Hang around in any part of the so-called “manosphere” for any length of time and one will find a concept called Choice For Men. The idea is basically that in some manner, before or after pregnancy a man should be allowed to give up his parental rights as a father and thus be excused from all support obligations. Needless to say this is a very controversial idea!
The genesis for the idea of Choice for Men (C4M for short) was the massive changes in family law and technology that freed women from the strictures of biology and the patriarchal family model that they’d been laboring under in the western world since at least the Middle Ages. Basically, women were of limited use in the economic sphere and so most usually had two real choices: to get married, usually young, or to join a convent or other religious order. With a lack of any form of birth control, (knowledge of which had mostly been lost in Europe) and abortions unregulated but also conducted outside any form of real medical facility or with any form of real medical science and thus extremely dangerous (sometimes poisons were used, for example), women would tend to get pregnant early and often. Due to the risks of child birth , somewhere between 1/10 and 1/5 of all wives would eventually die during the process. Once a woman got married, she tended to fall under the protection and authority of her husband and could not (in most countries most of the past 600 years) own property or divorce. Men, on the other hand , had more say within the family, but were often held responsible for any breakdowns. In England and America for example, in the 18th and early 19th centuries a man could be jailed for misbehavior of his wife, and was responsible for her debts. Because there was no reliable way of testing paternity, men were assumed to be responsible for any children born within the marriage (unless it could be proved that “dad” was away at war or something during the time the child would have to have been conceived) and would thus, in the patriarchal system, owe these children support and could bequeath them family property. Women began to get some rights in America, Great Britain, and some of continental Europe starting in the 19th century. One example was the “tender years” doctrine, which stated that children of “tender years” –generally before age 12- were better off with their mothers. Now, at least sometimes should a divorce occur (still a rarity) the mother would get the children.
This was the situation going into the early 1960’s in the United States, Britain, and most of the western world. Restrictions on women working /owning property had been either dissolved or made less onerous, but working was still something most married women did not do. Divorce was for “cause” and was rather rare, not affecting the vast majority of marriages. Abortion was often illegal, depending on the state. And neither men nor women had any particularly effective means of birth control beyond condoms –which, even used appropriately, have a 1 to 3 percent failure rate. In the US this would all pretty much change within the next 20 years. First, the invention of the pill for women –an effective oral contraceptive- decoupled sex from reproduction in a way that few technologies have ever done. Secondly, starting in 1969 in California, the “no fault divorce” revolution started, sweeping all before it. People no longer had to have reasons (or even collude to lie to a court) in order to get a divorce. One partner getting bored was “reason” enough. Lastly, in 1971 the American Supreme Court in it’s Roe-versus-Wade decision affirmed, via a previously undeclared Right of Privacy – that absolute bans on early abortion would not be allowed. These three changes, combined with the mass movement of most women into the work force for both political and economic reasons and the increasing involvement of western governments (with the US one mostly leading the way) in child support and other consequences of divorce issues, totally changed the balance of power within the family.
The Current Situation
Since this post isn’t about marriage or family courts in general, we thus ignore them and now turn our attention to one question: what is the current status of reproductive rights between men and women? We shall now stick with solely US law. We shall also start with the women. Women currently , of course, are often on artificial birth control, whether an implant or pill. However, should these methods fail – no birth control is 100 percent effective after all, though some of this stuff comes very very close – a woman currently has the following legal options.
1. Abortion. While some women do live rather far from a clinic or Planned Parenthood, a woman usually has about 5 months to arrange transportation or whatever before she has to worry about the state interfering in her decision. Abortions are very safe for women these days and serious complications are at a very low level. I’ll throw the “morning after” pill in here as well, as I don’t want to argue whether it counts as abortion or not. Men have absolutely no say in this whether they want a child she is determined to abort, or do not want a child she is determined to have.
2. If she decides to take the baby to term she has the following further options:
A. Abandonment: Many states have maternal abandonment laws where by new infants (usually these only apply in the first year of life) maybe dropped off at certain locations.
B. Adoption: If there is no marriage, and esp. if the father of the child is not known, it can be very easy to adopt out the child. Often states require a notice be placed in a paper or in a so-called “putative father” registry. This is not widely known, and thus many babies are adopted out without their birth fathers knowledge. That I believe most of these men do not care, doesn’t mean that I am not aware that quite a few would.
C. Keep the child: If the mother chooses to keep the child , so long as she names the father or who she thinks the father is , she is eligible for welfare of various types. The state will attempt to collect support from the father.
D. Sign away rights to the child to the father: A woman can terminate her parental rights in favor of a father.
As far as men are concerned there really is only one word to describe his reproductive rights: nonexistent.
As this link shows Male Reproductive Rights? , a man can be made involuntarily a father via several means from out and out rape to sperm stealing. Incredibly, legally, no actual sexual act (let alone penis in vaginal sex) between the mother and father need occur, nor even any agreement as to the disposition of his sperm. And once a father, while the state will often be very incompetent in enforcing visitation it will be only too competent at enforcing support. This also applies to all cases where a marriage breaks up via divorce: they are now, without exception, moved onto the same child support laws that were originally meant only to apply to TANF (welfare) cases. Men who fail to pay their support –whether through fault of their own or not – are almost invariably labeled “deadbeat dads”. No substitiution of anything other than cash is allowed, so supplying food to your offspring or clothing or doing something such a repair doesn’t count. Child support might be the topic of a future post, so I don’t wish to talk about it now, but men who fail to pay are subject to onerous penalties:
1. Jail, despite what the US Constitution says about “debtors prisons”.
2. Confiscation of licenses and passports
3. Penalties such as fines
4. Garnishment of wages pre-tax ; interception of tax refunds
Anyway, given this background, it’s not surprising that some men are forgoing things like marriage, while others are thinking of ideas such as C4M. Opinions on this subject are all over the place as the links below demonstrate. What do you think?