Saturday, December 10, 2005

Too bad it takes a Woman to say it to be taken seriously

Never heard of this woman, who writes commentary for the LA Times, but she is spot on for mentioning this.

Thank her for speaking out by writing her here, and write the Times congrats for running this piece here.

Below, the article, and following that, the commentary of Harry Crouch, who you can write here, if you think he is effin' brilliant, which he is, sayeth the Geezer.

Shouldn't men have 'choice' too?

FOR PRO-CHOICERS like myself, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s position regarding spousal consent for abortion seems like one more loose rock in the ongoing erosion of Roe vs. Wade. Even those of us who are too young to remember the pre-Roe era often see any threat to abortion rights as a threat to our very destinies. We are, after all, the generation that grew up under Title IX, singing along to "Free to Be You and Me" (you know, the 1972 children's record where Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda remind us that mommies can be plumbers and boys can have dolls). When it comes to self-determination, we're as determined as it gets.

But even though I was raised believing in the inviolability of a woman's right to choose, the older I get, the more I wonder if this idea of choice is being fairly applied.
Most people now accept that women, especially teenagers, often make decisions regarding abortion based on educational and career goals and whether the father of the unborn child is someone they want to hang around with for the next few decades. The "choice" in this equation is not only a matter of whether to carry an individual fetus to term but a question of what kind of life the woman wishes to lead.

But what about the kind of life men want to lead? On Dec. 1, Dalton Conley, director of the Center for Advanced Social Science Research at New York University, published an article on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times arguing that Alito's position on spousal consent did not go far enough.

Describing his own experience with a girlfriend who terminated a pregnancy against his wishes, Conley took some brave steps down the slippery slope of this debate, suggesting that if a father is willing to assume full responsibility for a child not wanted by a mother, he should be able to obtain an injunction stopping her from having an abortion — and he should be able to do so regardless of whether or not he's married to her.

Conley freely acknowledges the many obvious caveats in this position — the most salient being the fact that regardless of how "full" that male responsibility might be, the physical burden of pregnancy and childbirth will always put most of the onus on women. But as much as I shudder at the idea of a man, husband or not, obtaining an injunction telling me what I can or cannot do with my own body, I would argue that it is Conley who has not gone far enough.

Since we're throwing around radical ideas about abortion rights, let me raise this question: If abortion is to remain legal and relatively unrestricted — and I believe it should — why shouldn't men have the right during at least the first trimester of pregnancy to terminate their legal and financial rights and responsibilities to the child?

As Conley laments, the law does not currently allow for men to protect the futures of the fetuses they help create. What he doesn't mention — indeed, no one ever seems to — is the degree to which men also cannot protect their own futures. The way the law is now, a man who gets a woman pregnant is not only powerless to force her to terminate the pregnancy, he also has a complete legal obligation to support that child for at least 18 years.

In other words, although women are able to take control of their futures by choosing from at least a small range of options — abortion, adoption or keeping the child — a man can be forced to be a father to a child he never wanted and cannot financially support. I even know of cases in which the woman absolves the man of responsibility, only to have the courts demand payment anyway. That takes the notion of "choice" very far from anything resembling equality.

I realize I've just alienated feminists (among whose ranks I generally count myself) as well as pro-lifers, neither of whom are always above platitudes such as "You should have kept your pants on." But that reasoning is by now as reductive as suggesting that a rape victim "asked for it." Yes, people often act irresponsibly and yes, abortion should be avoided whenever possible. But just as women should not be punished for choosing to terminate a pregnancy, men should not be punished when those women choose not to.

One problem, of course, is that the child is likely to bear the brunt of whatever punishment remains to be doled out. A father who terminates his rights, although not technically a deadbeat dad, has still helped create a kid who is not fully supported. And (in case you were wondering) there are dozens of other holes in my theory as well: What if a husband wants to terminate his rights — should that be allowed? What if a father is underage and wants to terminate but his parents forbid him? Should a father's decision-making time be limited to the first trimester? Should couples on first dates discuss their positions on the matter? Should Internet dating profiles let men check a box saying "will waive parental rights" next to the box indicating his astrological sign?

