    Thank you gals for bringing up the issue.

  5. Here's a promising option for men's birth control. What can one do to get something like this on the market as soon as possible?

  6. Regarding married couples, I think it should be a joint decision, like anything else. I do think there is an assumption of an "opt in" there, because they have a legal contract in place that binds them to common "property" and obligations in ways other people are not bound. There are many things spouses are legally responsible for (such as certain financial debts), even when the other spouse was solely responsible for creating the situation. So, in a case where they both created a situation, I do think it's fine to say that they're in a unique legal partnership that makes that a different dynamic that should be viewed a bit differently than people who aren't legally partnered. And I'd be open to hearing how that should be defined.

  7. How about doing away the the marriage penalty for couples that file jointly.

    That seems a bit unfair and I am single.

    To me, it seems to devalue marriage. Not that people don't devalue it already.

  8. I don't know where you all stand on the issue of "viability" but I personally have not yet made up my mind on the issue of emerging person hood and what that means for abortion. I'm hoping maybe someone can help me get rid of the unpleasant feelings this cognitive dissonance brings me.

    I'm pro-choice, but at some point I am at a grey line.

    These are my thoughts, and I'm open to ridicule about them.

    First I have to assume that at some point during pregnancy the fetus becomes a person with all the rights that a person should have. If this isn't the case then the following is irrelevant. If someone donates a kidney to another person, we don't allow them to take their kidney back if something goes wrong with their own kidney. Meaning once it is done, it doesn't matter what else is going on, it isn't legal to force them to give it back to you. In a sense, although it isn't a medical contract signed in ink, when a woman chooses to carry a baby up to that point she is essentially doing the same thing as donating an organ. She has implicitly agreed to supply an organ, her body, to the child. To me I see at as 1) a woman choosing to continue her pregnancy to a point where she knows it is a human life (if you take the first assumption) and 2) a donation of an organ, even if it is a shared organ. Some conjoined twins share organs as well, but I've never heard of it being said it is legal for one of them to force the other to die so that they don't have to share it anymore. Is the difference with a pregnancy the means by which the organs are shared? I know that they don't literally share their organs, but in essence they are sharing a body and *are* connected physically.

    The parallel lacks consistency in some areas, for example I would indeed say that if the woman were going to die, but the baby would live, that the woman should never be forced to carry through with the pregnancy, but yet in the case of organ donations if the organ donor would die I would say *they* couldn't say that they've changed their minds.

    I've heard you all say "it is a woman's body so it is her choice" but to me I don't see it as a woman's body versus a parasite, I see it as a woman implicitly agreeing to share her body thus making it *not* a decision she alone should necessarily be allowed to make for both beings sharing the same body, even if the benefits are one sided.

  9. First of all, abortion is illegal after viability, except for extreme cases. So we're pretty much talking theoretically here...

    If a woman is having consensual sex, and changes her mind and withdraws consent, the man is guilty of rape if he refuses to withdraw. If we recognize a right to withdraw consent for sex, why wouldn't we recognize that right in pregnancy?

    Now, for the sake or argument, I will allow for fetal personhood. So in a case like this, a woman has the right of a removal of a fetus, but not necessarily its extinction. So if we had artificial wombs, I would be ok with saying that a woman has the right to remove the fetus from her body at any time, but the doctors will try to hook it up to the artificial womb. That is completely consistent with a bodily rights argument.

    I am intrigued with your organ donor and conjoined twin scenarios. With the organ donor, it is a gift of a organ with full informed consent of what might happen. With pregnancy, there is not consent (even if a woman is trying to get pregnant, she isn't in full control of that like a person undergoing surgery) and pregnancy is a process and partnership, not a gift.

    I haven't fully worked out the conjoined twin scenario, but one thing is that nature has always deprived a conjoined twin of bodily rights, whereas a pregnant woman enjoyed bodily rights at one time. There is also a biological distinction between a woman and a fetus. Conjoined twins are identical, so there really isn't necessarily a clear line between them for the doctors to cut. Also, we already allow parents to choose between conjoined twins. There have been cases where babies were born with one heart and they killed one twin in order not to lose them both.

