Creative Destruction

April 12, 2006

Schrödinger’s Fetus

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tuomas @ 10:04 pm

One, often overlooked point on the debate* about Choice For Women (abortion rights) and Choice For Men (paper abortion for men):

The woman’s choice (abortion) terminates the pregnancy, and kills the embryo/fetus (blunt, but essentially true), the man’s choice does not, and the embryo/fetus can (may/may not, depending on the woman’s choice, in which the man has no direct say inside Pro-Choice framework) still grow to a born human, a person with rights.

Thus, analogous to Choice For Men would be a hypothetical situation where abortion was uncertain to succeed, and a law in which a woman’s desire/attempt to have an abortion would be enough to absolve her of parental responsibilities. In the current situation, a woman whose abortion for some reason or another fails to terminate the pregnancy (and a childbirth ensues) is just as responsible for the baby as the father is.

* It is very unfortunate (as Cathy Young, who is pro-Choice for Men, has often observed) that many times opposition to C4M merely boils down to “You should have kept your pants up”. Coming from those who are Pro-Abortion Rights, this is rampant hypocrisy. Yet I believe a good argument for supporting Abortion Rights and opposing Choice For Men exists, and needs not to be mere woman-firstism.

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53 Comments »

  1. The problem with this analogy is that the success or failure of “male abortion” is not a matter of chance, but one of deliberate choice on the part of the mother.

    Ampersand made (at Alas) the point that this isn’t about the rights of the mother, but about the rights of the child. That’s a valid point, and if a mother insists on giving birth to and attempting to raise a child she can’t afford, I’d rather support come from the father than from taxpayers.

    But at the same time, this sort of extortion offends my sense of justice, and also gives rise to moral hazard. The bottom line is that giving birth to and raising a child is a choice, and it’s wrong to make that choice and then demand that someone else subsidize it.

    Those who oppose choice for men like to throw around the term “deadbeat dads.” But the real deadbeats are the mothers who choose to give birth to and raise children they can’t or won’t support on their own.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — April 12, 2006 @ 10:30 pm | Reply


  2. But at the same time, this sort of extortion offends my sense of justice, and also gives rise to moral hazard.

    Hmm, and the "Abort or I won't be a dad" doesn't? If one subjective feeling is a good argument, then other is, too.


    The problem with this analogy is that the success or failure of “male abortion” is not a matter of chance, but one of deliberate choice on the part of the mother.

    And the problem with your approach that it views abortion as a completely neutral choice (or indeed, it views continuation of pregnancy as a deliberate process on the part of the woman). As someone who is increasingly a fence-sitter on abortion (abortion after 23 weeks bothers me), I find this view problematic, and it certainly is problematic for Pro-Life women (granted, legal abortion is problematic for Pro -Life men)

    Those who oppose choice for men like to throw around the term “deadbeat dads.” But the real deadbeats are the mothers who choose to give birth to and raise children they can’t or won’t support on their own.

    Let's not throw insults and attempt guilt by association here.

    Comment by Tuomas — April 12, 2006 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

  3. Furthermore Brandon, your POV views bearing of children as exclusively woman’s choice and province, do you then support a rolling back of parental rights for men?

    Comment by Tuomas — April 12, 2006 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  4. Ampersand made (at Alas) the point that this isn’t about the rights of the mother, but about the rights of the child.

    What child?

    The decision is being made while the “child” is a fetus. (In the case of an ethical CFMer, it would happen before coitus.) According to Ampersand, it has no rights at that stage.

    Its later coming into existence as a being with rights (per Amp) is immaterial; that existence was against the will of the male involved.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 12, 2006 @ 11:16 pm | Reply


  5. Its later coming into existence as a being with rights (per Amp) is immaterial; that existence was against the will of the male involved.

    Why is it immaterial?

    Comment by Tuomas — April 12, 2006 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  6. The fetus is both dead and alive? What?

    Comment by Adam Gurri — April 12, 2006 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

  7. Heh, it is both dead and alive in CFM situation (as good as dead,legally, to the father, while still alive in the real world). Hence the Schrödinger -reference. Point being, that it is impossible for the man to (certainly) know at this point will the fetus continue to live or not, and become a child, as it is beyond his power and often knowledge.

    I was attempting (grim) humor here :).

    Comment by Tuomas — April 12, 2006 @ 11:33 pm | Reply

  8. The abortion being the (possible) killer here, as compared to the radiation in the original.

    Comment by Tuomas — April 12, 2006 @ 11:35 pm | Reply

  9. But at the same time, this sort of extortion offends my sense of justice, and also gives rise to moral hazard…

    Actually, the moral hazard runs in the other direction. Studies have shown again and again that the more leniant a state’s child support laws, the higher the rate of unwed motherhood.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 12, 2006 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

  10. The decision is being made while the “child” is a fetus. (In the case of an ethical CFMer, it would happen before coitus.) According to Ampersand, it has no rights at that stage.

    The timing isn’t relevant. The father owes nothing to the fetus, but once the child exists, it has a right to support from both parents. (Exceptions like sperm banks aside).

    Look, suppose that you decide in January to breed a new species of thumb-eating bats and release them into the woods. In November of that year, a new child is born. Three years later, the child wanders deep into the woods, discovers your thumb-eating bats, and tragically loses her right thumb. (Ow!)

    Is it your contention that because that child didn’t exist at the time you made the decision, therefore that child (who I will call “Lefty”) has no rights to damages from you? How long do you think that argument would hold up in court?

    * * *

    In my view, child support laws serve two purposes. One is to guarantee that every child is supported by two parents. And the other is to motivate men to try harder not to become fathers if they’re not prepared to support a chlid.