There's also the danger that my idea is not just a slippery slope but a major mudslide on the way to Conley's idea. If a man can legally dissociate himself from a pregnancy, some will argue, why couldn't he also bind himself to it and force it to term? That notion horrifies me, just as my plan probably horrifies others. But that doesn't mean these ideas aren't worth discussing. Though it may be hard to find an adult male who's sufficiently undiplomatic to admit out loud that he'd like to have the option I'm proposing, let alone potentially take it, I know more than a few parents of teenage boys who lose sleep over the prospect of their sons landing in the kind of trouble from which they'll have no power to extricate themselves.

And although the notion of women "tricking" men into fatherhood now sounds arcane and sexist, we'd be blind not to recognize the extent to which some women are capable of tricking themselves into thinking men will stick around, despite all evidence to the contrary. Allowing men to legally (if not always gracefully) bow out of fatherhood would, at the very least, start a conversation for which we haven't yet found the right words.

Actually, there's one word we've had all along: choice. We just need to broaden its definition.

Harry's comment follows:

Dear Editor,

Meghan Daum¹s insightful commentary ³Shouldn¹t men have choice too² might
enhanced with a bit of clarity.

Women¹s choices are pick a dad, abstinence, diaphragms, condoms,
spermicides, ³The Pill², injections, implants, ³Overnight Pill²,
intrauterine device, abortion, adopt-out, keep baby, give baby away, sell
baby, auction baby, infanticide.

Men¹s choices are abstinence, condoms, invasive surgery, cash, credit
bankruptcy, prison, suicide.

Fairness and balance are long over due.

Harry Crouch
Director San Diego Men's Center


Blogger MisAnDrope said...

"Though it may be hard to find an adult male who's sufficiently undiplomatic to admit out loud that he'd like to have the option I'm proposing, let alone potentially take it, I know more than a few parents of teenage boys who lose sleep over the prospect of their sons landing in the kind of trouble from which they'll have no power to extricate themselves."

Men have been asking for a right to choose for decades. Women just haven't been listening. I had just this conversation in 1985 with a co-ed. She was shocked, but she also saw my point.


12/11/2005 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

I noticed 'bankruptcy' under men's option's. This option does not apply here. Bankruptcy will have no direct affect on family court decisions. You cannot bankrupt out of current child support, back support or any judgement the family court renders. Although there is nothing that say's you can't file bankruptcy, it will not help you here.

12/15/2005 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

Try to jail a woman for having kids she can't afford. For father's it is a crime, punishable by imprisonment, to be financially ill prepared for children.

12/15/2005 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Comments don't go nearly far enough. If a woman CHOOSES to get knocked up, then she can also CHOOSE to be responsible for the child in every sense.

I propose an initiative to the People of the Great Feminist Utopia of Washington (FUWA) that says that a woman must have a "breeding license" from a man that says "Yes, I want her to have a child and I agree to support it to whatever extent the mother and the state determine without limit." And if the mother doesn't have the license she is on her own.

12/17/2005 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger One man said...

Good idea. But, even I got a chuckle out of that. Sad.

12/18/2005 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger DoNotTouchMeEver said...

The breeding license is an excellent idea. Men have been viewed as wallets and/or sperm donors for a long time after all. Women can be viewed as potential breeders.

The thing about all this though is who has ultimate responsibility? Generally that is whoever has the final say. In sex, excepting rape, the woman has the final say if sex will take place. She says no, it doesn't happen. Therefore she is ultimately responsible for the outcome. Couple with this her power to unilaterally decide the life or death of the child that may result, and I would say the ball is entirely in her court.

After all we apply this standard to superior-subordinate relationships. That is to say, the boss is ultimately responsible. The feminists even extend this notion to calling it rape if a superior officer has consentual sex with a subordinate.

Her choice, her burden, period.

1/18/2006 01:26:00 AM  

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