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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Roe V Wade For Men?

A federal suit will be filed today in Michigan by a 25 year-old computer programmer who has been ordered to pay $500 a month in child support to the mother of his child:
The National Center for Men has prepared a lawsuit -- nicknamed Roe v. Wade for Men -- to be filed Thursday in US District Court in Michigan on behalf of a 25-year-old computer programmer ordered to pay child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter.

The suit addresses the issue of male reproductive rights, contending that lack of such rights violates the US Constitution's equal protection clause.
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Feit's organization has been trying since the early 1990s to pursue such a lawsuit, and finally found a suitable plaintiff in Matt Dubay of Saginaw, Michigan. Dubay says he has been ordered to pay $500 a month in child support for a girl born last year to his ex-girlfriend. He contends that the woman knew he didn't want to have a child with her and assured him repeatedly that -- because of a physical condition -- she could not get pregnant.
The organization and the plaintiff say that they expect the lawsuit to fail but they want to start a debate. So, let's debate. You may find this DU thread on the story of great interest.

The contention in this lawsuit is that men should have the right to choose whether to support a child. (They already have the ability, by abstaining from sex or getting fixed, not to father one, but then, so do women.) This demonstrates why the "rights" argument for abortion is inherently flawed. It's not workable because it ignores reality. Rights are human conceptions that must be inherently reciprocal and conform to reality to work as a basis for law. Rights also dictate duties.

(If you doubt that, consider this. We might all sit down and agree that every human being should have the right to food and water, but we cannot make a law to this effect without also making a law that demands that human beings, in so far as they can, must contribute to the general production of food and water. Otherwise, we would have a situation in which each individual had the legal right to claim food and water from society, but no individual had the duty to try to provide food and water for his- or herself, much less for society. In other words, we would have passed an insane law that ignored the reality that food and water are the products of human effort.)

Pedro the Quietist indirectly addressed this question of rights in a post responding to some commenters. He writes, in part:
I thought I was clear about what the coherent, sincere pro-choice positions are:

1) The fetus is a potential human being but one whose right to life does not outweigh the life and/or desires of the mother (and perhaps the father) who created it.

2) The fetus is not alive nor a potential human being in any sense, therefore you can do whatever you like to/with it (such as pimping it out for $$$).

My own position lays somewhere among the spectrum implied by #1: the fetus is a potential human being, but there is a limited range of circumstances in which that life is less important than other considerations, among them being the health, happiness, and prosperity of the mother.
That's a fair statement of the moderate pro-choice position. However, if we do allow that "prosperity" and "happiness" are reasons for eliminating a potential human life, then the lawsuit that will be filed today on behalf of potential fathers does have a great deal of merit. A man's life and health are not directly affected by paying child support, but his prosperity and happiness may very well be. That $500 a month, for example, may prevent the plaintiff in the above lawsuit from buying a house with the woman he eventually marries, or having two children with her instead of one. It may prevent him from being able to pay for medical insurance during a period of unemployment. It will certainly negatively affect his ability to save for retirement, go back to school, etc. It probably will negatively affect his ability to care for future children.

If you allow the utilitarian view of society (the greatest good for the greatest number) to prevail in law, then it is clear that individual lives will often be found to be quite inconvenient and will be eliminated as an unnecessary burden. The corollary of accepting that maxim is that your individual right to life does not exist when you are dependent on others, so be careful of what you seek.

This is the reason that I believe that no constitutional right to abortion can be set forth on the grounds of the happiness and prosperity of the mother. Now, I will say that democratically speaking, we can certainly all sit down and agree on some compromise. Many factors would go into such a compromise, including our varying religious, moral and pragmatic perspectives. I might personally believe that those laws are right or wrong, but they will probably work better for society (because they will conform more to reality) than the absolutist and ridiculous pass to which Roe V Wade has brought us.