    I’m not sure that the dubious “fairness to men” argument is enough to overcome both those interests.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 12, 2006 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

  11. Amp, do you think that fathers owe women support when they’re pregnant? (Never mind the law, if the woman decides she wants the child, does the father have a moral obligation to help her with the pregnancy? Paying for prenatal care, etc.?)

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  12. It is very unfortunate (as Cathy Young, who is pro-Choice for Men, has often observed) that many times opposition to C4M merely boils down to “You should have kept your pants up”.

    I have two friends, Cindy and Jan. Cindy is a professional stuntwoman, and routinely jumps motercycles onto moving trains and the like. Jan is an accountant for a living, and as it happens, something of a clutz.

    Suppose both Jan and Cindy decide to try jumping sharks on waterskies. Afterward, when Cindy is fine but Jan is recovering from sharkbite, I say “you shouldn’t have done that if you didn’t want to be bitten by sharks!”

    Is that hypocripsy, that I don’t tell Jan and Cindy the same thing, in the same situation? No. It’s a simple recognition of a fact – Cindy has abilities that Jan unquestionably does not. Pretending they have the same abilities is silly.

    When pro-lifers say to women, “if you don’t want motherhood, don’t have sex,” that’s a statement of morality. There is, for women, a third physical option – having an abortion.

    When I say to men, “if you can’t stand even a remote possibility of fatherhood, don’t have coital sex with a woman” that’s not a statement of morality. It’s a statement of biological fact. Men have no other physical option that absolutely guarantees them that they’ll avoid fatherhood.

    There is a difference between offering to impose your morality on third parties – which is what pro-lifers are doing when they say “keep your pants up!” – and making an observation about biology.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 12:08 am | Reply

  13. Oh, sorry, you answered that one.

    OK, you say that the father owes the fetus nothing. Yet when the child passes through the vaginal canal and enters independent existence, you believe that the father owes the child support from that moment forward. So clearly, the moment of birth is the critical point in time in your view.

    How then, is it possible that an adult male (someone with full civil rights) can be prospectively encumbered with an obligation before the morally critical time? That amounts to either (a) a fetus having the power to override a person’s right to determine his own reproductive destiny or (b) the potential future existence of a child overriding the actual fetal status of the entity in question.

    Both (a) and (b) are roundly rejected by the pro-choice movement when it is applied in the case of a woman. How do you explain the discrepancy?

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 12:12 am | Reply

  14. Amp, do you think that fathers owe women support when they’re pregnant? (Never mind the law, if the woman decides she wants the child, does the father have a moral obligation to help her with the pregnancy? Paying for prenatal care, etc.?)

    It depends on the specific details for each specific couple. But as a general rule, yes, I think the father has a moral obligation to share pregnancy expenses.

    However, I think that obligation is to the mother, not to the fetus.

    There’s no exact parallel, because men don’t get pregnant. But I’d also say that if Diana gives Bruce a STD, then Diana has a moral obligation to help Bruce pay the resulting doctor bills.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Reply

  15. How do you explain the discrepancy?

    I don’t see any discrepancy existing, for the same reason that I don’t have a problem with a three-year-old suing you for damages done by flesh-eating bats you created and released a month before the three-year-old was concieved. You are responsible for all the predictable consequences of your actions; there is no “but this person wasn’t born until after I took the action!” out.

    I’m just not understanding the discrepancy you’re talking about – I don’t see it at all. Maybe you need to explain it again.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 12:19 am | Reply

  16. The discrepancy is that both men and women have the “third physical option” – but we respect only the woman’s right to choose this option.

    In fact, not only do we recoil in horror from the prospect that a man can make the same choice about a jointly-created entity that a woman can make, we recoil from the idea that through legal fiction he can absolve himself of the responsibility.

    Men and women create children together. The fetus resides inside, and is nourished by, the woman – and since it her uterus and her body, it is held that she should have final say over whether or not a child should come forth. Fair enough – it’s not respectful of her autonomy to allow the man to compel a termination, then.

    But then why not allow the legal option for the man? As you note, women have the “third option” for avoiding the predictable consequence of their behavior. Through law, we can give men the same power. Why not make things fair?

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  17. The father has no physical option that prevents the child from being born. An abortion prevents a child from ever existing (in my view), and so creates no unfairness to the child. C4M doesn’t “make things fair”; it just transfers unfairness from the father to the child.

    This is particularly inconsistant since the entire C4M argument is based on the idea that the less choice someone has, the more important it is to be fair to their interests. Can anyone seriously argue that a child has more chcoie about being born (or not) than her father did about having sex?

    Also, abortion doesn’t increase the problem of unwed mothers. “Choice for men” does.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 12:40 am | Reply

  18. The father has no physical option that prevents the child from being born.

    Well, exactly. And that isn’t fair. So we’re creating a legal option, that for him creates the option of not being responsible for a child that’s disavowed ahead of time.

    An abortion prevents a child from ever existing (in my view), and so creates no unfairness to the child. C4M doesn’t “make things fair”; it just transfers unfairness from the father to the child.

    But the unfairness would be generated by the mother who chose to continue with the pregnancy even though there was no man who would be providing support. C4M transfers RESPONSIBILITY for the child to the person who is simultaneously claiming the maximum POWER in the situation. Responsibility and power should always be paired as tightly as we can manage.

    Also, abortion doesn’t increase the problem of unwed mothers.

    Hey, don’t you go around oppressing us with your values.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  19. By the way, I think C4M is morally reprehensible – for the same reason that abortion is reprehensible. The joint and mutual obligation to the child begins when the child is conceived.

