Thursday, November 03, 2005

Abortion, fathers' rights, and equality

One paragraph in my post on Samuel Alito has touched off an interesting debate about abortion and spousal notification (Alito voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law that required women to notify their husbands if they were getting an abortion, with exceptions for domestic violence and other special cases).

I wrote:

For the record, while I am staunchly pro-choice, I think that spousal notification is a painfully complex issue. Yes, it's the woman's body. It's also the man's future child, and while there may be no good way of balancing the man's and the woman's interests when those interests compete (i.e. when one of them wants to have the child and the other doesn't), I think that our current system, in which women have all the reproductive rights and men have the responsibilities, is seriously flawed. I don't believe we can expect men to be equal partners in child-rearing while denying them any say in reproductive decisions. Paternal consent, in my view, goes too far in infringing on the woman's bodily autonomy; paternal notification, on the other hand -- with exemptions when there is domestic violence or other complicating factors -- may not be such an onerous measure.

Ampersand (Barry) responds at Alas, A Blog and also in my comments thread. Among other things, he argues that the issue is less one of fathers' rights than of husbands' authority. (He points out that the law did not apply to unmarried fathers.) Kevin Drum also comments, along similar lines:

... abortion is just one of a constellation of hot button conservative social issues that have at their core a desire to enforce traditional sex and gender roles, and notification laws are yet another example of that. They aren't about notification, they're about control. In the case of parental notification, there's at least a reasonable argument that this kind of one-sided control is appropriate, but in the case of husbands and wives, there isn't. Not in the 21st century, anyway.

I don't think it's that simple. We're talking about the man who contributed half of the fetus's DNA; who, if he is aware of the pregnancy, may well regard the fetus as "his child" and not just a lump of cells. And this makes notification a wrenching issue. (Of course, that's equally true for unmarried fathers; but the disctintion may be partly pragmatic, since the partner of a pregnant single woman may not be easy to identify.)

I am not arguing, by the way, that spousal notification -- or, per Barry's correction, husband notification -- is the right policy. If I were in the legislature, I honestly don't know how I would vote; I'd have to listen to arguments on both sides first. (I would definitely oppose a husband consent requirement.) I am only saying that supporting such a law does not necessarily make one a fascist, a neanderthal, or a male chauvinist pig. Incidentally, in various polls, about 70% of Americans favor a law requiring a woman to notify her husband -- some polls include "partner" as well -- if she's having an abortion. So either the vast majority of Americans support male patriarchal ownership of women, or there is something else at stake.

Kevin Drum asks: what if the roles were reversed, and it was a question of making the husband notify the wife of something of roughly equivalent significance? For an answer, he points to this post by Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped, who believes she has found an equivalent:

... it is worth noting that at the same time the state of Pennsylvania was arguing that the state had a legitimate interest in compelling a woman to inform her husband before she obtained an abortion, the state declined to make the conceptually similar demand that an HIV-infected man inform his wife that he carried a potentially deadly infectious disease that could be sexually transmitted.

Pennsylvania law states that "a physician may disclose confidential HIV-related information to a known contact of a patient infected with HIV" if he or she believes that the patient is putting that person at significant risk of infection, but the physical has no obligation to make such a disclosure unless ordered to do so by a court.

Garance-Ruta sums up:

The overwhelmingly male legislators of the state of Pennsylvania thought it perfectly appropriate to intervene in a woman's marriage and deny her the freedom to make reproductive choices without coercion, threats, or worse from her husband. Judge Samuel Alito agreed with those legislators. And yet, should that same husband carry HIV, the state would have left informing his wife of this fact to his discretion, and would require from him no proof or signed affirmation that he had, in fact, informed her.

The only commonality in the state's approach to these two (admittedly different) scenarios was, in each instance, to effectively diminish the power of the female part of the couple to control her fate and what happens inside her own body.


First of all, it is worth noting that the main reason we have no mandatory spousal/partner notification for HIV, the way there once was for syphilis and other sexual transmitted diseases, is not anti-feminist right-wing male legislators. Mandatory HIV-positive status reporting has been vehemently opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and by gay rights groups. According to the website of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:

... a proposal in San Francisco that health department staff offer partner notification services to bisexual men whose female partners might unknowingly have been placed at risk was denounced as Orwellian because of the prospect of creating lists of bisexual men and their partners. ... Even greater antagonism greeted the possibility of creating lists of the homosexual contacts of gay men, because of the fear of discrimination.

But leaving that aside, Garance-Ruta's analogy falls flat on two counts.

1. The policy on HIV infection notification is gender-neutral. A wife is under no more legal obligation to inform her husband of her HIV status than he is to inform her. Now, admittely, the risk of infection for women with HIV-positive male partners is much higher than for men with HIV-positive female partners. (Various studies estimate that male-to-female transmission of the virus is 8 to 10 times more likely than the reverse.) But the risk to male partners of HIV-positive women does exist. Furthermore, I'm not sure the legislators were even aware of how great the risk gap was; public health literature on HIV tends to consistently downplay it so as not to promote complacency about female-to-male transmission. So this is hardly a case of refusing to mandate notification when it affects only women.

2. More important, while a physician is not obligated to inform an HIV-positive patient's spouse or partner of his (or her) HIV status, and cannot require proof of notification from the patient, the patient does, in a sense, have a legal duty to notify his/her partner. Knowingly transmitting HIV to another person is a felony in every state most states. It is also a civil tort; indeed, you can sue your spouse or lover for pain and suffering if he or she knowingly exposed you to HIV even if you test negative. Added: An HIV-positive person also can be prosecuted for exposing a sexual partner to the virus even if the partner is not infected.

In other words, if we treated abortion notification the way we most states treat HIV notification, a woman coming in for an abortion could not be required to produce proof that she has notified her husband or partner -- but if the husband was not informed and learned about the abortion later, he could not only sue her for damages but file criminal charges.

I don't think even "Scalito" would go that far.

Correction: Knowingly transmitting HIV to one's sexual partner(s) is currently a crime in most but not all states. In some states, it is classified as a misdmeanor; in a few others, it applies only to selected groups such as prison inmates, sex offenders, and prostitutes and their clients. It should be noted that in states that lack specific statutes, including Texas and Washington, a person who knowingly and deceptively infects another with HIV can be prosecuted on other charges including assault, reckless endangerment, and "criminal exposure."

It is worth noting that generally, it's the socially conservative "red states" that criminalize knowing HIV transmission. The opposition to such statutes has come from civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU, as well as AIDS activist and gay rights groups.


134 comments:

Steve said...

If you are looking for a direct comparison, note this fact. In many states, a married man requesting a vasectomy must have his wifes permission or at least proof of her notification while those same states do not require the same of a married woman wanting a tubal ligation.

Cathy Young said...

Steve, interesting factoid; could you supply some links to where I can find some info on this?

Seirhune said...

I just had a similar discussion with a friend about this issue.

I think notification of the man should be required, after all the child is 'half' his. He would be expected to (at the very least) pay child support, so he should be informed that the child exists and may be aborted. We know that the child is a responsibility of TWO people, which is why the man has to pay child support at all. The child is not solely the woman's merely because she is carrying it.

I just figure women shouldn't be able to have their cake (get to solely decide the fate of a child) and eat it too (make the man pay for it, or ignore him if he wanted to keep the child). Seems a bit....off.

Admittedly, I don't know how to incorporate men into the equation as far as giving them a say in whether or not a child is aborted without opening the door for force and coersion. I do think there needs to be more parity in the situation.

-Just my two cents.

Cathy Young said...

Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Anonymous said...

Any law that is gender specific creates all sorts of problems when addressing Equal Rights Under The Law.

I am a women but believe it outrageous than only we females receive such protection under the law while males are not protected at all.

When will women recognize how unequal is our justice system when justice serves only one gender and only under a specific time period. If women wish to have total control over reproductive rights then we must be willing to assume all responsibility. For example, we should not be given the right to sue the male for child-care simply because the baby moves through the birth canal. The law cannot define Fetus for Her but Life for Him.

slarrow said...

Minor point here: Garance Franke-Ruta claims that Judge Alito agreed with the content of what those legislators said. From what I can tell, all he did was agree that they had the prerogative to act as they did.

Seems to me that there's a big difference between a judge who thinks "My job is to stop bad law" and one who thinks "My job is to stop unconstitutional law." People who believe the first about judges seem to have difficulty accepting that others believe the second.

Cathy Young said...

slarrow -- that too, of course.

Anonymous said...

Married male here. To me it is extremely simple. If during courtship...it was clear that the male was desirous of a family then it would be a betrayal worthy of divorce should the wife secretly have an abortion. How that fits into a law is unclear. If the wife was screwing around and the child is not his (something that is not as rare as most people assume) then I suppose it would be OK.

Russ said...

It is both hilarious and deeply depressing to hear how men are oppressors in these "control" arguments... given that men get the shaft on each and every issue before the courts that address partnerships between men and women.

I don't mind getting screwed by the system -- that's part of being the disposable sex. I'm getting awfully damned sick of hearing how everything that might conceivably inconvenience a woman is my fault as the oppressor.

The notion that lack of HIV notification constitutes a move in the victimization game ignores the staggering emotional costs of mandating that doctors' offices notify spouses' partners that their significant other has been cheating, has caught a lethal disease, etcetera. And if the spouse isn't home? How many calls would the doctors' office be obligated to make? The idea that anyone could immediately leap to the notion that this is gender oppression is simply bizarre.

Bill Dalasio said...

Ms. Young,

As much as I agree with your point regarding the inappropriateness of Franke-Ruta's comparison, I think it might be fair to note the difference in stakes. Abortions haven't been known to widely kill the unnotified partner. AIDS can.

Cathy Young said...

William,

Agreed, to be sure. I thought of that while composing the post. The analogy is Franke-Ruta's, though.

I lean toward favoring mandatory HIV notification, though there have been some good arguments as to why it might be counterproductive: some married men, for instance, might forego testing rather than risk having their wives find out about their trysts with other men on the side. Also, sexual partners who aren't married to or living with the patient may be difficult to trace.

M said...

Missing from the argument is the case for male abortion rights, that is to unilaterally terminate his responsibilities for the baby. After all, the man should be entitled to a "choice" as well. If he is not ready to be a parent or just doesn't want to be one, shouldn't the man be able to go to a discreet lawyer and terminate his responsibilities, with or without spousal notification?

Cathy Young said...

m - check out my original ost on the Alito nomination (linked in this post), and especially my artcle linked under the words "seriously flawed."

Here's that link again:

Men's Choice

Jamie said...

