There is a long history of oppression of women on many fronts in our society. Socially, politically, economically, and legally, among others. There are a number of very good bloggers here who often address gender issues, and I’m not typically one of them.
But two things happened to me yesterday that brings up a gender issue that nobody speaks about: a man’s rights in an unplanned pregnancy. I reconnected with an old friend on facebook who had knocked up his (much younger) girlfriend a few years ago, and didn’t want a kid. She wanted to keep it, putting him in a catch-22. Either he could be involved in this kid’s life as a father but separately from the mother, he could try to make a family out of this unit, or he could choose to have nothing to do with the mother or the child.
But the problem, as I see it, is this: no matter what he chooses, he’s on the hook for 18 years of financial support. Legally, there were good reasons for setting up the system to favor the rights of the mother and the welfare of the child. Back when the policies that govern this issue were established, the following things were true:
- women did not have significant earning power in the workforce,
- abortions were unsafe and, in most places, illegal,
- being a single mom was a dreadful social stigma, and
- having a child was often the only legal leverage a woman had against her spouse.
In other words, before women had the right to choose, the ability to work and make money, and basically to control their own destiny, this was an incredibly important legal protection granted to them by the courts.
But now, women do have earning power, they do have access to abortions if they want them, and choice is a paramount right for them. Yet it is still the case that, no matter what the man wants, he’s on the hook for 18 years of financial support regardless of what he chooses.
Although this happened to my friend years ago (and he chose to go for the raise-a-family option), my wife found out that one of her friends is in this situation right now. His ex-girlfriend is pregnant by him and wants to keep the baby. He doesn’t want it. I think that it’s early enough (2 months) that he shouldn’t be on the financial hook for the next 18 years. But legally, not only is he responsible, but even sperm donors have been legally held accountable for financial support, and in multiple states, and even in the UK as well.
So, I’m curious as to what you think. What do you think a man’s legal obligations should be when he impregnates a woman?
Now, mind you, I think that the choice of whether to have the kid or not should always lie with the woman (it’s her body), but I think the man should be able to choose whether he wants to be a dad or not. I think that if she chooses abortion, it’s his responsibility to pay half. But I think that if she chooses to have the child, with or without him, he should have the right to say, “without me, please.”
Right now, the courts always place the welfare of the child first. Is this the right thing to do in this day and age? What do you think?