    But if we have choice for women, then I see no logically consistent way to avoid having choice for men.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 12:51 am | Reply


  20. Well, exactly. And that isn’t fair. So we’re creating a legal option, that for him creates the option of not being responsible for a child that’s disavowed ahead of time.

    His legal option does not address the problem that the fetus may, depending on the choice of the mother, grow in to a child (I believe that was the point of this article).


    But the unfairness would be generated by the mother who chose to continue with the pregnancy even though there was no man who would be providing support.

    Again, this views abortion as a perfectly viable, completely value-neutral option for everyone. In effect, the default in this is "pregnancy ceases" (=abortion). You're clearly just playing a devil's advocate on this.

    [cross-posted with 19, btw]

    Comment by Tuomas — April 13, 2006 @ 12:56 am | Reply

  21. C4M transfers RESPONSIBILITY for the child to the person who is simultaneously claiming the maximum POWER in the situation.

    But unless you’re saying that fathers have absolutely NO choice, what you’re saying is that because the mother has greater than 50% of the choices, she must take 100% of the responsibility. That’s not being pro-responsibility; that’s being opposed to responsibility (for men).

    In the status quo, the parent who decides to keep the child typically winds up with the majority of the financial responsibility, plus an overwhelming share of the guardian duties. (This isn’t how it always works, but this is how it works the large majority of the time). But the other parent was partly responsible, so takes on a minority share of the responsibility. Why is that so unfair?

    Do you honestly feel that if you and I jointly share the choices leading to an outcome, but you had one more choice than I did, it therefore means I’m completely freed of all responsibility for the choices I made?

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 12:58 am | Reply


  22. But if we have choice for women, then I see no logically consistent way to avoid having choice for men.

    You wouldn't, you uterus-controlling oppressor ;).

    Of course there is — it hinges on the million dollar question of "fetal personhood".

    [and perhaps more than that]

    Comment by Tuomas — April 13, 2006 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  23. His legal option does not address the problem that the fetus may, depending on the choice of the mother, grow in to a child

    How is that a problem?

    If the mother does not have the resources to raise a child, she has a number of options. She can abort. She can give the child away. She can (retrospectively) recognize the poor outcomes likely to come from coitus with a man who has disclaimed responsibility for any ensuing issue, and decline to copulate.

    There is a problem for women who wish a child and wish for someone else to support the child, but do not take the necessary steps to secure that support. That’s not my problem, however, or society’s.

    The existence of born children whose mothers cannot support them may become a social problem; that’s what Child Services is for. If the mother can’t take care of them responsibly, some family somewhere will do the job for her.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 1:02 am | Reply

  24. Do you honestly feel that if you and I jointly share the choices leading to an outcome, but you had one more choice than I did, it therefore means I’m completely freed of all responsibility for the choices I made?

    No. But if you and I jointly share the choices leading to an outcome, but all along you were disclaiming responsibility for the outcome, and the “one more choice” that I make is a choice which, at that point in the causal stream, has absolute determinative power about whether the outcome occurs or not – then yes. You’re off the hook.

    That’s the difficulty here. The totality of choices may not be 100% woman, 0% man. But at the point in the causal stream where the woman makes her one little extra choice (so insignificant, it is), the entire outcome hinges upon her choice, and the man has no power whatsoever.

    Her power, her problem.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 1:05 am | Reply

  25. How is that a problem?
    That is, he will become a father. "I'm not a father!", –that is what the man is claiming– does not negate the fact that he is a father to a child, if the mother decides to give birth.

    If the mother does not have the resources to raise a child, she has a number of options. She can abort.

    Yes, can.


    She can give the child away.

    This requires the existence of someone willing to pick up the responsibility.


    She can (retrospectively) recognize the poor outcomes likely to come from coitus with a man who has disclaimed responsibility for any ensuing issue, and decline to copulate.

    Retrospectively? That's rich. Assuming also that she knows that the man has disclaimed responsibility (pen and paper to the bed, guys and gals. This sort of CFM isn't that bad, IMHO).

    Comment by Tuomas — April 13, 2006 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  26. (so insignificant, it is)

    That’s IMO out of line.

    Comment by Tuomas — April 13, 2006 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  27. Oh yes. This could only be acceptable if the man made clear his non-support status prior to coitus. Then the woman can make a fully-informed decision.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 1:18 am | Reply

  28. But the unfairness would be generated by the mother who chose to continue with the pregnancy even though there was no man who would be providing support.

    And this will feed a hungry child, or help buy her schoolbooks and clothing, in what way exactly?

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 1:19 am | Reply

  29. Oh yes. This could only be acceptable if the man made clear his non-support status prior to coitus. Then the woman can make a fully-informed decision.

    I’d say the burden of proof there lies with the man.

    I’ll need time to consider my position on this sort of CFM (this is conflated to other sort of CFM, where what is demanded is right to refuse responsibility during the woman’s pregnancy, which I’m steadfastly against).

    Comment by Tuomas — April 13, 2006 @ 1:27 am | Reply

  30. And this will feed a hungry child, or help buy her schoolbooks and clothing, in what way exactly?

    It won’t. But that’s an argument from emotion. (“But what about the 8-month fetus that feels pain, torn apart by knives!”)

    If the mother doesn’t want to be in the position of having a hungry child who she cannot feed, then she should exercise her choices accordingly. Either secure the support of a father, provide the support herself, forego reproducing, or give the child to someone who can care for it adequately.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  31. I’ll need time to consider my position on this sort of CFM

    I will look forward to seeing your considered point of view.