Ampersand's view that the PA law was more about control than about rights is, IMHO, applying an interpretation of the law that isn't necessarily the only one, or even the main one. It could similarly have been said about civil rights laws that their purpose was to bolster the Democrats' numbers in Congress, once it became clear that African-Americans were voting disproportionately Democrat - but would that rationale actually have been the primary one for passing these laws? Or were they instead actually intended to protect the rights of some whose rights were being infringed?

The effect of the struck-down PA law may have been to maintain some degree of some husbands' authority over what some presumably not-too-standard-issue wives would do when finding they were pregnant - I trust that most wives wouldn't hesitate for a moment before telling their husbands such news, whether they considered it good or bad, or else why be married? But it's hardly an across-the-board "barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen" statute.

And finally, seconding slarrow: I thought Alito was merely upholding the right of the legislature to make law, in opposition to his fellows who apparently believed it was inappropriate for the PA legislature to make that law. Doesn't seem like the optimal place to determine his views on marital relationships, if that question is at all relevant to his abilities as a jurist.

Nick (South Africa) said...

It is at the end of the day a woman's body, there's no getting over this. However if she expect paternal involvement, practically and/ or financially, it should be demonstrable that the father became a father voluntarily. The burden of responsibility for falling pregnant being with the woman, not the man to prove that he took 'reasonable precautions' to avoid pregnancy - remember it's her body!

This prevents the all too common entrapment problem to some degree, though some entrapped men will still feel a moral responsibility and have natural paternalistic feelings towards the unplanned (from his point of view) blameless child (trust me on this!).

The upshot of this is that women should get men to 'sign off' (duly witnessed et al) prior consent before attempting to fall pregnant by a man. This should be a norm.

This social and legal norm would serve to inculcate into women their rights and remove ambiguity in the heat of passion as to where the responsibility lies - it was a woman after all that told me that women should know that a 'stiff prick has no conscience’. Maybe this would remove the ambiguities a tad and be a little fairer towards men rather than treating them walking sperm banks and ATM machines. Women would be aware of their right’s and their responsibilities (to themselves, to men and to their potential children).

Anonymous said...

I live in Texas and had a vasectomy at 36 after our second child. Don't know if it was state law, but my doctor would not do the procedure without my wife's acknowledgement/approval.

Regarding abortion, I oppose it, but since it is legal, I have never thought it was right to give the woman all the options. I think single men ought to have a right to a "virtual" abortion. When a woman becomes pregnant and notifies the supposed father, he then has the option to declare a "virtual" abortion which would terminate any legal or financial obligations to the woman and child. A lot of men would be jerks and exercise their abortion option, but at least it would be more fair and probably make women more careful about their sexual partners.

been there said...

From a woman who had two abortions, ten years apart: both times I was married, my husbands knew about the pregnancies, and the abortions were a mutual decision. Right now, my husband suspects me of having an affair, which, for the record, I'm not. Were I to get accidentally pregnant, he'd be bound to think the child is my "lover's." Unless a blood test on a fetus is possible to establish paternity -- which I would go for, with a great flourish -- I'd rather have a quiet abortion and not even tell him. The snag: after an abortion, you bleed for a couple of weeks, and my husband knows my cycle pretty well. It would look weird as hell to him that I suddenly have a very long period, at a wrong time, after not having one or two when I should have.

Most husbands are not idiots and not out of touch with their wives' bodies and cycles. It's pretty hard to fool them when you live together and share a bathroom.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

Note in passing: We libertarian conservatives who favor gay marriage would have an easier time rebutting the "it would destroy marriage" argument if we weren't saddled with allies who seem intent on creating the impression, in other contexts, that they don't give a damn about marriage.

Anonymous said...

Great Comment Nick.

Let's look at the different scenarios for both a married and unmarried couple.

1. Wife/Women wants baby, Husband/Man wants baby
- Baby it is - everyone is happy
2. Wife/Women doesn't want baby, Husband/Man doesn't want baby
- No baby - everyone is happy
3. Wife wants baby, Husband doesn't want baby
- Baby it is (can't force wife do to anything with her body but husband/man has no choice and must pay.
4. Wife/women doesn't want baby, Husband/man wants baby
- No baby it is - can't force women to do anything with her body

In our society where abortion is a religion, we have enshrined this sacrament as a right (rite) where women have all of the power and men are subject entirely to the women's decision - WHILE also being help responsible for paying for a baby he might notwant.

This is clearly the "equality" we have arrived at. Nick's proposal makes a lot of sense except it will never happen because of the women's lives who will be destroyed by unwanted pregnancy - hey...they can always abort

TR said...

Cathy, as part of an exercise in law school (a class entitled "Religion, Ethics & Law") I compared the "reproductive" rights of men and women from religious, ethical and legal perspectives. I recently posted the paper to my blog in light of this dicussion surround Alito.

In the Name of the Father: Recognition of Men's Reproductive Rights

Just some things to consider about the rights we're discussing. Of course, this discussion always seems to necessarily ignore the rights of the third, most innocent, party to this debate....

Anonymous said...

Great post, Cathy...

When I lived in Boulder and was in law school I saw this issue in full illumination.

A classmate and his wife were expecting a child. It had been about six months, and my classmate was very excited.

He was liberal, as was his spouse.

Well, she got a very good job opportunity -- once in a life time to hear her say it -- that would start right when he finished law school, but which she did not thing she could step up and take if she were mothering a new child.

So on the day he was down in Denver looking at cribs and baby room furnishings, she went to go see that doctor in Boulder who performs even elective late term abortions and had her little inconvience done away with.

He was shattered. And the weird thing was that she could not figire out why. She told him "but I always hear you say that it is the woman's body, the woman's choice..."

They had not infidilety, not substance abuse issues, nothing. She just decided based on their past collective "liberalspeak" to each other that he was not expecting a role in the decision. The lynchpin of her exasperated pushback when he confronted her was to tell him: "But even you said you learned in law school that its unconstitional for me to have to tell you what I want to do with my choice." Ouch.

Their marriage ended, as you may imagine. He tried to commit suicide some time later, but got some help and at least as I hear is doing OK.

That episode pretty much decided this issue for me. I'm pro choice, but by getting married and engaging in sexual conduct I voluntarily cede some of my rights. There's something unsettling to say that in this context, my spouse could abort a planned and desired child on a whim like that. I'd like to think I would pick a partner with more respect, but abortion is one of those tricky issues for guys. We've learned that if we express a desire for input any greater than the level of input desired by NARAL and those groups (to wit, none), then we're oppressors who are insensitive and politically stunted.

Its a tough issue and your post is an important component to a real discussion of these things.

Patrick Stephens said...

A few points seem to have been overlooked.

1) The fetus is not a child – neither is it the woman’s future child, much less the man’s future child. It is a fetus, and if we grant women the right to abort – then we acknowledge the essential difference between a fetus and a child, and we recognize the inviolate sanctity of a woman's control over her own body. Such sanctity is absolute -- it can not be divided into discrete chunks, with some acts of personal sovereignty requiring the woman to notify another person of her intentions, or more absurdly, obtain someone else’s consent.
2) Failing to require notification does not deny men “any” say in reproductive decisions. Indeed, men have sole authority over the single most important reproductive decision they can make: the decision to take off their pants.
3) Finally, we should not be overly troubled with the fact that women enjoy what seems to some to be greater autonomy in regards to reproductive choice. Women also carry a greater burden of responsibility in respect to reproduction. This is not a political or a cultural fact, but a matter of biological necessity. Men don’t carry children to term, women do. All in all, it seems to me to be a fair trade: women menstruate, carry children to term (or not), endure labor, and lactate. Men don’t. The vicissitudes of politics aside, we should never lose sight of the simple fact that it’s the individual woman’s sovereignty over her own body that is the essential issue in these cases: not the status of some potential, future, unknown child, and not the beliefs or interests of her husband, or anyone else—be they man or woman.

M said...

Cathy-
Just read the article and enjoyed it. Thanks. I originally came across "The Right to Male Abortion" in Liberty magazine, and found it to be very thought-provoking.
Clearly, the pendulum has swung to far, especially when contractual agreements are being voided by the courts. The man's rights are essentially nil.

Sinner said...

Cathy,

While I generally agree with your article "Men's Choice", I have a nit with this statement: A woman also can have a baby and not tell the father, making a unilateral decision to give the child up for adoption.

As an adoptive father I want to say this is not completely true. If there is not a signed waiver of parental rights from the biological father, the adoption cannot be finalized and the father can claim rights within a set timeframe. See this. Many states even have searchable databases for men to search for children they never knew about so they can claim them if they so desire. In addition most States have specific laws regarding the termination of parental rights that require the courts to hold hearings to identify and locate the biological father and determine his rights

As you might imagine this time is filled with great anguish for the unlucky adoptive parents that cannot get the biological father's consent.

Jim Doherty said...

Have to agree with Alito here. It sure seems to me that women want all the authority for choosing if a child is born, but they want to spread responsibility.

How can you demand to have the sole decision for having a child, but then saddle someone else with that same responsibility for life?

As soon as men get some kind of oral contraceptive, this countries population is going to take a sharp dive. This current situation where women alone decide if a child is born or not will go away. And there will be a lot less women getting their monthly paychecks merely because they wanted a baby, but not a husband.

Gimme Back My Dog said...

"2) Failing to require notification does not deny men “any” say in reproductive decisions. Indeed, men have sole authority over the single most important reproductive decision they can make: the decision to take off their pants."

So if I don't want to be a father, your advice is that I never have intercourse?

submandave said...

Cathy: "I lean toward favoring mandatory HIV notification, though there have been some good arguments as to why it might be counterproductive: some married men, for instance, might forego testing rather than risk having their wives find out about their trysts with other men on the side."

While I'm all for encouraging anyone who feels they may need to be tested to do so, my greater concern in this matter would be to try and prevent harm to one person at the hands of another. That said, it seems the threat of criminal prosecution would provide just as much, if not more, disinsentive as a notification requirement would.

Patrick Stephens: "The fetus is not a child"

So, at what point does it become a child, because there is no doubt that given nature's course that is what will happen. Is it when measurable brain activity exists? Is it respiration? Is it when the umbilical cord is cut? Is it 100 days after birth (as, I believe, traditional Chinese culture holds)? Either there is some "magic moment" at which POOF it's a baby, or it is an evolving transition and therefore indefinable. And if it is indefinable I fail to see how a society that believes in "life, liberty and the pusuit of happiness" (in that order) wouldn't choose to fail on the side of life.

"men have sole authority over the single most important reproductive decision they can make: the decision to take off their pants."