  10. Micro: I agree, a conjoined twin is not comparable. If there is, say, one heart--whose heart is it? With the woman and the infant, it's always two separate people. The baby only uses the body that has been demonstrated to be the mother's body for her entire existence prior to her pregnancy. Her heart is not the baby's heart--ever. A simple DNA check will confirm. It's not two beings sharing the same body. It's her body, and now another human is using her body as an incubator while it develops its own full body. It is welcome to do so as long as she continues to consent. But her continued consent is required. This would be the case even if the baby is considered fully human.

    If someone says they don't consent to give up their body, in part or in whole, I don't declare they should have thought of that before they had a child, and now that their child needs an organ, they're simply obligated. No parent is compelled to do that for their child; not even a pregnant woman. If a person can't survive without using someone else's body, we never compel a donation--even when it is a parent-child relationship. Oddly, once the law views the child as viable, it then cannot be aborted--although that should be the point at which abortion should become legal, as the law declares the child is now a independent "person" in its own right.

    In the organ donation scenario, though, I can sign all the paper work agreeing to donate--EXPLICITLY--and still say I've changed my mind at any time prior to donating. Is there anyone who believes the hospital stap me to a guerney, anesthetize me, and take it by force? Once I've had the organ voluntarily removed it is no longer mine; but in a pregnancy, the organ was never given it way--it was only ever on loan and was always under the owner's control, in the same way a person donating a kidney retains control while that organ is still in their body--even if they've agreed to donate it.

  11. I am slightly torn on the idea of anyone being able to opt out of at least a financial obligation for children they bring into this world. I fully support the right to put a child up for adoption should BOTH parents agree to such an agreement. However, if one of the parents wish to raise that child, the other parent (whether it be the mother or the father) should be financially responsible for that child, even if they do not wish to be a parent to that child. Once a child is born, that child has rights - and it is the right to care which is the duty of both parents - and it is this right that the courts must protect when enforcing the financial responsibility of the non-custodial parent.

    So, while I think both parents should be treated equal, I don't think the solution is to remove this right of children to be cared for. The only out that should be available is the one which removes the child from the home of BOTH parents, where BOTH parents equally opt out of care at that time and allow another human being to provide that care. If the child is NOT given up for adoption, then BOTH parents are responsible for the care of that child. If, for some reason, the father decides he would like to raise the child and the mother does not, she should NOT be able to opt out of financially supporting that child (just as he is not able to opt out).

    Child support is the right of the child, not of the parent.

    It's not as simple as it was portrayed in the podcast. We are talking about two very different ideas. The idea that a woman has the right to stop a process in her body, a use of her body by the fetus for ANY reason ( I argue that the reason is irrelevant). The second idea is that a parent should be able to opt out of caring for a BORN child. Once that child is born - both parents ARE EQUAL. I think this is the important fact. They aren't equal during the pregnancy because only one gender/parent is responsible for carrying a pregnancy. They ARE equal after the child is born - and that is the way it should be. I think it is a little misleading to say that men are treated differently. In reality, once a child is born, they aren't treated differently.

  12. Excellent stuff people,

    This is the my first 'look in to' Godless Bitches, I become aware you you via that oh-so popular Austen TV show and thought I would see what you ladies have to say.

    Well me expectations were met, thats alot.
    And keep up the output!!

    (aka Human Nature)

  13. Just came across this link at the atheism+ forums. I was ridiculed, had my thread locked and posts deleted when I attempted to discuss this issue under a "men's rights" thread there. Was banned at 2 other feminist forums when I attempted to raise the issue. The view of the feminists I attempted to discuss this issue with turned me off from feminists in general. I'm glad to see a feminist living up to the term and championing equality for men as well as for women.

    Great post.