    I hope it comes out to be the same as mine: this is morally monstrous but an inevitable result of the pro-choice line of values and reasoning.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 13, 2006 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  32. And this will feed a hungry child, or help buy her schoolbooks and clothing, in what way exactly?

    It won’t. But that’s an argument from emotion. (”But what about the 8-month fetus that feels pain, torn apart by knives!”)

    Actually, it’s not an argument from emotion – it’s an argument from practicality. And your refusal to deal with the practical consequences at all is the Achilles heel of “choice for men” – the entire argument is predicated on not giving a crap about what happens to born children.

    I don’t care if it’s the mother’s fault. I don’t care if it’s George Bush’s fault. I don’t care if it’s King Kong’s fault. Placing blame does absolutely nothing to solve this problem in the real world. The fact is, you have to deal with the practical consequences of the policies you advocate, or your policy arguments have no credibility. And the policy you’re arguing for – unlike pro-choice – has the consequence of creating more impoverished children.

    Saying “it’s the mother’s fault” doesn’t answer how those children get fed, housed, clothed, educated. It’s not an answer at all; it’s a dodge.

    You did propose one blatantly unconstitutional solution, which is the government should start taking away children from poor parents. But since there’s no way that’s going to happen; and since more orphans cost a lot more money than the party you support would ever be willing to spend; and since your suggestion is almost certainly unconstitutional; I don’t think that’s a serious or viable solution.

    You’ve been asked “what about the children” three or four times now, and you’ve been unable to come up with a legitimate answer even once. Your policy (which is, I realize, a devil’s advocacy, but for purposes of this discussion it is yours nonetheless) has nothing to do with fairness; your policy is anti-fairness. It’s all about making children poorer so that deadbeat dads can have that more expensive car they’ve always dreamed up.

    If we decide that our culture hates children and love money, maybe that makes sense. But I’d like to think our culture can be better than that. Your policy has nothing to do with fairness, and it is not at all the same as pro-choice.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 3:05 am | Reply

  33. You’ve been asked “what about the children” three or four times now, and you’ve been unable to come up with a legitimate answer even once.

    OK, so we take care of the children. Society has money. Let’s take some spending away from sports stadium boondoggles and establish that babies will be taken care of. We’ll turn Bill Gates upside down on the sofa and spend whatever comes out on orphans. Consider all your practical objections waved away with a fan of money.

    With that out of the way, how about choice for men? Do men get to have the same level of right as women?

    Comment by Robert — April 13, 2006 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  34. Sure. If we socialize the costs of raising children, to a reasonably generous extent, I have no objection to C4M.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 13, 2006 @ 4:31 am | Reply

  35. I will look forward to seeing your considered point of view.

    I hope it comes out to be the same as mine: this is morally monstrous but an inevitable result of the pro-choice line of values and reasoning.

    I'm glad I decided to think about this, I made and debated this post very early in the morning.

    I do, on further reflection, consider this sort of Choice For Men morally repugnant too ("if you get pregnant I won't be a father"), even if it is lot better than the during pregnancy -variety. As for whether this is result of pro-choice values and reasoning, well, yes, with reservations.

    Yes, in the sense that many pro-choice rhetoric indeed is of the kind that could be equally well be applied to CFM, like "It violates autonomy", "Right to privacy", "You can't force me", "Glob of cells", "parasite" etc ad nauseatum. Some of this sort of rhetoric is IMHO divisive, counterproductive and often immoral (in the case of talk on parasites etc).

    I don't think it necessarily follows from a moderate pro-choice position (FYI, such as the legislation in Finland: Abortion up to 12 weeks, and only with a health/social reason. Altough I must add that the latter is a formality, that is, the social reason can be basically because the mother can not/will not have time, and I'm happy that it is basically a formality, because the best person to know what reason is valid is the mother, and any other way would be highly suspect to abuse and corruption.), that bases its validity on utilitarian analysis on what is good for society (without being too much against invidual liberty, and I do believe it is often a false dilemma [social good vs. invidual liberty]), and on the fact that embryo or an early fetus should not have the same rights as a later fetus or a born human, and that recognizes that illegalization of abortion would likely do more harm than good.

    But I would also say that deliberately obtuse Pro-Life rhetoric, "abortion is avoiding responsiblity" and confusing babies with fetuses, has contributed to this. As has the general unwillingness to compromise on this issue. Indeed, it sometimes (I apologize in advance from all CFM:ers for the harsh comparison) seems to me that CFM:ers are kind of useful idiots to Pro-Lifers, since the societal model of men just deciding that they don't feel like being fathers is horrid. But since what they demand is so similar in appearance to what many Pro-Choicers are saying out loud (I think many people, such as Amp, can make a logical distinction between the two, but I don't think the Pro-Choice, or Pro-Life "base" can. Perhaps this is patronizing, elitist thing to say), I think you are quite correct.

    Here is my position on abortion rights (I guess I'm not really "Pro-Choice", in the American sense, after all. More like "Pro-Legal Abortion"), and CFM, in a nutshell. I hope it makes sense.

    Comment by Tuomas — April 13, 2006 @ 10:05 am | Reply

  36. One significant problem with C4M is that it assumes that birth control is either not necessary or works perfectly (and many C4M-ers consider it solely the woman’s responsibility). Even if both parties know ahead of time that neither wants a child, no birth control method except complete and total abstinence always works 100% of the time. Unless the man is doing his best to control his genetic material,including making sure his partner is also using effective contraception, IMO it’s very reasonable that at least part of the responsibility is his, regardless of what the woman chooses to do. At a minimum, he should be responsible for a proportionate part of the expenses for whatever happens – as I said on another blog – that would be 1/6600 of the expenses for raising a child to be an adult (6600 days in 18 years).