I can't belive you could make such an argument with a straight face when it so obviously and even more pointedly cuts in the other direction. In fact, this was precisely the main method by which women exercised their reporductive rights throughout human history. How ironic to now see it turned about as a way for men to control a woman's reporductive rights.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think things have gone too far. At present, a woman has an almost unconditional right to determine whether she will carry a pregnancy to delivery. But the man has an almost absolute duty to support that child.

So, if she wants the kid and he doesn't, he still ends up supporting the kid for the next 18 years, which often means helping support the woman for that period of time. But if he wants the kid and she doesn't, then tough.

This sort of one sidedness could be justified if it were the guys fault the woman got pregnant in the first place. But often, it is mutual. Maybe both got carried away. Maybe they even planned it, and the woman changed her mind. Yet, regardless of how they found themselves there, the woman's rights are almost absolute, as are the man's duties.

In the end, this can't last.

Ampersand said...

In most circumstances, I think that a married woman contemplating an abortion should discuss it with her husband first. But just because something is the right thing to do, doesn't mean it ought to be mandated by law.

So if I don't want to be a father, your advice is that I never have intercourse?

If you can't live without intercourse, my advice is to find a partner you trust, discuss birth control with her, make sure both of you really understand how the b.c. works, and never have intercourse without using two forms of b.c. (such as the pill and a condom). The "failure rates" of most b.c. comes from people not using b.c. properly; if you use b.c. correctly, and always use two forms at once, the chance of accidental pregnancy goes down to next-to-nil.

But if next-to-nil is still too risky for you, and if sex with men isn't an option, then logically abstinence is your best choice.

I'm not saying that's an ideal situation, or that it's fair; just that it's reality. Anyone who tells men otherwise is lying.

Bruce Hayden said...

I assume that Patrick Stephens is assuming that the pre-baby stays a fetus until birth, when it all of a sudden becomes a baby. (If you have a different defnition, please let us know).

But with that definition, you still face the problem of exactly when during the birth, does it become a baby? Head out? Entire body? At least with my daughter, there was a couple of minutes between these.

But if you go there, then you get into the partial birth abortion argument. There, you are taking a viable fetus and killing it. You are taking something that a good Ob/Gyn could turn into a baby in a minute or two with an emergency C-Section and killing it, and, indeed, taking longer to kill it that it takes to deliver it this way.

Call it reductio ad absurdum, but that is what happens when you extend a woman's absolute right to an abortion through the third trimester, when a fetus, if delivered prematurely, would survive just fine.

Anonymous said...

"How can you demand to have the sole decision for having a child, but then saddle someone else with that same responsibility for life?"

I hear that complaint again and again, and I can not ever understand why it is made.

How can you discount so easily the distinguishing fact that the woman is the one who is pregnant?

It's bogus to compare the responsibilities, burdens, and benefits of parenthood with the physical risks and burdens of pregnancy itself.


Once the child can live without benefit of it's mother's heart, lungs liver and kidneys, etc, once the child is separated from the mother, her right to bodily integrity is not at issue. You share the obligation to support and raise the child brought into the world.

Most people minimise the burndens of pregnancy, but pregnancy is dangerous. It can injure and kill the pregnant woman. Death is of course a permanent consequence. At 8 weeks you can't know if you will suffer a blood clot after delivery related to the birth and die. You can't know if you will get toxemia and be permanently brain-injured, or have an amniotic embolus, or just have your lupus flare, or be crippled by mental illness the rest of your life because of chemical imbalance brought on by hormonal changes.

You cannot share the right to control your own body during pregnancy, because you are not pregnant. Is that so hard to understand?


There is a well settled concept in common law that there is no such thing as a wrongful birth of a healthy child. The law considers birth of a healthy child a boon. A good, not a burden or a damage.

Fathers's have rights to their children after they are born, and share equally all the compensations of parenthood, including the love, affection and society of the child, and continuation of your name and/or line.

once the child is born, men and women share equally all of these things, including the obligation to support the child.

They never face any risk at all from the physical changes and biological burdens of pregnancy. The pregnancy itself never threatens them.

Dn't start in with "being a dad is stressful and makes me take a more dangerous job".

You are free to take any damn job you can do. Your worries about being a dad are not a medical condition, like a cancer in your womb from a blighted ovum.

When men are pregnant, or pregnancy occurrs entirely outsife of a woman's body, he will have a similar equal stake in the matter at all stages of pregnancy.

And still have the same obligations to support and raise his offspring...

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem, as I see it, with not notifying a husband of an abortion, is that the pregnancy is most often a joint decision. My view is that you give up some rights to the other party in a marriage, and the PA legislature declared this to be one of them.

Anonymous said...

What would be wrong with defining marriage such that the marrying couple is voluntarily agreeing that some decisions belong to the realm of mutual consent? Reproduction would seem to be a natural area for this, but there are others. Couples who can't agree to this would have the option of not getting married.

didymus2000 said...

A woman CAN give a baby up without the husband's or father's permission under many new free child abandonment laws in states across the nation.

She can decide she does not want to be responsible and can drop it off at designated fire stations or hospitals in many states now.

These new laws recognize women's desires to kill their unwanted babies. In order to stop women from killing newborns these states permit any woman to dump her baby at an official baby dumping site, no questions asked. No questions about fathers, no questions about rape, no questions about mental health or state of mind, just "give us the baby, ma'am, and we'll take care of it from here on.".

There are many advantages from a woman's point of view. By legally dumping the baby she avoids all responsibility for the child or duty to the state to pay child support. Further, she prevents the father from claiming the child since he cannot be traced. Further, she prevents him from raising the child as his own and (perhaps most importantly) requesting child support from her or telling the child about her.

So tell me, what is the moral difference between her behavior and that of a father who (in order to avoid parenthood) takes his newborn from its mother, travels to another state and dumps the baby at an official baby-dumping site?

Maybe he doesn't want to be financially or morally responsible for the child either.

Maybe he knows the mother is a loser and would rather the baby be given to a much better adoptive family.

montauk said...

So if I don't want to be a father, your advice is that I never have intercourse?

I have an acquaintance, a good-looking guy women always chased after. The reason he got married the first time is that his girlfriend -- surprise! -- got pregnant. They later divorced, she got practically everything in the settlement, and he's still paying child support. The reason he got married the second time is that his girlfriend -- surprise! -- got pregnant. He's still married to her, but last year he told me he was going to sue her IUD manufacturer, because she got pregnant again just as their first kid started school and he hoped she'd get a job. (I didn't have the heart to tell him that IUDs don't fail as long as they are actually used.)

He always speaks of his current wife fairly disparagingly (and of his ex even worse) and repeats that he'd never have married her if she hadn't gotten pregnant. When I asked him how come he didn't learn his lesson the very first time and didn't take precautions against any more unwanted pregnancies, he shrugged, smirked, and said, as though I was an idiot: "Well, birth control is a woman's responsibility, too."

It would be terrible for a man to go to bed with a woman he presumably loves and hopes she loves him, thinking that she may be out to trick him, but in the absence of a steady, trustworthy, communicative partner, I'd say yes, a man should have sex as carefully as if it were him that'd have to carry the child to term, give birth, and lactate.

j2 said...

Patrick,

You assert your three points as though you have that authority, but you don't. Not for me. A fetus is an early stage of a person's human development, period. You can minimize that for yourself if you like but that doesn't change the fact. The sovereinty of any persons body is not complete under any society, as much as an individual may wish it. Drug laws in this country are a perfect example of the partial sovereinty of the individual. Responsible use of our freedoms is necessary and failing that justice demands consequences. Even when both mother and father agree to abort a child it is an example of irresponsible pro-creation on their part and they should have some consequence as a reminder. In the case of women raped or involved in incest it is clear where the greater burden of responsibility lies and that a huge consequence should be placed on the male. We might say that a woman cannot be forced to carry a baby to term, but that doesn't make her act socially responsible or private.

It is very troubling that rights are not equally respected especially because women are given complete autonomy to choose life or death for a developing human life form. And it isn't enough to grant men a single decision among many in the matter. For any man who has lost a child to another womans choice it is very difficult to ever trust a woman with their sperm again. That is a socially devisive construction. The trade-off in gender roles in reproduction is recognized by our society, fairly or not, in the paternal responsibility for support evident in all states. Men and women are equally responsible for pro-creation but in differing ways. Those differences are biological. Women have just as much responsibility to keep their pants on as men do, and when they don't they are equally responsible for the consequences. Because of the complications that arise it is necessary for society to intercede to judge each situation accordingly so that justice is served.

For many of us there is also a matter of morality to respect. You may not believe as I do, but you shouldn't demand that I give up my beliefs to accomodate your cause. If a woman wants to retain her right to choose abortion then she should be willing to pay the male partner and society the respect they deserve, even if that is a mere formal inconvenience.

Anonymous said...

In the days before no-fault divorce and the abolition of adultery laws, "husband notice" made sense because husbands (and wives) were in an essentially reproductive relationship. Today, that's less true so it seems odd to add husband notice where it didn't exist before. Those so inclined see that oddness as (1) pretext for patriarchy-enhancment or (2) the top of slope of abortion limitations. Reminds me of the SSM debate.

My inner libertarian also sees these changes in father's rights (in all directions) as the state stepping in and changing the terms of my marriage contract after it was signed. I think many of us would be more accepting of these changes if they didn't apply to relationships that were cast under other terms. Specifically for notification - I'm in favor of limiting husband notification to covenant marriage husbands.

/s Aultimer

Robert said...

Here's a tiny dollop of additional publicity for your sensible writings on abortion.

http://www.instapunk.com/archives/InstaPunkArchiveV2.php3?a=653

We also invited you to comment directly, if you have the time, to this:

http://www.instapunk.com/archives/InstaPunkArchiveV2.php3?a=651

SarahW said...

It's interesting. Men seem to look at induced abortion as simply a way to avoid the burdens of parenthood, and feel cheated they don't have equal rights to avoid that burden once that bun is in the oven, so to speak; they don't get any mulligans or take-backs.

But abortion law, as it stands, is not about creating some special right of women to avoid parenthood. It's about dominion over her physical person, whether she has the liberty to mitigate physical risks to her body.

rafinlay said...

Prenuptual agreements are common and accepted. Why not provide a set of standard legal paragraphs which a couple must lelect from when receiving a marriage license. One could vest the woman with all legal rights regarding pregnancy/reproductive decisions, one could require mutual agreement to abort, one could require mutual agreement to carry to term, etc. Failure to comply later would at least be a breach of contract. With what remedies? So some details need to be worked out...

didymus2000 said...

