March 09, 2006

"Voluntary Fatherhood"

Over at MoJo, my co-worker Juliana reports that the National Center for Men has filed a lawsuit arguing that if women have the right to choose whether to get an abortion or not, then men should have the right to choose whether to pay child-support or not. So if, for example, a man wants an abortion and the woman doesn't, the dude should be off the hook. Fair's fair, right?

Just to pile on to what Juliana had to say, the whole line of thinking seems ridiculous—and I wouldn't necessarily say that about all right-wing arguments—and it's either vaguely amusing or thoroughly depressing that it gets discussed so much, I can't tell. In practice, the NCM's preferred outcome would mean the end of child support, since every guy in the world would have an easy "out" at his disposal. And since the case for child support is pretty straightforward, that pretty much settles that. (For the record, it's usually not a crippling amount of money at stake here: according to the U.S. Census, median child support in the Untied States is $280 a month; $125 for fathers below the poverty line—far less than the cost of raising a child..)

And then you have the NCM's director, Mel Feit, saying that he just wants to "find a way for a man also to have some say over decisions that affect his life profoundly." Again, a common refrain. Again, please. It would be lovely if men could "have some say," sure, but biology being what it is, that's not really possible. Lots of well-adjusted couples no doubt make mutually agreed-upon decisions on whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not, and that's very nice for those people, but there's no way to turn that into a law. Either the woman has the baby or she doesn't, so if the man is allowed to have a "say," either he gets to decide what happens—giving him control over the woman's uterus—or he doesn't. But in the event of disagreement, there's no "magic" middle ground here.

It’s sort of a "tough shit" argument, but there's not really any other way around it. Pregnancy is always going to be issue involving inequality; some inequalities are just less of a problem than others. Undoubtedly some men have been genuinely screwed over on custody or child support matters over the years. It's also true that far, far more women have been screwed over—with more serious consequences than forfeiting $280 a month—on the same issues (49 percent of all child support went unpaid in 2004, for instance). So it goes.
-- Brad Plumer 3:34 PM || ||