    Comment by Lee — April 13, 2006 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  37. Sure. If we socialize the costs of raising children, to a reasonably generous extent, I have no objection to C4M.

    Way to suck the oxygen out of the discussion via the tricky tactic of agreeing. Bastard!

    Comment by Robert — April 14, 2006 @ 12:54 am | Reply

  38. I don’t see a preview button; is there supposed to be one?

    Ampersand:

    When pro-lifers say to women, “if you don’t want motherhood, don’t have sex,” that’s a statement of morality. There is, for women, a third physical option – having an abortion.

    When I say to men, “if you can’t stand even a remote possibility of fatherhood, don’t have coital sex with a woman” that’s not a statement of morality. It’s a statement of biological fact.

    No it’s not. There is no physical or biological reason why women shouldn’t have abortions forced upon them or denied to them at the father’s behest. That we don’t do this is a social decision, not a biological reality. It happens to be one I agree with.

    Similarly there is no biological reason why men should be forced to support children at the mother’s behest. Again it is a social decision that we do this, and one I don’t agree with.

    Arguments from biology used to justify forced child support really don’t wash.

    In another post:

    but once the child exists, it has a right to support from both parents.

    It’s been asserted many time in these discussions that a child can be put up for adoption with the consent of both parents. I have never seen anyone on the anti C4M side express any disagreement with this policy, despite it being in complete contradiction to the alledged right of the child to support from both parents.

    As I argued here, using the same analytical technique as you did for anti-choicers, the policies supported (or at least, not publicly opposed) by those in favour of choice for women only, are well crafted to the twin aims of giving women as much autonomy over their bodies as possible, whilst simultaneously punishing men for getting women pregnant. They’re not particularly focused on enforcing the child’s alledged right to support from both parents, which leads me to the conclusion that this alleged right is really just an excuse, and the real goal is denying choice to men.

    Comment by Daran — April 15, 2006 @ 7:27 am | Reply

  39. Excuse my lack of attention.

    Ampersand:

    but once the child exists, it has a right to support from both parents. (Exceptions like sperm banks aside).

    Why this exception? Children have the same fundamental needs, regardless of the circumstances of their conception, so why don’t they have the same rights?

    Of course, without this exception, the supply of donor sperm would dry up instantly. This would no more violate the non-rights of the never-conceived children, than abortion does the non-rights of never-born children. However, it would seriously impact women’s interests (surely there can be no right in this case) in have a supply of donor sperm.

    As I have argued, the intention underlying opposition to C4M is not to ensure that children get support from both parents, but to punish men for making women pregnant. There can be no clearer demonstration of this, than that the purported ‘right of the child’ used to justify opposing it is instantly set aside when it is women’s interests which are impacted.

    Comment by Daran — April 15, 2006 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  40. Lee:

    One significant problem with C4M is that it assumes that birth control is either not necessary or works perfectly (and many C4M-ers consider it solely the woman’s responsibility).

    No it doesn’t. It assumes that the form of birth control known as ‘abortion’ is both legally and practically available to women[*], and that if this option is not taken, then it is either the deliberate choice of the woman, or result of negligence on her part. Either way, she is responsible for it.

    [*]Which may or may not be true. My arguments and support for C4M explicitly require this availability as a precondition.

    Comment by Daran — April 15, 2006 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  41. The real problem with ‘choice for men’ is that it misstates what Roe–choice for women–really is, and what women’s rights and responsibilities are regarding pregnancy.

    Right now, both men and women are responsible for a born child regardless of whether either chose the sex leading up to the conception, used birth control, and so on. Women’s parental obligation likewise does not depend on whether they had access to, or even the right to, an abortion. (There are a few exceptions–many states automatically exclude rapists from having any paternity whatsoever regarding a child conceived from their rape, for example.)

    Both men and women have a privacy interest in their bodies. Since only women can get pregnant, only women have the right under some circumstances to have an abortion. This terminates everybody’s parental rights and obligations; there’s no way a woman can have an abortion yet stick the father with child support.

    Choice For Men gives men a right women do not have; the right to walk away from a born child unilaterally. It’s not a “paper abortion”. Bluntly, Choice For Men misuses the language of Roe as a cover for backing out of child support.

    Comment by mythago — April 15, 2006 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

  42. Well, I imagine that C4M can live with granting women the same right to abdicate their responsibility without actually committing the abortion.

    Comment by Robert — April 15, 2006 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

  43. I don’t see a preview button; is there supposed to be one?

    Nope – that’s not an option wordpress.com offers, as far as I know. (Or perhaps it’s just unavailable with this template).

    There is no physical or biological reason why women shouldn’t have abortions forced upon them or denied to them at the father’s behest.

    I guess you’re pointing out that nothing biologically prevents men from murdering pregnant women or physically forcing abortion on unwilling women. That’s such an obvious and banal point that I can’t imagine why you think it worth making. Yes, I was indeed putting the possibility of murder and kidnapping aside.

    Assuming that we’re only counting acts that people voluntarily perform or voluntarily have performed on themselves, women have the biological capacity to prevent themselves from becoming biological parents.

    Men also have the biological capacity for preventing themselves from becoming biological parents. The difference is, biologically men have that ability before pregnancy occurs, whereas women have it both before and after.

    Saying “men shouldn’t be forced to pay child support” doesn’t change the fact that those non-support-paying fathers will still be fathers. The children still exist.