The female notification of vasectomy is part of a longer line of cases that relate to marital fraud and the centrality of child-bearing in marital law.

In most states, if a person lies about their capacity to have children (and in some states their willingness to have them), the other party can have the marriage annulled. Misleading a spouse about your ability to have kids is a BIG no-no.

By extension, a married person who wants to permanently cripple their ability to have kids is asked by many doctors to get their spouse's approval even when there is no law mandating spousal notification.

Similarly, while a doctor can inseminate a women without her husband's written consent, the husband (assuming he ever finds out) is not the legal father.

Of course, if she can persuade him he IS the real father, he will magically become the real father by virtue of telling everyone that he IS the real father.

See the Uniform Parentage Act.

Patrick Stephens said...

So if I don't want to be a father, your advice is that I never have intercourse?

Yes, that's right. As Ampersand said, it's the only absolutley fail-safe option. And we shouldn't forget that all decsions have consequences, and intercourse can have consequences that keep you up at night, annoy the heck out of you, get strange piercings, and drain your savings when they go to college.

For the record, nothing I said was intended as an attempt to control a woman's reproductive freedom--indeed my arguemnts were intended to support a woman's right to choose.

Finally, on the issue of when a fetus becomes a person (which is more accurate), this is slightly off-topic, as Cathy's article turns on the question of a woman's right to her own body, not on the status of the fetus. (I argue that the development of the neural system is the crucial point, for whatever my perspective is worth.)

If we recast the question in a slightly different context, I think the point becomes more clear.

Should a pregnant woman be required to notify her husband, or the father of her child, or anyone else, that she intends to leave the state in which she resides?

mythago said...

A woman CAN give a baby up without the husband's or father's permission under many new free child abandonment laws in states across the nation.

You incorrectly describe those laws. Abandonment laws DO NOT sever the father's parental rights or, for that matter, the mother's. All they do is insulate the mother from criminal charges of abandonment if she leaves her newborn at, say, a police station.

steve, which states require vasectomy notification for married men but not tubal ligation notification for married women?

Rick C said...

Indeed, men have sole authority over the single most important reproductive decision they can make: the decision to take off their pants.

Actually, this is not true in more than one way. The most obvious counterexample is the guy who had an affair with a coworker involving oral sex. Unbeknownst to him, she saved his "deposit," impregnated herself with it, and the sued him for child support a few year later.

j2 said...

Patrick said:

"Cathy's article turns on the question of a woman's right to her own body"

No, Cathy's article doesn't turn on it, your argument turns on it, completely. Further, Cathy's article doesn't argue about voiding a womans right to terminate her pregnancy but about notification that she intends to. Oh the horrors and burden that puts on her! If she needs protection from a homicidal stalker then she should seek that from the courts. If notifying the father is not in her interest then they can deal with the timing of it.

Anonymous said...

In the Salon article Cathy wrote and referenced in the second paragraph, (Page 2, paragraph 6 of article), she wrote:

"Did the woman ask him to impregnate her and sign an agreement relieving him of any financial obligations? He's still liable if she changes her mind.

Was he underage and legally a victim of statutory rape? Makes no difference. (One such case, in Kansas in 1993, involved a 12-year-old boy molested by a baby sitter.)

Did the woman have her way with him when he had passed out from drinking and brag to friends that she had saved herself a trip to the sperm bank? Tough luck, said Alabama courts.

Did she retrieve his semen from the condom she had asked him to wear during oral sex and inseminate herself with a syringe? Yes, it's a true story, and in 1997 the Louisiana Court of Appeals told the man to pay up, saying that a male who has any sexual contact with a woman -- even oral sex with a condom -- should assume that a pregnancy may ensue."

From the website of Urology Associates North Texas, their Consent for Vasectomy form includes the following:

SPOUSE CONSENT
I join in authorizing the performance of a vasectomy upon my husband. It has been explained to me that as a result of this operation my husband may/is intended to be sterile. I understand that this fact must be confirmed by postoperative analyses. I have had an opportunity to have any questions answered.
Immediately below this is a Spouse signature line for the and a Date/Time line.

http://www.uant.com/UANT%20Consent%20for%20Vasectomy.pdf

If we can ask for spousal consent on a vasectomy, surely spousal notification, not spousal consent is only reasonable as it relates to abortion.

didymus2000 said...

anonymous said:

"Once the child can live without benefit of it's mother's heart, lungs liver and kidneys, etc, once the child is separated from the mother, her right to bodily integrity is not at issue. You share the obligation to support and raise the child brought into the world."

Nope, anonymous. In many states there is no obligation on the part of a woman to take care of or raise a child until two or three days postpartum.

During those two or three days, every woman is free to dump her baby at an official baby-dumping station. Once ddumped, she is free of any nd every liability and responsibility for that child.

Think about it. Motherhood in baby dumping states is 100% optional for every single woman. She HAS no legal responsibility in these states unless she WANTS the responsibility. And she doesn't even have to tell the people receiving the baby who the father is.

Now in all fairness, fathers should not be able to lie to a woman about their parental investment and get her to carry the child to term.

If the father tells her he will take responsibility, he should be legally bound fom then on.

Since women now have a lengthy post-partum window to decide whether or not to be a mother, men should have the same right to decide whether or not to be a father.

Since there is no mandatory motherhood after giving birth there is no moral justification for mandatory fatherhood.

newscaper said...

Patrick said
"2) Failing to require notification does not deny men “any” say in reproductive decisions. Indeed, men have sole authority over the single most important reproductive decision they can make: the decision to take off their pants."

I about fell off my computer chair on this one.
To be crude about it, *she* had no part in letting(even helping) him stick it in?
In general, if she says "no" (barring rape of course) he can stand there with his pants around his ankles and it makes absolutely no difference what he wants. She in fact is 100% in charge. She has absolute authority in what it takes to get pregnant, and [currently] has absolute authority in getting un-pregnant. However, he only has "responsibility". Utterly intellectually dishonest (or incompetent) thinking.

Somebody else insisted on both the pill and a condom as some sort of way to duck the issue. What if *he* properly uses a condom (which happens to fail) and she skips her pill (intentionally or not)? What then?

I'm with the others who suggested that the quaint notion of hetero marriage as ultimately being about potential offspring has a useful intellectual/legal frameowrk to apply here:

A pregnant unmarried woman *not* in a committed relationship that is expected by both parties to shortly lead to marriage is TOTALLY a reproductive free agent. The accidental father has NO rights and NO responsibilities (legal ones that is, social pressure for him to "do the right thing" is still very useful). No more palimony. Why? As a competent adult in charge of her own body the woman assumes all legal risk (assuming there is no deceit by the man) of pregnancy since she has the trump card of just saying "no", plus sole authority to end the pregnancy.

On the other hand in a marriage, both parties consented to the possibility, if no the intent, of having a family (offspring) -- which *together* they will support -- or together choose to terminate it. The father *has* to have some rights as well as responsibilities. In gettin married he assumed absolute responsibility for his children (and th eirsk of having them). I would agree that requiring dad's consent IS too much because it is her body, but notification is the only moral thing to do. A mandatory pre-nup (which could be updated/ renegotiated) making expectations wrt reproduction explicit would also help. In that light a disagreement could be grounds for an at-fault divorce.

Again, the old-fashioned notion of marriage, with a few contract modifications is a valuable clarifying concept.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing you wouldn't say...

"If she doesn't want to get pregnant she can mitigate the risks of pregnancy by not having intercourse."

How is that different from telling men to not have intercourse to avoid pregnancy? Why allow women to have abortions at all under your logic? Because you think women should be entitled to change their mind later, while the man should not?

If your answer to a man mitigating his desire to have children by abstinence, than why can't women be expected to mitigate the risk of pregnancy via the same method?

Anonymous said...

Similarly, while a doctor can inseminate a women without her husband's written consent, the husband (assuming he ever finds out) is not the legal father.

Incorrect, untrue, and clearly misinformed.

Under the laws of ALL 50 states, a child concieved during the marriage is legally presumed to be the issue of the husband and his financial responsibility. He is by law the "legal" father, and his name goes on the birth certificate unless he takes legal action to end the marriage and prove by DNA that he is not before that certificate is issued.

Even then, he can (and many have) be held responsible for the child support obligation.

Anonymous said...

newscaper
I about fell off my computer chair on this one.
[]
In general, if she says "no" (barring rape of course) he can stand there with his pants around his ankles and it makes absolutely no difference what he wants. She in fact is 100% in charge. She has absolute authority in what it takes to get pregnant, and [currently] has absolute authority in getting un-pregnant. However, he only has "responsibility". Utterly intellectually dishonest (or incompetent) thinking.


A woman can't be "100% in charge" if she requires a man's genetic material be contributed. She's at most 50% in charge, if you're counting decision-makers. It would be better to say that each parent had an absolute ability to prevent pregnancy by abstaining.

You're 100% in charge of retracting the statement about dishonesty and incompetence.

didymus2000 said...

Mythago said:

"You incorrectly describe those laws. Abandonment laws DO NOT sever the father's parental rights or, for that matter, the mother's. All they do is insulate the mother from criminal charges of abandonment if she leaves her newborn at, say, a police station."

Look at this link:
http://www.ncsl.org/programs/cyf/slr268.htm

The laws say babies can be dumped anonymously.

The dumping mother cannot be charged with abandonment.

The state may or may not make an effort to find the father.

The state is authorized to sever the parental rights and to put the baby up for adoption. They do NOT keep the babies in some kind of perpetual limbo.

No state has ever gone after a dumping mother for any monetary support or other contribution to the child's welfare. Defeats the purpose, dunnit? Why do you think they made it an anonymous process?

In short, a woman can dump a baby (and in some states it is thirty days after birth), sever her parental responsibilities, sever her parental rights (at least by waiting for the state to initiate a parental rights termination proceeding and not intervening), and walk of scot-free.

But again, go to this link

http://www.ncsl.org/programs/cyf/slr268.htm

for the full flavor.

Finally, giving a child up for adoption is different than the new child abandonment proceedings. Your are responsible for a child until it is adopted. If no one wants the baby, you are stuck. So the right to give up the baby for adoption really did not extinguish the mother's responsibility. A woman had to have an actual baby adopter to effectively get out from under duy to the baby.

And that is the big difference with the new laws. The new laws permit anonymous and liability-free dumping. If the baby gets adopted, fine. If it doesn't get adopted, who cares, since the duty to care for the infant has been extinguished by the mother's act of official and anonymous baby dumping.

Anonymous said...