To demonstrate how ridiculous that pass is, let's return to the DU thread. There is nothing more laughable than watching pro-choicers start arguing for strict moral accountability once a child is born while men who were stoutly defending a woman's right to choose must predominate over the rights of a baby now start arguing passionately that women shouldn't have the right to unilaterally make decisions that affect other people. Because the real issue is who gets to choose whether the mother rears the child, as explicitly stated by one poster early on:
11. Please... Is abortion rights really about a life threat to the mother?
No, it's about choice. It's just that hald(f) the population wants to have while claiming that the other half should be happy with whatever they decide.
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165. This is the same argument pro-lifers use "If she didn't want to have a kid she should have kept her legs together".
Why does this stupid argument suddenly become valid when applied to men?
....
I agree, once the child is born it's a joint responsibility. The question was who gets to decide whether or not that child is born. Should a man have some say? And yes, the situation is not symmetric, as you pointed out, because of biology
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20. you take chances when you have sex both together, whether married or not. Chance that a baby might result, or that HPV or chlamydia or HIV or some other hootch cooty was transmitted, even with rubbers.
In each case your responsibility varies but in the case of a human life both parties have the greatest responsibility, if the mother decides to bring that pregnancy to term.
46. That's exactly what I'm saying--it takes two.
The woman allowed a man to have unprotected sex with her. Then she carried a pregnancy to term knowing full well the man was not father material. You're right, it takes two to tango, but the woman--since she has clearly more to lose than the man--needs to be responsible for avoiding unwanted pregnancy.
What I hear you saying is that is perfectly OK for a woman to engage in irresponsible sexual behavior because she can always make the man pay.
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49. Hold the hell on here! If it takes two both have responsibility to not get pregnant! She may be the one carrying the baby but both of you made it happen. You cannot say you take no responsibility for birth control. You can wear a condom, you can have yourself fixed, you can not have sex. You cannot walk away from taking responsibility for your actions.
...
55. I did not say that!! No where did I say "{I}take no responsibility for birth control". I said the woman allowed a man to have unprotected sex with her. It is her responsibility when dealing with an obviously irresponsible man--as evidenced by his lack of a condom--to say "NO".
And now someone returns to reality - wait - doesn't the child have rights?
24. He is a pig. And he's hoping for a favorable ruling in this case, as are quite a few other men.
I'm sorry but if he helps make it he should help the support, whether he wanted it or not. If you run up a debt you have to pay it off, even if you don't want to. Financially, what is the difference? It's another bill.
The difference is emotional and social. If this passes, we are dooming an entire generation of children into poverty. Children born to single mothers are more likely to live in poverty. If the man can get away w/ claiming he didn't want the child and doesn't have to give financial support we are damning these children into further poverty and not demanding that men take responsibility for their actions.
And in the end, DU being DU, this brilliant idea is suggested:
124. State run child support pools are a wonderful idea.
A kid is a kid and equally worthy of support as any other kid. It's not fair that one kid should get $ 4,000 a month and another $ 200 just because of who his mother slept with that night.
So now every guy who's ever had a child is supposed to help pay for all children, eh? Or maybe just all guys.

I'll end this with some observations that will anger almost everyone. We are never going to change the fundamental terms of this debate. In the old days, the idea was that people made the initial and explicit choice - to get married - and then were responsible for dealing with the results. Cheating was having sex outside of marriage, because everyone involved (man, woman, potential child) was going to be put in a situation in which he or she had relatively little control. Once the sex ball started rolling down the hill, everyone would be run over by that snowball.

In one fashion or another, our society will always be dealing with the question of when men become legally committed to support their children. We are not arguing about sexual freedom, we are arguing about substituting one type of marriage for another. The sexual revolution has not changed the real terms of this debate, and if the final DU proposal succeeds, it would logically equate to the idea that all men have the duty to provide for the support of all children. In other words, you guys would be legally married on adulthood a la Sparta.