    That’s why the comparison of abortion to C4M is fundamentally a lie; it assumes that not having parental responsibilities because one is not a parent and not having parental responsibilities because one doesn’t want to spend money on one’s own children are identical positions. But they are not identical; the first position doesn’t screw children over, the second position does.

    Your position is basically “children? What children?” But it’s ridiculous to pretend that adding living children with needs to the equation doesn’t change anything.

    It’s been asserted many time in these discussions that a child can be put up for adoption with the consent of both parents. I have never seen anyone on the anti C4M side express any disagreement with this policy, despite it being in complete contradiction to the alleged right of the child to support from both parents.

    There is a big difference between child abandonment, which is what you favor, and adoption, which is a way of taking responsibly for your child’s welfare by making sure it will always be provided for. That you can’t see that difference does not add to the credibility of your argument.

    …the policies supported (or at least, not publicly opposed) by those in favour of choice for women only, are well crafted to the twin aims of giving women as much autonomy over their bodies as possible, whilst simultaneously punishing men for getting women pregnant.

    Will, I can’t speak for everyone, but as I wrote in comment #10 on this thread, I see the purpose of child support to be “to guarantee that every child is supported by two parents. And to motivate men to try harder not to become fathers if they’re not prepared to support a child.”

    I think that pro-lifers want women to have to “take responsibility” for having sex, which is why major pro-life leaders not only oppose abortion, but also birth control, but they don’t oppose IVS. It’s also why most pro-life leaders oppose lesbian and gay rights – that’s sex which doesn’t lead to pregnancy, which is bad and irresponsible. In their view, all who have sex must pay. This is consistent with the view that non-marital sex is sinful and opposed by God.

    In contrast, no one who opposes C4M wants men punished for having sex. Pro-choice anti-C4M folks do not oppose birth control, gay sex, or vasectomies.

    Now, you might say it’s the “having gotten a woman pregnant” which is being punished, not the sex. But by your definition, merely saying that women should have the right to choose, or not choose, abortion is evidence that pro-choicers want to punish men. And I don’t know of any God commonly worshiped by pro-choicers which says that making a woman pregnant is a sin.

    Many pro-choicers would agree (I as would – see post 14 on this thread) to C4M if it were combined with a socialization of the costs of bearing and raising children – in other words, if the policy were about lifting unfairness from all three parties, rather than being just about being fair to fathers at the expense of children and mothers. That’s totally at odds with your claim that folks like me want to punish men.

    I don’t want to punish men (I am one!). But neither do I want to see “fairness” for men created by increasing the unfairness to children and mothers. In real life, sometimes there is no totally fair solution, and the best you can do is try to spread the unfairness around between the parties. In that kind of situation, a solution that totally removes the burden from A while increasing burdens on B and C is not about “fairness” at all.

    * * *

    Why is there an exception for sperm banks? I don’t know; I don’t know the history of sperm bank laws at all. But in theory, single women who use sperm banks are on average more prepared for single parenthood, economically and mentally, than typical single women. So you could make a case that sperm banks, unlike single parenthood in general, are not harmful to the best interests of children.

    Plus, of course, the existence of sperm banks doesn’t create a moral hazard for men, encouraging men not to take precautions when they have sex.

    (I didn’t mention the many women with co-parents who use sperm banks because that doesn’t apply to our discussion here).

    If there were some true parallel to sperm banks that men could use – some way that men could use donated eggs to make children, without involving a woman’s body after the initial donation – I’d favor that being available under the same terms as sperm banks. I do favor both single men and single women being allowed to adopt, if they meet requirements showing that they’re well positioned to care for a child.

    Personally, I don’t think anonymous sperm bank donation should be permitted, but that’s a subject for a different day.

    Comment by Ampersand — April 15, 2006 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

  44. mythago:

    The real problem with ‘choice for men’ is that it misstates what Roe–choice for women–really is, and what women’s rights and responsibilities are regarding pregnancy.

    That may be a problem with some C4M advocates arguments but it’s not a problem for C4M. For a start, it’s a US-centric framing of issues which are international. Secondly not all C4M advocates base their arguments on Roe. I have never done so, for example.

    Choice For Men gives men a right women do not have; the right to walk away from a born child unilaterally.

    Er, no. C4M (at least the formulation of the concept that I support) would allow men to walk away from a foetus. Women have that right too, but it is a biological reality that the process for women leaves the foetus dead. If men walk away, then the woman may choose to terminate or bear the child, but in the latter case, the father does not ‘walk away from the child’. He’s already walked away. He walked away before the child existed.

    By contrast women do have the right to walk away from their child in any jurisdiction which has enacted safe abandonment legislation. Even where these provisions are written in gender-neutral terms, they only apply to the person holding the babe-in-arms, and therefore, as a practical matter, benefit women more than men. (Of course they benefit children too. I do not object to safe-abandonment legislation; I merely rebut your claim that women aren’t permitted to do this.)

    Robert:

    Well, I imagine that C4M can live with granting women the same right to abdicate their responsibility without actually committing the abortion.

    A pregnant woman’s unilateral choice not to abort results – with near inevitability – in a child coming into existence. No choice by the father has that effect. In my opinion, women should be granted that choice, but with it should come the responsibility for ensuring that the child is provided for.

    Ampersand, your remarks require a longer response than I can give right now.

    Comment by Daran — April 15, 2006 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  45. By contrast women do have the right to walk away from their child in any jurisdiction which has enacted safe abandonment legislation

    No. At least in California, where I live, “safe harbor” laws do not sever parental rights. What they do is exempt the mother from criminal charges if she abandons the baby at certain designated places, such as a hospital. She does not automatically lose her rights and responsibilities as a parent by the act of abandonment.