As a father, I can be compelled to provide for my children. Going to work endangers me and hinders my ability to make choices for my self. To the guy that said we have the choice to keep our pants on, thats a choice that the woman has also. Would you deny a woman an abortion on those grounds?

Steve said...

Found that info after some looking. This was more of a tort reform thing. In some states, up until recently, tort law would not shield a doctor from a fraud accessory lawsuit in the case of performing a vasectomy on a married man but would indirectly shield them in the case of performing one on a married woman. This has been rectified in most states but some doctors continue to require the notification. This still leaves in place the question of whether the same could be done for abortions with the doctor refusing service without the notification even though the law does not require it. I will note that the reason I am aware of this is because I had a vasectomy and a family friends wife had a tubal ligation. I had to meet the doctor with my (now ex) wife and get her to sign for it while my friend was not allowed in the consultation room with his wife (due to privacy concerns supposedly). These were within a few months of each other in 1997.

I find it interesting that the arguments here are taking the Father's Rights turn. This is a losing battle for the men's side. "My body, my choice" is only for the woman. People who have not been on the non-custodial side of custody and support do not comprehend what it is like. I will preface the following by stating that I have always supported my children. For 16 months, starting the day my ex moved out (her choice) with the kids, I paid support with no court order. When the court date came up, I pressed to have the money taken directly out of my check and paid to the state CS office to ensure correct record keeping.

"You are free to take any damn job you can do.

I agree and disagree. In all states, there is a process in place where child support can be based on basically whatever the judge so desires. This is called imputing income. Therefore, if a man is deamed ny a judge to be purposefully underemployed or not making what he should be, the judge can base the support on the higher number the judge likes. In my case, I have desired to take a slightly lower paying job to spend more time with my family, but am unable to because my support is based on my current income and won't be lowered (twelve lawyers have reviewed my case and advised me as to such).

As far as the 50/50 comment. In my case, my CS is based off of 67% me / 33% my ex since I make more.

Anonymous said...

The case is one of parental rights of both the mother and father of the child. If a woman is pregnant and chooses to abort or not, that's her choice, however, to force a man to pay for that woman's choice is not equally fair in any form. It takes two to tango. It takes a woman's egg, and a man's sperm cell to create a child (or fetus as you will). It is up to the woman to carry that child to full term or not. But why is it the father of the birthed child's responsibility to help raise the child? After all, it wasn't in his body and he could not abort it at will. If you use the argument that a man should not drop his pants if he does not want the responsibility of being a father, then you should accept the argument of a woman should not spread her legs if she does not want to be a mother. You say it's about the woman's control over her body and life, that's fine. But don't allow HER choice control HIS life.

A man should not determine how a woman lives, but neither should a woman determine how a man lives.

Knemon said...

"we recognize the inviolate sanctity of a woman's control over her own body. Such sanctity is absolute -- it can not be divided into discrete chunks, with some acts of personal sovereignty requiring the woman to notify another person of her intentions, or more absurdly, obtain someone else’s consent."

Yeah, see, this isn't true.
It very much is divided into discrete chunks, in Roe v. Wade itself - rather, it is weighed against the state's interest in protecting ("potential") human life.

Weighing it against the father's right to be informed (I actually don't think the PA law is a good idea, but I'm skeptical of its unconstitutionality) doesn't seem so radically different. All rights, especially in the age of O'Connor, are balanceable against other rights and interests. Sanctity is a matter for the church, not the SC.

I know that you *want* it to be an inviolably sacred, fundamental right. But that's rhetoric, not law.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought that husband/father consent should be required in order to HAVE the baby. Though I guess there is some sort of implied consent to have a child nine months from now inherent in having sex, as well as implied consent to have any children the wife carries during marriage, but it that's there for the man, shouldn't it be there for the woman?

Wintermute said...

Thanks for the great post. That it comes from a woman, given the way many people make judgments, gives it greater force. Think Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Clarence Thomas.

The legal presumption of paternity in a marriage should be dispositive on the notification issue.

An equally or more serious issue is that the historically recent statutory scheme for child support for illegitimate children has promoted a new and problematic but increasingly popular reproductive strategy for women.

More at my blog here and here.

SarahW said...

It is up to the woman to carry that child to full term or not. But why is it the father of the birthed child's responsibility to help raise the child? After all, it wasn't in his body and he could not abort it at will.

Because the child has been born. And the child is entitled to be supported by its father and not just its mother.
It's the born and living *child* that has the rights.

You don't have a right to end a pregnancy because you aren't pregnant. If you were, you would have the right.

If babies grew in cabbage patches, you'd have a point.

A mother maintains a right to end a pregnancy only when she is pregnant. If she uses a surrogate for her eggs, when she has her DNA at stake, she cannot order or cause the pregnant surrogate to abort, and the state is not entitled to ask the pregnant woman to certify that she has notified the egg donor of her intentions.

Anonymous said...

In another context, the core constitutional issues of Judge Alito's dissent - not the results - would be fascinating to me.

My wife is pregnant and she also suffers from a severe personality disorder. The pregnancy prevents her from taking her meds, and when she is off them and in a rage state there is not much she isn't capable of - including threatening abortion. When she is stable she desperately wants to be than a mom, but when she is raging she still functions at a high level and could certainly carry through with her threat.

From a totally biased, results oriented viewpoint I would be devastated to lose my child. I agree with Ms. Young's position that the competing interests of spouses are not close to being in balance.

Jody Tresidder said...

Bruce Hayden said...
"The problem, as I see it, with not notifying a husband of an abortion, is that the pregnancy is most often a joint decision."

What a curious statement. Are you saying that the wife, in the troubling case under discussion here, is getting pregnant in order to exercise her right to abortion?

newscaper said...

Ok, Anonymous, I withdraw the overly harsh incompetent/dishonest slam. Sorry, heat of the moment --though I still find what appear to me to be logical contortions to be baffling.

But by "100% in charge" I am making note of the fact that she *does* have the equipment and it IS her body (so often used as the trump card by the other side).
If she doesn't cooperate *nothing* happens no matter what he might wish -- yet if he doesn't cooperate it is in fact trivial for her to become pregnant elsewhere.

So in that sense it actually isn't quite equal -- since *she* is the one who can become pregnant, she does have a somewhat greater interest in what happens -- if you're not a passive victim, how can someone else be as much or more responsible for your body than you are yourself?

Lest you think I am making your argument for you... the above in no way suggests the (married) father has no rights (the way it is now), but that perhaps its is 60-40 versus 50-50. That is why people here who lean toward notification are saying that requiring consent is probably going too far. No argument there.

I think the argument that the notification argument is about preserving husbandly "authority" is missing the point -- it is not about "control" but about *rights* that should accrue to a father since he *signed up* for the responsibility of reproduction (one way or the other) when he got married.

Anonymous said...

Confessions of an adulterer. I got involved with a woman at work(long story). She was married and confided in me that she was unhappy. So stupid me starts sleeping with her. This went on for about 2 years. It got real ugly before it was all over I nearly lost my job and she did over it all. I found out that she'd had at least one and up to three abortions behind my back as well as her husbands. She said she didn't want to have a baby where she did not know who the father was. I'm 95% sure they were mine, as one of the things she was unhappy about her husband was because he had taken steroids for body building he was sterile. She wanted to have a child. I wanted to marry her and wanted to have children with her, I did not want her to abort my child. I deeply regret my actions and feel a loss over the unborn child. I finally told her to go to hell. I was tired of her saying that she would get a divorce and then do nothing. I realized she was playing me off her husband and vis a versa. Three weeks later she got engaged to a third guy while she was still married and had finally filed for divorce. She started to stalk me. I think she wanted to play me off the new guy(that's what my therapist said anyway). She ended up marrying the third guy and having a baby with him. She quit following me when she was pregnant. After she had the baby she continued to stalked me for the next 8 years showing up at my work and following me(once she followed me into the supermarket and came right up to me, I ignored her). My neighbors told me that they had seen her parked down the street from my house, watching it. Finally she had to move out of state and I have not had to deal with her since. I felt betrayed by the abortion(s), I know I was wrong and shouldn't feel that way, but that is how I felt. The fact that she had the abortion(s) is one of the reasons I ultimately decided that I would never be able to trust her and regardless of how beautiful she was, it would never work out and my life would be nothing but misery. I have issues with trusting women, not in business but the whole love thing. I doubt that I will marry again, yes I was married at the time. How do I feel about whether she should have had to inform her husband? I don't know. I do know that there is a reason there are social taboos. The reason I wanted to write this is perhaps somebody else might learn from my mistake. It was not worth it.

Knemon said...

"divided into discrete chunks," btw, is a prety good description of many later-term abortion procedures.

Were I an annoying postmodern leftie, I would make something of this uncanny choice of phrase.

But I'm not.

William R. Barker said...

I'm still stuck on the post by Anonymous (who used to live in Denver) concerning the late term abortion his classmate's wife got (without prior notification to the husband) so that the child-to-be would not interfere with her accepting a job.

Sick.

Anonymous said...

This is the adulterer anonymous and I'm different than the anonymous in the current discussion. Should have said that first but didn't. Obviously, I wanted to post anonymously. Just wanted to make that clear.

Anonymous said...

William R. Barker said...
I'm still stuck on the post by Anonymous () concerning the late term abortion his classmate's wife got () so that the child-to-be would not interfere with her accepting a job.

Sick.


I'm a different Anonymous. Not so sure it's "sick". My old job was ending the lives of others for monetary gain. They called me brave, and also Lieutenant. The job lady just avoided the usual middlemen.

Larry said...

Thank you for bravely saying that supporting such a law does not necessarily make one a fascist, a neanderthal, or a male chauvinist pig.

Richard Bennett said...

Back in the good old days, when feminists espoused equality instead of unvarnished man-hating, they used to say that marriage was an equal partnership. In this partnership there were no pre-defined sex roles and everything was negotiable. Want a career? Fine, sit down with your equal partner and talk about it, you can work something out. Want to be a stay-at-home parent? Fine, doesn't matter whether you're male or female, the illuminated discussion of equals will bring about a resolution. Want a baby? Talk about it. Want an abortion? Talk about it. (See the pattern?)

In the area of sex and gender, legislatures often step into confusing issues and select one approach as the norm, and enact a law that somehow encourges people to behave accordingly; father notification (or whatever you want to call it, I don't care) is one such instance. By passing this law, the PA legislature and governor declared that the equal partnership model was the norm and they expected their citizens to behave that way, within sensible limits, of course.

