According to the Chronicle, the National Center for Men is involving itself in a lawsuit they are likening to Roe vs. Wade. The story goes like this: a Michigan man is being asked for pay child support for his ex-girlfriend’s child. This is a fairly standard set of affairs–you deposit sperm, you pay. However, the man argues that he didn’t want a child, and told his girlfriend that. According to him, she in turn claimed that she had a condition which would prevent her from getting pregnant.
So here comes the National Center for Men, riding in on a white horse to save the innocent victim of the court system. They are claiming that “equal protection under the law” should apply to men’s reproductive rights as well, and that men should be able to opt out of child support and parental responsibility. Men, in other words, should have a right to choose whether or not to have a child, just as women (in theory only, it seems) do.
Let’s go over a few things.
Roe vs. Wade is about women not being forced to have children they don’t want. Women, unlike men, are vulnerable to situations where they may be forced into having unwanted children–rape or molestation*, for example, where the attacker is unlikely to wear a condom. Women, unlike men, live for nine months with the consequences of unprotected sex (whether they chose to have sex without protection or not). I do not know of any case of a rape victim having a child and the rapist being forced to pay child support–be sure and let me know if you have information to the contrary. Especially given the low prosecution and conviction rates for rape, I find it unlikely.
Under normal circumstances, everyone has a choice when they engage in a sex act. To have sex or not? What form of protection to use? As a die-hard condom advocate, I don’t have much respect for the men’s rights position being advocated here. This man was not forced to bear his ex-girlfriend’s child–he could have chosen to wear a condom or undergo sterilization if he didn’t want children.
Women are in a different position for a number of reasons.
Many women who don’t want to have children take precautions to prevent pregnancy. However, all birth control has some level of failure rate, including tubal ligation. (And when tubal ligation fails, it often results in a life threatening condition.) I dislike the idea that women are responsible for birth control and sexual protection, because it’s a responsibility that should be shared, in all fairness.
Sex is awesome. Sex is great. The most effective form of birth control is of course abstinence–it’s awfully hard to get pregnant when you aren’t having sex (unless you are that one in three women who is raped). However, thanks to the marvels of modern medical science, it is possible to enjoy your sexuality without the constant risk of spawning. That’s pretty excellent, in my opinion.
When birth control fails, a woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy. Ideally, this should be done as early as possible, for a variety of reasons. However, side effects of some types of birth control (such as Depo-Provera) mean that a woman may not be aware of a pregnancy for some time.
And yes, some women do engage in risky behaviour which results in unwanted pregnancies, which they terminate. But should they be forced to have children simply because they are irresponsible? Abortion is a sticky wicket–Bitch, Ph.D. has an excellent post about navigating the moral thicket of abortion.
I strongly disapprove of the likening of this case to Roe vs. Wade, because I think it ignores some fundamental differences between male and female anatomy. I do think men should be allowed to choose whether or not they have children, and when. I do think men have the choice to utilize birth control methods. Men don’t have abortion as a choice, and men in the United States don’t yet have chemical birth control as an option. Men really ought to be lobbying for more options for themselves. I also think, and I know some women may disagree with me here, that if an unwilling father so chooses, he should be exempted from child support. Under the condition, of course, that he never see or make contact with the child he has rejected. But I do not view men’s reproductive rights in a state of threat when men can force women to bear their children. I do not view men’s reproductive rights under threat when a man can successfully sue for the destruction of ova fertilized with his sperm.
No, indeed, boys. Your reproductive rights are not threatened. In the least.
*This is not to say that men can’t be raped and molested, because of course they are. But unwanted children are an uncommon result.