    Women have that right too, but it is a biological reality that the process for women leaves the foetus dead.

    Again: you’re ignoring that abortion is not an absolute right and the inability to get an abortion doesn’t exempt women from parental obligations. You argue that the inability to get an abortion should exempt men and only men from parental obligations.

    Comment by mythago — April 15, 2006 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

  46. Mythago:

    No. At least in California, where I live, “safe harbor” laws do not sever parental rights. What they do is exempt the mother from criminal charges if she abandons the baby at certain designated places, such as a hospital. She does not automatically lose her rights and responsibilities as a parent by the act of abandonment.

    The California law is the one I looked at in detail, though it was a while ago. I noted that applied to fathers as well as mothers and that it contained no language affecting parental rights and responsibilities.

    However, as the sentence immediately following the one you quoted indicated, I was talking about the practical effects of the law, not is strictly legal implications. The practical effect is that the parent holding the baby (usually the mother) can abandon it in designated safe places without leaving her name or address. She has a short grace period during which she can reclaim it if she wants to. After that, the babies enter the care system and are eventually adopted. Mothers are rarely if ever traced. She has literally walked away from the child.

    Again: you’re ignoring that abortion is not an absolute right and the inability to get an abortion doesn’t exempt women from parental obligations. You argue that the inability to get an abortion should exempt men and only men from parental obligations.

    I haven’t ignored that issue: I addressed it here, and also in the footnote to comment 40 in this thread. My advocacy of C4M is conditioned upon not just the legal right to abortion, but it’s practical availability to women. I certainly haven’t “argue[ed] that … men and only men [be exempted] from parental obligations” where the woman is unable to get one.

    I have objected before to my words being construed so as to contradict my stated position. Please don’t do this again.

    Comment by Daran — April 17, 2006 @ 5:22 am | Reply

  47. Daran:

    The practical effect is that the parent holding the baby (usually the mother) can abandon it in designated safe places without leaving her name or address. She has a short grace period during which she can reclaim it if she wants to. After that, the babies enter the care system and are eventually adopted. Mothers are rarely if ever traced. She has literally walked away from the child.

    One hardly needs full custody of the child to abandon it at a safe place – if a man really wanted to do it, he could take the child out for an afternoon and then dump it. But I suspect if he doesn’t have custody of the child then the mother would go get it back.

    In effect, abandonment cannot happen without the agreement of both parents (unless you are saying the women dumps the child, and although the man really wants the child he doesn’t go looking for it, ask the police where it has gone?). If one parent wants to abandon and the other doesn’t, then even if the abandonment goes ahead it is not hard for the other parent to trace the child.

    Abandonment is irrelecant to this discussion – both parents can do it, and it is only sucessful if both parents agree to it.

    Comment by VK — April 17, 2006 @ 6:49 am | Reply

  48. VK:

    One hardly needs full custody of the child to abandon it at a safe place – if a man really wanted to do it, he could take the child out for an afternoon and then dump it.

    The parent cannot do this unless he has physical charge of the child at the time. Mothers are more likely to have that charge.

    But I suspect if he doesn’t have custody of the child then the mother would go get it back.

    There’s a possibility in such cases that there is no legal custody, perhaps because the child is unregistered, but I agree with your point. Safe abandonment can only be used as a means to permanently “walk away” by a parent with de facto sole custody of the child. In almost every case this will be the Mother.

    In effect, abandonment cannot happen without the agreement of both parents (unless you are saying the women dumps the child, and although the man really wants the child he doesn’t go looking for it, ask the police where it has gone?). If one parent wants to abandon and the other doesn’t, then even if the abandonment goes ahead it is not hard for the other parent to trace the child.

    Abandonment is irrelecant to this discussion – both parents can do it, and it is only sucessful if both parents agree to it.

    You’re claiming that equality under the law equals practical equality – an extraordinary claim to come from the feminist side.

    You’re also assuming that the father even knows of the child’s existence. Unknowing fathers can hardly be considered to “agree” to anything. Even if he knows it exists, if he doesn’t have regular contact with it, he might not know of its disappearance until it is too late, or he might have difficulty in proving that it’s his. Finally he might be scared about the possible consequences to himself if he reports it. “Hello, Mr. Doe, this is Officer Angemhi. You reported your son missing. Well, we spoke to your partner, Miss Roe, and she said that she left him with you. What did you do with the child, Mr. Doe?”

    Regardless, that safe abandonment is a practical legal method for some mothers to permanently walk away from their children is evidenced by the fact that some women do. To prove otherwise, you would have to show that in nearly every case in which the child is not voluntarily reclaimed, the mother ends up being forced to support the child. I’ll bet you can’t even find a single case of this happening. I’ll also bet you can find cases in which children are abandoned by their mothers, reclaimed by them, and the father is still forced to support it.

    Comment by Daran — April 17, 2006 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

  49. I would be interested in your claim that ‘mothers are rarely, if ever traced’, Daran.

    My advocacy of C4M is conditioned upon not just the legal right to abortion, but it’s practical availability to women.

    Yet again: abortion is not the same as choice for men. You are giving men a right women don’t have.

    Comment by mythago — April 17, 2006 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  50. mythago:

    I would be interested in your claim that ‘mothers are rarely, if ever traced’, Daran.

    http://www.ncsl.org/programs/cyf/slr268.htm

    “Little is known about women who discard their newborns. Most of the women are never found.”

    My advocacy of C4M is conditioned upon not just the legal right to abortion, but it’s practical availability to women.