Man-hating feminists (MHFs) don't subscribe to this equal partners notion; their view of marriage (and divorce, custody, alimony, child support, community property) holds that women are inherently privileged and therefore no attempt to achieve equality is ever warranted unless it solely benefits women. Thus, affirmative action was important when female college admissions were less than male ones, but should not be used any longer as females are up to 57%. Similarly, males should be required to have a long discussion and get a consent form signed before having sex with a woman (OK, this is a slight exaggeration of some college dating rules, but not much of one) but women can dispose of an unwanted zygote without sharing with their husbands. Never mind that he's the one who's going to deal with the subsequent mood swings, crying jags, tossed household items, etc. His role is to shut up, do the dishes, and get ready to pay the alimony.

Somehow I think the old "equal partners" idea was better than the brave new world of the MHFs, but I suppose that's the traditionalist in me.

(as a humorous aside, note that Ampersand argues on his blog that spousal discussion shouldn't be the law because women are endowed by biology with the unique ability to have abortions. (He really says this, I'm not kidding!) If we take that line of thought as our model, I have to point out that most men are endowed by their biology with the unique ability to beat the crap out of their wives. See where that goes?)

Revenant said...

note that Ampersand argues on his blog that spousal discussion shouldn't be the law because women are endowed by biology with the unique ability to have abortions. (He really says this, I'm not kidding!)

What makes his claim extra-strange is the fact that women don't give themselves abortions -- they hire somebody else to poke around in their body and induce the abortion. Anybody can hire a doctor; women aren't naturally endowed with that ability any more than men are.

Jim said...

"2) Failing to require notification does not deny men “any” say in reproductive decisions. Indeed, men have sole authority over the single most important reproductive decision they can make: the decision to take off their pants."

This argument applies just as well to women, doesn't it Patrick? So why would they need abortions? If they cannot respect their own choices, why should anyone else? Worthless argument.

Looking down thorugh the comments, I see that, as is typical, it is the women in this thread who are interested in gender equality in both responsibilty and choice for both genders, and see that men's rights are as important as women's rights,and men who are interested in protecting and patronizing women. We have a long way to go towards treating women as adults in this society.

The comment that HIV differs from abortion in that you can't die from an abortion ignores the fact that you can be left with 20 years of child support/involuntary servitude for a child you (the man)didn't want. The reproductive rights argument would look a lot more credible if it were also the man's right to insist on an abortion.

As for it being about the woman's body, that is in fact inseparable from the issue, but putting the woman's body at the center of the question brings up a whole separate set of problems, becuase it priveleges a woman's body over men's bodies. Men's bodies have no similar protection in the law - subject to induction for combat in a way that women's are not. How does any of this square with the Equal Protection clause?

"It is brainless. "


Oh, waaaanhh. See the paragraph above. Odd;y enough, in Aztec society, where a man;'s worth was based on his success in war, a woman's equicvlanet was childbirth. That was in an era when it was about as dangerous as combat. Are you seriously expecting anyone to believe that you really think childbirth in this country in these times is as dangerous as combat?

Bruce Hayden said...

Jody and Sarah take the feminist line here. Jody seems to believe that pregnancies happen by accident, or maybe rape, because she discounts my suggestion that they often are a joint decision in a marriage. Actually, I would suggest that more are a result of subterfuge on the part of the woman (sure honey, I'm on birth control) than rape on the part of the man.

At least in most of the married couples I have known over the years, it has been pretty mutual. They both want kids, or they don't, or one does and one doesn't, so they don't.

Yes, you can find exceptions, but let's talk percentages.

I am coming around to the idea that men should be able to insist on abortions if they don't want to support a kid, esp. if not within wedlock. This is de minimis intrusion of a woman's body if done early, esp. as compared to 20 years of required support by the man. (And it is her fault if not done early). Obviously, the equities are on his side.

So, no, I don't buy into the idea that women can have sex with impunity, but men have to live with the consequences.

Cathy Young said...

A married woman's pregnancy is not necessarily the result of a mutual decision. It could be accidental.

The idea of a woman being forced to have an abortion strikes me as (1) pretty repugnant and (2) unenforceable. But I think there's a good case to be made for what some call a "male abortion" -- allowing a man, upon being notified of the pregnancy, to terminate all legal rights and responsibilities to the child. If a woman wants to raise a child alone, I don't think she should do it at an unwilling man's expense.

Anonymous said...

My brother was a young man "entrapped" by an even younger woman. This fact being confirmed by overheard conversations with her girlfriends.

He took his responsibility without question though, even being told about this fact. Eventually, when he decided to assert some say in the relationship and the raising of their daughter, she started "going out" to "cool down". Which happened to mean that he was cheating on him. Apparently telling this woman (girl) to grow up and become responsible was a serious affront, one that deserved punishment with the only successful life skill she had ever learned.

One night, he got very angry and grabbered her arm when she again tried to leave him to take care of her daughter while she "went out" once again. He started yelling at her. She threw the first punch, and he sat in jail.

He lives now with the stigma of a criminal assault record, while she is the one who instigated the situation from the start, and at every step thereafter.

She is now married to a man that simply makes all the decisions for her, while she doesn't have to lift a brain cell. Her life's passion was to capture a man who would not challenge her to become a woman, and in her passion to become nothing, she ruined my brothers life.

(one Caveat: i have a beautiful niece that I love to death, but I pity her the emotional distress she will endure from having a disassociated mother, and a broken father.)

protein wisdom said...

I meant to link this earlier, Cathy -- I quoted a large portion of it -- but in the editing process the link got removed. I apologize. The post is here.

mythago said...

UANT is not the government. I am still waiting for someone to name which states require a wife's consent for vasectomy, but not a husband's for tubal ligation.

The state is authorized to sever the parental rights

If the mother were legally free of her obligations, how could there be any parental rights to sever?

The laws simply prevent criminal charges for abandonment against the mother.

But I think there's a good case to be made for what some call a "male abortion" -- allowing a man, upon being notified of the pregnancy, to terminate all legal rights and responsibilities to the child.

I think this is a ridiculous argument, because it pretends that filing an affidavit is exactly like being knocked up. I would, however, support a similar "opt in" situation--that is, unmarried men are not presumed to have any rights OR responsibilities for their children unless they put themselves on the hook.

Cathy Young said...

I've been looking for information on vasectomy regulations on the Web and what I've found is somewhat contradictory.

This site says:

Minimum age and spousal consent requirements for sterilization have been reduced in many states

which implies that such requirements do exist -- but provides no specifics.

On the other hand, this Planned Parenthood page says:

You are not required to have the consent of your wife or partner, but you should discuss the operation with her beforehand. Sometimes waiting periods are required to allow more time for thought before the operation.

So it seems that there are no laws mandating spousal consent to vasectomy. However, it seems that a lot of physicians will not perform the procedure on a married man without consent from the wife, as a matter of their own policy.

mythago said...

However, it seems that a lot of physicians will not perform the procedure on a married man without consent from the wife, as a matter of their own policy

And the reverse, I would guess.

When my husband got a vasectomy, his doctors told him they wanted my OK. *He* thought this was fine, but I had some rather choice words for the doctors (which he, sadly, declined to pass on).

Cathy Young said...

mythago, leaving aside the issue of the government mandating spousal consent or even notification for sterilization -- what's wrong with a doctor asking for it? Seems to me that the woman's interests are involved here as well as the man's.

Richard Bennett said...

If a woman wants to raise a child alone, I don't think she should do it at an unwilling man's expense.

In terms of the damage that single parenthood does to the child (statistically, not anecdotally), this alternative is even more repugnant than abortion; you're disadvantaging a helpless child and that's a legislative non-starter.

Cathy Young said...

Richard -- how much of that damage will be alleviated by child support collections? (Which tend to be pretty low in cases of unmarried fathers.)

Seirhune said...

I would have to agree with the idea that the woman has a whole lot of responsibility as far as actually getting pregnant is concerned. And as to the "Well men, if you don't want to get a woman pregnant just keep it in your pants" argument, while technically true, seems to smack of a disrespect to men AND women. Are women so stupid that the first answer to avoiding pregnancy is to tell men to abstain?

I think the "keep your pants on" theory applies to all genders. I'd think that the woman, having more options for birth control and more aware of the burden of pregnancy should adhere to the Pants On rule more than men. We should know better.

Also to the Anonymous poster who made the Health Complications argument for why men shouldn't have a say in a pregnancy. Just because men aren't carrying means they shouldn't have a say? Discriminating against men and denying them a say in a child's possible existence just because they lack the proper plumbing? I'm sure there are *SOME* men in existance who would be glad to carry the burden of a child for their wives, if only they could.

I figure if you didn't want to hear the potential father's opinion on whether or not to keep the child you shouldn't have slept with him or married him, or whatever! If you don't like having responsibility to tell him you're carrying

-On her way to becoming an androist.

P.S. To Anonymous LT, comparing military service to terminating a pregnancy to get a job is a bit of a stretch. I know you must have been agitating for the moment to make an anti-military slam, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the topic at hand. [/snark]

JodyTresidder said...

Cathy wrote: "But I think there's a good case to be made for what some call a "male abortion" -- allowing a man, upon being notified of the pregnancy, to terminate all legal rights and responsibilities to the child."

Can ANYONE explain why this isn't, potentially, a recidivist notion akin to saying "let the irresponsible tramp and her kid suffer the consequences - I'm outta here"?

submandave said...

It never fails that any discussion on abortion usually raises from the pro-choice faction the issues of health and the physical risks of pregancy and that since the woman alone shoulders these burdens she alone should ba able to decide to carry or abort. I find it interesting that all anecdotal cases discussed, though, center not on helath or physical detriment but, rather, convenience.

"My husband suspects me of having an affair and rather than deal with the problems we have concerning trust and honesty I'd rather just avoid the issue by having (another) abortion."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, so I'll just have an abortion" (bet it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the fetus, too)

Yes, prenancy is a hard and sometimes dangerous job, one whose risks and pains I gladly would have shared if I could. But I'd also wager that far more men are injured or killed working to support children than women who are injured or killed making children. The only point being that physical risk for the sake of the child is not something uniquely bourne by women.

Anonymous said...

Seirhune said...
P.S. To Anonymous LT, comparing military service to terminating a pregnancy to get a job is a bit of a stretch. I know you must have been agitating for the moment to make an anti-military slam, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the topic at hand. [/snark]


Not intended to be anti-military. I just don't get why everyone spends so much time and energy on fetal life, and is so squeamish about ending it, when my old "profession" dedicated to killing adults is held in general high regard and esteem. Quakers and strict Catholics notwithstanding.

Cathy Young said...

jodytressider -- I think "let the irresponsible tramp suffer" is pretty much the attitude we're seeing here toward men who get a woman pregnant, no?

