Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Roe V Wade For Men

The issue of Reproductive rights, especially as they concern men, has recently been a hot topic because of a court case filed in Michigan by the National Center for Men. It has cropped up all over the blogosphere, and I have been engaged in a debate about it with a blogger named Darleen on her blog. I have decided to revise and extend my remarks in a longer post here on my blog.

The first issue to dispense with is the rights of the child. I believe the child has the right to life, and a moral claim to support from both parents. I believe fathers and mothers should both be involved in raising a child emotionally and financially. But a moral claim is not the same thing as a legal right. I oppose abortion, and enthusiastically support adoption and even orphanages.

The core issue is reproductive rights and responsibilities. They differ vastly depending on a person's gender.

Let's begin with reproductive rights. These rights begin with the right to consent to sexual relations.

A woman has the right to consent or decline to engage in sex. If a man has sex with a woman without her consent, this is the crime of rape, and it carries severe moral and legal sanctions. A man also has the right to consent or decline to have sex. However if a woman has sex with a man without his consent there is rarely a prosecution or any moral sanctions. In one case of apparent rape of a male by a female (S.F. v. Alabama ex rel. T.M., ) the courts actually forced the male rape victim to pay child support. Note also that it is possible for a man who believes he is engaging in consentual sex to be found guity of rape because it is determined later that even though the woman consented at the time, her ability to give consent was in some way hindered. (I.E. she was drunk at the time)

It is illustrative to examine the differences in how statutory rape is handled by gender. Men who rape underage girls are "perverts", and usually receive severe jail sentences. Women who rape underage boys are "troubled" and often receive probation. (Quite often we are told that the boys involved got lucky, but we are never told that the girls got lucky) It must also be noted that male victims of statutory rape can be forced to pay child support. (San Luis Obispo County v. Nathaniel J. is just one example) In the one known case involving a female victim (Cf. Division of Child Support Enforcement ex rel. Esther M. v. Mary L) the courts ruled that the mother was not responsible for child support.

Once the decision to have sex is made, the issue of birth control comes up. The courts have ruled that even if the women commits fraud by lying about her fertility, or use of birth control, the man can be forced to pay child support. One of the main arguments supporting this is a 14th Amendment argument stating that it would create two unequal classes of children, those entitled to paternal support, and those not. The woman can also lie about her intention to have an abortion. Often a man is presented with a child he knows nothing about years after the birth, and is forced to not only begin making child support payments, but to make retroactive payments back to the date of birth. A man can also be forced to pay child support for a child that is not biologically his, say in the case of adultry during marriage. (http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1133517916151 as one example)

Once conception occurs, the man no longer has any reproductive rights. (with one exception noted later) The courts have consistently ruled that a man cannot force a woman to have an abortion, or prevent her from obtaining one. Obviously under current law, a woman can choose at any point prior to birth to have an abortion. A woman can also choose to give her child up for adoption after birth. (at this point a man's only post conception right comes into play. In most cases, {but not all} he has the right to assume custody rather than allow an adoption) If a woman keeps the child she can force the man to become financially liable, with or without his consent. She usually has the right to go to court and place severe limitations on the father's parental rights. Rarely is a man able to dictate a woman's parental rights.

It must also be noted that a woman can impregnate herself with a man's sperm without his consent, and the man is still forced to pay child support. This includes cases in which a woman preserves sperm from oral sex and impregnates herself. (http://writ.news.findlaw.com/colb/20050309.html) There are cases in which the man and woman make a contract in which he agrees to provide her with sperm, and she agrees to free him from all parental responsibility including support. (Estes v. Albers and Straub v. B.M.T. by Todd) The courts have ruled that in these cases the father is still liable for child support.

It is simply undeniable that current reproductive and parental laws treat the genders inequitably. Women are given Rights with few responsibilities while men are given responsibilities with few Rights. I believe that the best solution would include limiting some of the woman's rights, and limiting some of the man's responsibilities.

Update 3/16/06: There is also a Supreme Court case (International Union, United Auto Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc) that says an employer may not discriminate against pregnant women (even to protect their fetus). However there are laws and cases all over the country that allow employers to give pregnant women preferential treatment (such as extended sick leave, allowing them to change jobs if they wish, and protecting their jobs while they are out).

1 comment:

Strider said...

That was truly excellent.