    Yet again: abortion is not the same as choice for men.

    Did you understand what I said? My advocacy of C4M is conditioned upon the very real availability of C4W. No C4W means no C4M. I am not claiming that C4M is the same or equivalent to abortion. As far as I can see, nobody is claiming this, so it is a strawman argument on the feminist side.

    You are giving men a right women don’t have.

    God forbid that men be granted any rights at all, let alone rights that women don’t have. On the other hand, it’s OK that C4W gives rights to women to that men don’t though. Thank you for confirming the point I’ve been making all along. Opposition to C4M isn’t about supporting children, it’s about denying men rights.

    However you are wrong, as far as I can see. From the above cite:

    “Adoption and other child welfare experts also point out that [safe abandonment] legislation may not be necessary because most states will not prosecute women who give birth and relinquish their newborns in the hospital. Additionally, every state allows women to voluntarily relinquish their infants for adoption.”

    My emphasis. It is not clear from the context whether “every state” means all 50 states, or every state which has enacted safe abandonment legislation. However that’s a minor point. The quoted passage contradicts the claim often made that both parent’s consent is required to put a child up for adoption. It’s clear that women can walk away from their born children, even without safe abandonment.

    Comment by Daran — April 17, 2006 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

  51. As far as I can see, nobody is claiming this,

    Don’t be disingenuous. The name “choice for men” refers to a CHOICE made by MEN, said choice riffing off the term “pro-choice”, because it’s supposed to be parity for women’s right to abort. Are you really trying to tell me you’ve never heard C4M referred to as “Roe for men” or “paper abortion”?

    Opposition to C4M isn’t about supporting children, it’s about denying men rights.

    Did I say it was about supporting children? No. As you admit, it’s about giving men rights to walk away from a child they don’t want.

    It’s clear that women can walk away from their born children

    As can men. Oh, wait, you say: but they can’t legally walk away? I can’t get to your NCSL link, which by your admission isn’t very clear on the whole state-by-state thing anyway, but perhaps California provides a useful example. Please note that either parent, or even a nonparent with lawful custody, can surrender a baby. Either parent, or a nonparent with lawful custody, can reclaim the child within 14 days.

    States do, of course, vary in their laws, but I don’t know of any state where I could have a baby, hand it to my husband, and say “I never wanted it” and be off the hook for child support. Do you?

    Comment by mythago — April 18, 2006 @ 12:19 am | Reply

  52. mythago:

    Don’t be disingenuous. The name “choice for men” refers to a CHOICE made by MEN, said choice riffing off the term “pro-choice”, because it’s supposed to be parity for women’s right to abort. Are you really trying to tell me you’ve never heard C4M referred to as “Roe for men” or “paper abortion”?

    Not that I can recall. I live in Scotland, where USSC Decisions don’t have quite the overriding importance that they do in the US. The first time to my recollection I saw the term “paper abortion” was here, used by opponents, not proponents, of C4M.

    I call it “Choice for Men” because it’s about giving men some choice in response to the choices given to women. That doesn’t make it parity or equivalant to abortion, and nobody here has claimed that it is, as far as I can see. Other people in other places may claim that it is, or make other arguments, but your remarks are not responsive to anything I have said, nor do they appear to be responsive to anyone else here.

    Opposition to C4M isn’t about supporting children, it’s about denying men rights.

    Did I say it was about supporting children? No.

    Ampersand did. Moreover he disputes my contention that C4M opponents are motivated by the wish to deny men rights. It’s not unresponsive to anything said here for me to point to evidence in support of my thesis.

    As you admit, it’s about giving men rights to walk away from a child they don’t want.

    No. It’s about giving men rights to walk away from children they didn’t choose to have.

    It’s clear that women can walk away from their born children

    As can men. Oh, wait, you say: but they can’t legally walk away?

    Yes. Legally.

    I can’t get to your NCSL link, which by your admission isn’t very clear on the whole state-by-state thing anyway,

    According to the report, 35 out of 50 States had passed some form of safe abandonment legislation, including California, Florida, and many of the highly populated small states on the Atlantic seaboard. Regardless of how you interpret it, it’s clear that a substantial proportion of American women are covered.

    The page doesn’t come up for me now either, but it’s not difficult to search of a suitable string from one of my quotes, and locate Google’s cache. But as I’m so nice, I’ve done it for you. You could also try getting the PDF version, which link is working at the time of writing. If all else fails, I could email the PDF to you.

    but perhaps California provides a useful example. Please note that either parent, or even a nonparent with lawful custody, can surrender a baby. Either parent, or a nonparent with lawful custody, can reclaim the child within 14 days.

    Yes, and both rich and poor alike are prohibited by law from sleeping under bridges, but that doesn’t mean that there is practical equality.

    States do, of course, vary in their laws, but I don’t know of any state where I could have a baby, hand it to my husband, and say “I never wanted it” and be off the hook for child support. Do you?

    No, nor am I advocating that men be allowed to do that to their wives. It does, however appear to be the case in at least 35 States, that you could have a baby, hand it to a nurse, and say “I never wanted it” and be off the hook for child support. Your claim that I would give men a right that women don’t have is still false. In fact, the opposite is true, where there is both practical access to abortion and the right to abandon children in hospital, women have the right to abandon children they did choose to have, which right I would not give to men.

    Comment by Daran — April 18, 2006 @ 3:20 am | Reply

  53. i think every one of you should just get over the fact that barney really is a petafile and he wasnt purple…he was violet.

    Comment by St Ralph Cum Bubble — July 31, 2006 @ 7:32 pm | Reply


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