Right now, if two high school students have sex and the girl gets pregnant, she can choose an abortion and get on with life; whether the guy wants the baby or not doesn't matter. If she wants the baby and decides to seek child support, on the other hand, the guy will be paying (literally and figuratively) for the next 20 years. There's something about this situation that seriously bothers me.

Mind you, I'm not saying that the "male abortion" is a good solution. It's fraught with all sorts of difficulties -- as Barry pointed out, there is an already born child, and there is always the possibility that 10 years down the line the guy could suddenly have a change of heart. (Melanie McCulley, the attorney who originally crafted a proposed "male abortion" statute in a law review article, argued that the termination of parental rights and responsibilities should be irreversible; but then you're going to run into the problem of denying the child a potentially beneficial emotional and financial relationship with the father.) But I do have issues with the situation as it exists now.

Seirhune said...

Sorry about the snarking LT, it just seemed out of left field, or right field, or any far away field.

I think there is a big difference between terminating a pregnancy and armies and armies/militia going out to shoot at each other for any reason. The reason is choice and free-will. The fetus gets no say in getting it's chance for life taken away. Adults make choices to hate, love, fight, and care. Countries, presumably run by adults (though sometimes I wonder...), decide to fight each other for hosts of reasons, some good, some bad. They choose it, using their brains and will. People have the faculties to choose what they will.

No one made you join the service, but in this case the fetus or father of the fetus has no luxury of choice. Only the woman does. Unfair, I say. No responsibility without representation! I'd need to shorten that to make it a bit snappier, but that's the idea.

SarahW said...

" The only point being that physical risk for the sake of the child is not something uniquely bourne by women."

That is specious and dishonest.

Its the equivalent of saying a woman killed in a car accident on the way home from the clinic is an "abortion related death."

Indirect results of working are not directly tied to pregnancy, as a womans risk during pregnancy is.
(Not to mention these indirect affect of having children accrue to both women and men.)

Pregnancy can result in injury and illness directly, and no man is made sick, killed or injured because of pregnancy, because he cannot be pregnant.

If you don't like your job, change it. There is no hormone secreted by the placenta that makes you join the fricking army.

"No responsibility without representation!" Is a lame and lazy whine. You are represented in your choice to inseminate a woman. The pregnancy wil lnot take place inside of you, and you can have no control over that. For the suration of her pregnancy, and really only a portion of that, a woman has a right to make decisions about her bodily integrity. If you are a decent chap, your wishes will count if not carry the day. Since the pregnancy isn't in your body, your chances for making choices about continuing or ending a pregnancy are at an end.

If a live child results, that child has not given up it's right to support from you. You helped create the child, and it is entitled to your support. The right belongs to the child. The mother can not waive the childs right after birth anymore than she can throw it off the brooklyn bridge after birth.

Steve said...

Cathy,

As far as revocation of parental rights, it must be irreversible.

Let me explain a little from my situation. I have a wonderful step-daughter whose natural father is useless. Since her mother divorced her father, he has paid approx 8 months worth of support in almost 3 years. And most of that was after I filed to adopt my step-daughter and revoke his rights due to non-support. He is a convicted felon who has warrants in other states (all of it after their divorce). He left the military to become unemployed after the divorce and has been very successful at continuing in his new line of (non) work. If he gives up his rights at some point and I adopt her, why should he be able to come back later and get his rights back? A lot is made of the supposed bond that biology creates but I can point out case after case where the biological bond that courts attempt to maintain is useless compared to the psychological bond that occurs between a parent and the child that they love and take care of.

I must note that I am commenting more toward the people who voluntarily give up their rights. I agree that two parents are better than one but there is a point where the parent who is only there because they have to be is actually worse than the hole left by a missing parent. At least the child with only one parent has the possibility that their parent will find someone who does want them and won't have to deal with a bitter person who is only involved because they have to be.

Seirhune said...

To SarahW: The woman is represented in her responsibility when she decides to let a man inseminate her. Yet we let abortion be legal at her whim, even when it's not for reasons of her physical health. That seems a bit of a double standard. The man is stuck with responsibility to support the child if he has sex, but the woman isn't stuck with the responsibility to have the child. The difference is that after the act of intercourse the choices are all the woman's. She can choose to abort or not, she *can* choose to abandon the child on a doorstep, she can techinically choose to throw it off the Brooklyn bridge (illegal and immoral, yes, but there are news stories of horrible abandonment similar). She can choose to take responsibility for her having sex and care for the child, or she can choose from a gamut of options to wash her hands of the inconvenience of child rearing and pregnancy.

Guess who doesn't get any options after sex: the man. Maybe I think men should be involved in these decisions because I don't like seeing them turned into sperm donors and checkbooks. Currently men can't give up responsibility to the child, but a woman can...by getting rid of the child.

The "you don't carry the child so your opinion doesn't matter as a man" seems disingenious as well. If I said, "Well, women have a uterus so they shouldn't get to make any decisions that effect men, because well, they're not men." You'd rightfully be pretty honked off. I don't think men should be discriminated against in matters of reproduction merely because they aren't the ones carrying the physical load.

-Friendly Note: I'm female.

Anonymous said...

The reason is choice and free-will. The fetus gets no say in getting it's chance for life taken away. Adults make choices to hate, love, fight, and care.

In real life, the military of America's enemies are staffed by conscripts who would prefer to be anywhere else. When you (through the political process) send my colleagues to war, you send those unwilling enemy conscripts to the same place as the job lady sent (through her doc) her maybe-viable fetus with exactly the same amount of victim choice. Before you argue that they should surrender in the face of superior force, know that the officers in charge of conscripts will generally dispatch the first couple grunts dumb enough to try it.

Is it just that babies are cute? It's the only explanation I have, and is mirrored by most American's revulsion at eating dogs, but not cows.

Anon LT

Revenant said...

Melanie McCulley, the attorney who originally crafted a proposed "male abortion" statute in a law review article, argued that the termination of parental rights and responsibilities should be irreversible; but then you're going to run into the problem of denying the child a potentially beneficial emotional and financial relationship with the father.)

I don't think that follows. Just because the father would have no rights or responsibilities towards a child doesn't mean that the child can't enjoy an emotional and financial relationship with him anyway. For example, look at gay couples raising the children of one partner. The other partner has (as I understand it) no legal rights or responsibilities to the children, but those children can still come to view that partner as a second mother or father.

In any case, the decision as to whether or not to execute a "virtual abortion" option should have to be made either (a) when the father learns he has the child or (b) while actual abortion is still viable, whichever comes later. This would give a woman the option, upon learning she'd have to raise and support the child herself, to have an actual abortion. We don't want a situation where fathers are fine with a pregnancy and then freak out and ditch the mother and child the day before birth.

JodyTresidder said...

Revenant wrote of the "virtual abortion" concept: "Just because the father would have no rights or responsibilities towards a child doesn't mean that the child can't enjoy an emotional and financial relationship with him anyway."

Er, Pardon?
The "virtual abortion" option REMOVES the legal right to any relationship with the child.
In your strange scenario, you're giving us a man who maybe wanders back into some sort of nurturing association with the kid he didn't want, when he feels like it, after he's washed his hands both of it and of the mother. And what sort of logical pretzel are you contriving when you say it's how it works for gay couples?
The "virtual abortion" is the same old cut-and-run abandonment of mother and child we saw when paternity wasn't provable, and society viewed the "fallen" woman as punishable.

Cathy Young said...

seirhune -- I was more or less with you until this:

she can techinically choose to throw it off the Brooklyn bridge (illegal and immoral, yes, but there are news stories of horrible abandonment similar).

If we're going to throw into the mix "choices" that are illegal and severely punishable, then a man has choices too -- he can kill his pregnant girlfriend or beat her until she miscarries (things like that have happened). Or he can kill the baby after birth.

Just one more point I wanted to make. I think that in this case, women and men are so differently situated by virtue of biology that perhaps it's impossible to design a system that will be fair to everyone.

Under the current system, men can't opt out of parenthood but women can. If we were to legalize the "male abortion," we'd have a situation in which (a) already-born children will receive less support, probably leaving the taxpayer stuck with the tab in many cases; (b) a woman who wants to opt out of parenthood has to undergo a medical procedure which (like any medical procedure)carries certain risks, and can be emotionally traumatizing, while a man can terminate his parental responsibilities by merely signing a piece of paper; (c) a woman's abortion will always be irreversible, while a man who legally terminates all interest in a future child could still have a relationship with that child later on. There's really no legal way to stop that from happening especially when the child is grown, and children often have a longing for an absent parent even when that parent has treated them shabbily. So you could have a situation in which a man who has exercised his "right to choose" is contacted by his grown son or daughter 25 years later, and by then the man has changed his mind and they end up having a warm father-child relationship. I think that the mother who has struggled to raise the child alone would be justified in feeling resentful.

Revenant -- I believe that when gay couples raise a child together, the partner who has biological relation to the child typically adopts him or her.

Revenant said...

Er, Pardon? The "virtual abortion" option REMOVES the legal right to any relationship with the child.

I'm afraid I don't see your point. You don't need the legal right to a relationship with a child in order to have a relationship with that child. You just need the permission of the person who DOES have the rights. For example, I have a loving familial relationship with my nephew, even though I have exactly zero legal rights over him and my sister has every right to (if she so chose) ban me from his life.

JodyTresidder said...

Cathy Young wrote: "I think that in this case, women and men are so differently situated by virtue of biology that perhaps it's impossible to design a system that will be fair to everyone."

While this won't satisfy many commenters who feel the law, at present, steals from men twice over, I agree with your verdict.
While correcting one inescapable imbalance, the "virual abortion" brings doubly bleak consequences for mother and child. Moreover, as the mother of teenaged sons I would feel extremely torn by the existence of such an option which allowed them to legally escape a foolish but serious mistake. That is, I'd find it hard to urge them to do the decent thing when the law offered an easier, short term answer.

JodyTresidder said...

Revenant,
And I still think you're overlooking something basic. I'm not sure your sister would wish you involved in your nephew's life if you'd begun your relationship with him by erasing him with a "virtual abortion"!

That's a pretty hostile foundation for anything.

Revenant said...

While correcting one inescapable imbalance, the "virual abortion" brings doubly bleak consequences for mother and child

If a man learns that his partner is expecting and says "I don't want this child", the mother can choose to get an abortion. If that child ends up being born fatherless and deprived, it will be because the *mother* wanted it to be born fatherless and deprived. She can opt for abortion and avoid the problem entirely.