So the sexual "revolution" turns out to have become a threat to male freedom by substituting less explicit choices for more explicit choices. Women will always need the assistance of some sort from others (a husband, a father, a family) when engaged in the difficult and time-consuming business of rearing children. That's where utilitarianism takes you. The reality is that taking care of the children of today is the necessary prerequisite for us to be taken care of tomorrow. Nothing can change that.

And nothing whatsoever can change the reality that women do have more stake in the whole business than men, and we will always need some sort of reinforcing societal structure to help us deal with it. It's a paradox that the "outmoded" institution of marital fidelity and no sex outside marriage did provide a remarkable degree of individual choice to those who followed that way of life. It may well end up that our "freer" way of life ends up allowing far less individual choice to both men and women. It's not helping the children at all.

About the only really honest and pragmatic people engaging in this debate are the theologians (it's everybody's responsibility to rear children; children are necessary and there can be no real human control over bearing children once we have sex) and the men arguing that it's just the women's responsibility and that she damn well better exercise control over the matter by aborting a child a man doesn't want to support or at least never darkening his door with a child in his arms if she does give birth. Everyone else is lying their heads off about what they believe or fooling themselves about what they really believe.

This debate is not religiously founded. Religions and morality, in this case, are reacting to reality, whereas our secular myths ignore reality.


Comments:
I have to say - I am grateful that you are engaging in this discussion. I am really, really suprised that there are not more people blogging on the Roe/Casey for Men, A.K.A.: the Matt DuBay case.

I posted on the issue over on my site today and have received zero comments. My last controversial post set out what I believed were the top ten flaws of the female gender and that started a comment-war... I'm not sure what to make of that - whether people feel this topic is too political to touch, or if (as in my own case) it's a topic that is hard to find the reasoned grounds for your feelings on the matter.

What strikes me most about this issue is that it can't be a matter of "well, men can just not have sex." Because, after all, that is not the standard women are held to. We are permitted to go out, have unprotected sex, get pregnant and THEN decide we want out (via the Roe/Casey abortion-protection). As I said on my site, women have been GRANTED reproductive rights while men have been ASSIGNED reproductive responsibility. There does appear to be some disparity in that... but at the same time, pregnancy is unique to the woman and so "opting out" - as Mr. DuBay believes men should have the right to do - becomes a much easier mental exercise for men.

I'm rambling. I still don't know how I feel about this issue.

But - I wanted to say Kudos to you for going there, since so many out there won't. Keep it up!!
 
A couple go out to dance and party. An overall good time is had by all. After a while, it's time to go home.

They've had too much to drink and she gets behind the wheel of her car.

There is an accident and now, they both face huge medical bills.

Who is ultimately responsible? Can the passenger sue the driver? After all, he got into the car willingly. he offered no protest when she got behind the wheel.

Lots to think about here.
 
Lex, I don't know quite what I think about the issue either. I'm really not offended by people who have different views, as long as their arguments are internally consistent or they admit that they cannot resolve the inconsistencies.

I am just SO, SO tired of all the self-righteous hysteria on this one.
 
SC&A, you've got a good question. They are both at fault and both should bear responsibility.

I think your point here is that the man knew he was not in control of the situation when he got into the car. A very good point.

But in reality, there's a third party in the car who is totally innocent.
 
while I agree with both points 49 and 50, there is something to say about the fact about whether or not she could have gotten preggo or not..........suppose she honestly thought she could not get preggo so why worry about whether he had protection or not? I have to say I was erronously told by my doctor that I could not have children myself and my hubsand I greived.

also as to the head of the mens center....he claims it is easy to give up a child you decided to have...I have to say as a parent....that is completly untrue..even if I didn't want it to begin with, after going through with it...it is hard to watch that life you worked so hard to bring into this world go away and not now its future.

and I say kudos to the chick who decided not only to have the child that no one wanted but chose to keep it and love it.....I see everyone pointing everything out but that........she and the child are facing huge pressure right now as well don't you think?
 
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