Featured Image by Daquella manera on Flickr, used under license (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic/CC BY 2.0).
In a previous article I discussed the issue of Paper Abortions: A legal procedure for women to opt-out of all parental rights and responsibilities post-conception, just as men can do via abortion (and other means). Currently women lack any such option so I proposed a method to achieve equality: Instead of giving women rights to paper abortions (not popular) or taking away men’s rights to abortions (not happening) we could enforce equal parental responsibility by requiring abortive fathers to adopt a child, undertaking full parental responsibilities just as women are required to do without having to bear a child.
Now, that article was tongue-in-cheek satire meant to point out the inequality in reproductive rights between women and men and the absurd unfairness of how motherhood is forced on women. All in jest, yes, but still an interesting thought experiment I think. Really it could be applied to almost any area of women’s issues: If women can’t be given more rights, and men can’t have their rights reduced, how can we finagle things to be more equally-unfair?
For today I’ll stay on the topic of paper abortions mainly because I believe it will be one of the major battle grounds of the future of the MHRM and will one day prove to be a victory with radical repercussions. For conversation’s sake I’d like to propose a second alternative to paper abortions, one that is a bit less satirical, maybe just a little more realistic, and that fits in much more smoothly with our existing legal system. The core force is money. Isn’t it always? In our current legal climate women have few-to-no enforceable parental rights. There is no guarantee of shared parenting, no law against maternity fraud and, as I might have mentioned, no way to opt-out of motherhood after conception. However, women bear a sometimes-crippling parental responsibility in the form of child support. I propose simply that we apply the same rules to men who have abortions. In effect let’s make every abortive father a non-custodial mother.
Consider this scenario: When a man has an abortion he becomes the “father” of a non-existent, amorphous “child entity” in the care of the state. Just as if he were the non-custodial parent of a real child, the man is required to pay child support for the child he conceived. This money would go directly into the foster care/orphanage/child welfare agencies, funding state care of children without guardians. He has no actual child in care but his funds go to support the children that are there. The end result would be the same as if the man had lost all custody: he has no access to the child (since it doesn’t exist) and is required to support it (though there is no singular “it”, just the child welfare system which would distribute received funds as needed).
This ties in beautifully with our existing family law system, leveraging child support enforcement agencies to ensure compliance. This approach would not force parenthood on anyone and, as we are often reminded of, being required to support a child whom you never see is not a violation of a person’s rights so the men would not be being wronged in any way. Instead if they conceive a child they are legally obliged to provide 18 years of financial support. With women this money goes to the father of their child. With men it would go to state to care for the collective of parentless children. It actually makes plenty of sense because the state already collects “child support” from women to reimburse state agencies for welfare provided to their children and baby-mommas. Every abortive father gets to become a proud baby-mommy to every foster child and orphan in his country.
This system would be relatively simple and safe compared to my suggested mandated-adoption and other concepts. Child support agencies already exist in every state with systems for determining and collecting payment. It also works well with abstract-children since child support is generally based on the payer’s ability to pay rather than any actual needs of the child, so it doesn’t matter if the child doesn’t exist. When a man has an abortion he goes right into a registry and in due course receives a child support order based on his real and imputed income. This makes it good for the economy too: child support is based on how much you are capable of earning so all those men with men’s studies/communication/basket weaving degrees will have to get a job that pays according to their determined ability.
Or face jail. Let’s not forget that. People can be imprisoned for failure to pay child support (along with various other draconian measures). These abortive fathers would be under the same requirements: pay or go to jail. And payments keep piling up while behind bars, even for a child he didn’t want (since he aborted it) and whom he never sees (since it isn’t real).
But that’s equality. This is the reality that non-custodial mothers face so let’s apply the same rules to abortive(non-custodial) fathers. Unlike women they will still have their choice — give birth and have 80%+ chance of keeping custody or abort and pay — but it would help tremendously to equalize the playing field. If men faced the same inescapable bind of responsibilities as women I think the world would be a very different place. I’m not being regressive: I support abortion rights, but more equality is needed. There is nothing a woman can do to escape her parental responsibilities even if she never wanted to be a mother, so let’s not force men to bear children against their will but by all means we should hold them to the same financial standards as women. Conception is enough to trigger a woman’s responsibilities so the same should hold true for men. Compared to mandated-adoption this would be more egalitarian: even now women aren’t forced to “parent”, only to pay, so if we’re equalizing reproductive rights we should follow the same model.
It would be beneficial in multiple ways. As mentioned it would be good for the economy: Every abortive father would be required to earn to his ability, creating job opportunities and increasing taxable income. More importantly it would create a huge influx of funding to the child welfare/foster care system, bringing much needed money to countless parentless children and the more a man earns the more he pays. As we’ve been taught, all children need from one parent is money, so it should be sufficient from these men as well. For 18 years they will have to pay every month to support a child they didn’t want, all because of a simple mistake, a failure of birth control or the deception of their partner. There will be little recourse when they need to reduce payment and they will have to shoulder this burden even when they try to build a family of their own.
But they made their choice. They engaged in sex with the risk of conceiving and that’s just what happened. Now they’ll have to step up and lean in.
Or we could just give women paper abortions. But that’d be too radical.