The tricky case is when the child is already born. I would say that if the man had known about the pregnancy and chose not to exercise the "virtual abortion" option, it is too late for him to change his mind once real abortion is no longer an option. If, on the other hand, the mother concealed the pregnancy until after the child was born, allowing a "virtual abortion" still seems reasonable -- even if we grant that the father has an obligation to support, it seems to me that the mother's behavior makes her civilly liable for the full cost of the man's share of that support.

Revenant said...

And I still think you're overlooking something basic. I'm not sure your sister would wish you involved in your nephew's life if you'd begun your relationship with him by erasing him with a "virtual abortion"!

It could very well be that the mother will refuse to allow the father access. There could be good reasons for this -- for example, the father might be a drunk, or violent, or generally a bad influence.

That need not be the case, though. Perhaps the man exercised his option at the age of 16, and now, in his mid-20s, with a stable life and a good job, regrets that early decision and wants to help support his child. Might the mother still deny him any relationship with the child? She might. It depends on which matters more to her -- her own hurt feelings, or the well-being of her child.

Remember, the claim you and others have put forth here is that a "virtual abortion" makes it impossible for the father to have a relationship with the child in the future -- not that it makes such a relationship less likely. It *does* make it less likely -- but then, real abortion makes the relationship dramatically less likely too, and we allow that.

JodyTresidder said...

Revenant,
If your guy can't see the harm in "virtual abortions", then I suggest he's better off with virtual sex too.

Revenant said...

If your guy can't see the harm in "virtual abortions", then I suggest he's better off with virtual sex too.

Women could stick to "virtual sex" too; then they wouldn't need to worry about abortions or unwanted children.

But back here in reality, people do have real, actual sex without the intent of having children, and it is right and normal that they do so. What we're discussing is what is right and proper to do when pregnancy does result from sex. I don't happen to agree with the prevailing view that the appropriate response is to give the mother all the rights and decision-making power and tell the father to go f*** himself. If you want to share the responsibility, you have to share the rights, too.

JodyTresidder said...

Revenant: But it's not in the interests of a child for the guy to opt out of the responsibility for creating it. Your version fof the "virtual abortion", with its spurious sub-clauses about MAYBE taking up some of the parenting work should it suit him later defeats the whole principle.

Revenant said...

But it's not in the interests of a child for the guy to opt out of the responsibility for creating it.

You are trying to argue that conception creates obligations for the father, but the mother has no obligations until birth. That just doesn't pass muster, sorry.

If conception creates obligations to the child, then logically abortion should be banned. If it is live birth that creates obligations, then the obligations should rest with those who have the power to decide that a living child will be born. The only people with that power are women -- men have no say in the matter. Making someone pay for an outcome they did not want and were legally forbidden from preventing is just plain wrong.

Richard Bennett said...

Richard -- how much of that damage will be alleviated by child support collections? (Which tend to be pretty low in cases of unmarried fathers.)

The collection rate today is roughly 90% for divorced dads and 65% for never-marrieds, and that's about as good as it's going to get. States have set their obligation levels too high, many of these unwed dads have no skills, and the never-ending nature of the obligation makes it close to impossible to acquire a job skill through education while they're on the hook. This system comes as close to killing the goose as possible.

Duncan and Brooks-Gunn edited a volume called "The Consequences of Growing-up Poor" that attempts in part to disambiguate financial effects from family structure effects on how kids turn out; a study by Sara McLanahan in particular deals with that (this is from memory.)

Her conclusion is that household income (including child support and alimony) predicts school achievement, but that family structure predicts mental health and social adjustment. She doesn't pay enough attention to the differential effects on boys and girls, however, and that's crucial in this day of declining male college enrollment.

One compromise form of male choice is to simply reduce the level of the obligation to the legal minimum, the level required of married parents. This is attractive because there's so much lifestyle support in the child support formulae that cs amounts to alimony. The state doesn't pay foster parents nearly as much as it makes minimum wage fathers pay the mothers of their children.

Another alternative, as long as we're cruisiing hypothetical realities, is to presume that every child born to a single mother is a ward of the state and eligible for adoption. If mom wants the kid, she can get in line and take her chances along with the two-parent families looking for babies. This would certainly alter the chemistry and it wouldn't hurt the child as much as being raised by a single mother.

mythago said...

what's wrong with a doctor asking for it?

Because it's his body. I don't get why he would need my permission to decide he is done being a father.

If she wants the baby and decides to seek child support, on the other hand, the guy will be paying (literally and figuratively) for the next 20 years.

As will she. You keep portraying this situation as if motherhood entails no legal or financial responsibility--do you believe child support covers 100% of the cost of childrearing?

women and men are so differently situated by virtue of biology

Which is exactly why a 'male abortion' is backward. The woman's ability to terminate the pregnancy is limited by biology and by money. With a 'male abortion,' it can also be limited by her reliance on a male partner who can cut out in a way that makes it more difficult for her to abort.

I would like to know why you object to an "opt-in" system instead.

Richard Bennett said...

-do you believe child support covers 100% of the cost of childrearing?

In middle class families, it covers an average of about 150% of the costs of childrearing.

Cathy Young said...

jodytressider:

The "virtual abortion" is the same old cut-and-run abandonment of mother and child we saw when paternity wasn't provable, and society viewed the "fallen" woman as punishable.

With all due respect, I think you're comparing apples and oranges. We're talking about a situation in which single motherhood is no longer really stigmatized, and quite a few single women choose motherhood with no identifiable father (artificial insemination).

Moreover, as the mother of teenaged sons I would feel extremely torn by the existence of such an option which allowed them to legally escape a foolish but serious mistake. That is, I'd find it hard to urge them to do the decent thing when the law offered an easier, short term answer.


Again, one thing I find rather ironic is that the same kind of argument is sometimes made against abortion: that it allows women to behave irresponsibly and escape the consequences of their actions.

mythago -- I guess I take a less individualist view of marriage than you do. Procreation is a mutual activity -- seems to me that the decision to terminate it should be mutual too. When a man gets a vasectomy, his wife's ability to reproduce is clearly affected as well.

Cathy: If she wants the baby and decides to seek child support, on the other hand, the guy will be paying (literally and figuratively) for the next 20 years.

Mythago: As will she. You keep portraying this situation as if motherhood entails no legal or financial responsibility--do you believe child support covers 100% of the cost of childrearing?


Without getting into the costs-of-childrearing issue: when legal abortion is available, that means the woman takes on the costs of childrearing voluntarily. She has an "opt-out" provision.

Re your "opt-in" offer: in a way, it's even more radical than the "male abortion," since it makes male non-involvement the default position.

I'm not sure I like it, if only because of the message it sends.

(My apologies to all to whose comments I haven't replied; the sheer volume of comments makes that impossible.)

mythago said...

Procreation is a mutual activity -- seems to me that the decision to terminate it should be mutual too.

Of course it should be. The issue isn't whether a person ought to talk to their spouse, but whether they should be required to.

I'm not sure I like it, if only because of the message it sends.

I'm more concerned about fairness and practicality than about "sending a message" at the expense of real human beings.

Consider that the woman's choice to abort is likely to be affected by the man's decision. Rationally, knowing that she is completely on her own is going to affect a woman's weighing of her options. As you say, there's a biology issue here--filing a form is not the same thing as obtaining, paying for, and undergoing an abortion.

"Opt-in" means that a woman has no reason to assume that the father is "in" unless and until he chooses to be. There is no last-minute gotcha, there is no misunderstanding over who said what, and no squabble over whether the father had the choice to opt-out or not and is not on the hook.

Opt-in means that men do not have to worry about being trapped into fatherhood, as they are never on the hook unless they decide to be. It means that a woman can make a decision about carrying to term without a false expectation that the father is involved, and without worrying that she will have to scramble to procure an 11th-hour abortion if he changes his mind. And if there are disputes as to whether the father has rights, we can resolve those as we do now.

Cathy Young said...

Interesting points, mythago. I'll have to think about this some more.

Thanks for your very thought-provoking posts here!

Richard Bennett said...

The "opt-in" and "male choice" concepts are actually reappearances of some very old policies, most recently executed in 1834 England as the Bastardy Clause:

Illegitimacy had always been stigmatized in English Society. Since the 17th and the 18th centuries, the negative attitude toward bastards was evident in legislation which denied them assistance from the poor rates. Justices were merely to see that the parents supported their child, not to enforce morality. Rates being administered in a more benevolent manner than intended, a rise in illegitimacy, and an increase in the number of forced marriages all collided with the Evangelical and Utilitarian philosophies of Victorian England; in 1834 the Poor Laws were reformed. Poverty and illegitimacy were moral issues which needed to be remedied, and the New Poor Law was designed to restore virtue and stimulate thrifty, industrious workers. The Bastardy Clause absolved the putative father of any responsibility for his bastard child and socially and economically victimized the mother in an effort to restore female morality. Its enactment fomented the growth of a modern and murderous form of an old institution, baby farming, which preyed on the infants of these humiliated and alienated mothers. Despite the tremendous toll it took on the lives of innocent children, the Victorians' fear of government intervention into social reform and the Victorian ideal of the inviolability of the family prevented its reform until the end of the 19th century.

The last time I mentioned this history, some feminist accused me of button-pushing.

Arabella said...

There is no direct comparison.

Pregnancy only affects women and therefore can only be the concern of the woman, unless she chooses otherwise.

It is impossible to give men the right to end or continue a pregnancy, simply because they don't have one.

tmike said...

Wendy and Arabelle,

Using the right's of the embryo-fetus-child as the priority here, here is the definition of embryo from Webster's dictionary:

The developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception.

Note: "developing human individual."

Wendy, you use the argument that the father owes support because of the right of the born child to that support. Isn't a born child a developing human individual?

Doesn't the mother owe the embryo --which is a "developing human individual" inside of her--the chance to receive that support?

As we know, only women get pregnant and that's a biological situation which is a fact of nature. You are concerned about the health risks and perhaps the lack of choices or opportunity that a woman may suffer due to an unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, in those cases, you would support her choosing an abortion.

Conversely, if an abortion is chosen by the woman, a man suffers the lack of choice to have his child born due to the same fact of nature mentioned above. If it were possible for the man to assume the health risks, he may choose to do so. Should his choice to have his child be denied by this same fact of nature that temporarily or permanently prevents women from making important life choices?

The priority is the "Developing Human Individual" from the moment of conception. And, Arabella, that is simply the concern.

The first below link is medical testimony on abortion.

http://www.abort73.com/HTML/I-A-1-medical.html

http://www.fortunecity.com/millenium/rollingacres/533/info.html

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