08 March 2011

Men's reproductive rights

This morning I got into a Twitter discussion with feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte about her recent article mocking Men's Rights Activists, and came smack up against the limits of what can be discussed in 140 character snippets, so this very long post is an attempt to outline my thinking on a touchy subject.

There was a lot to like about her article. I agree wholeheartedly that the way to address most MRAs' concerns is more feminism. And MRAs are eminently mockable misogynists. But I confessed to her that I was disappointed that she didn't grapple with some of the more meaningful and tricky questions that MRAs raise, offering feminist alternatives to their horrific solutions.

The key example in my mind is that MRAs commonly propose that fathers be given strong legal rights to control a partner's decision to have an abortion. “She shouldn't be able to abort my baby without my consent,” and “I should be able to make her abort a fetus if I don't want that baby.”

This invasion of women making decisions about their own bodies is of a piece with countless patriarchal invasions of womens’ autonomy; it casts women as empty vessels for the exercise of men's wills. I take it as beyond debate that women's right to control their own bodies and destinies requires that women have total autonomous discretion over abortion. A woman must not be compelled to take an unwanted pregnancy to term. A woman must not be compelled to have an abortion. That MRAs reach for these solutions reflects their misogynist contempt for women.

But I submit that MRAs are not speaking only from a desire to control women; they also have a motivating concern that I think deserves a thoughtful response. Thanks to women's access to abortion, men have categorically less control over their reproductive parenting destiny and responsibility than women do. [Change added after the original post.]

Now it's important to note that access to abortion isn't all it should be. It's a serious problem, and for the record, I'm someone who has contributed money to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and I mailed my first coathanger to a politician during the Reagan administration. I understand that women's control over their reproductive destiny is really only true of some women. But let's talk about those cases, which are reasonably common.

If Alice and Bob are unmarried lovers and Alice gets pregnant, she now can make a decision. If Alice does not want a child, she can abort the pregnancy without consulting Bob, however ardently he may want a child to care for. On the other hand, if she decides to bring the pregnancy to term, he is legally responsible for eighteen years of financial support, however unwilling he may be. This requirement is very strong, as demonstrated by extraordinary legal cases like a woman who fished the condom out of the wastebasket to impregnate herself.

Recall also that men have fewer birth control options than women do. There's condoms, sterilization, and abstinence. The first has a host of disadvantages; for the purposes of this discussion, most important among them their imperfect reliability. The second is permanent, and young men often have difficulty getting access to it even if they choose it. And I'll have a word about the last, beyond its obvious disadvantage, in a bit.

I have found that few women have given any real thought to the fact that men can be subject to a decision with such big consequences completely outside their control. But I assure you that most men have given this a great deal of thought. That feminists — who have a central preöccupation with reproductive rights — should ignore it is puzzling. I believe that having MRAs and creepy Cathy Young be the only folks who prepared to address this nudges otherwise reasonable men toward sympathy with MRAs and antipathy toward feminism; I really wish we had a feminist take that wasn't just dismissive.

MRAs' answer to addressing this imbalance — giving men control over the abortion decision — is unacceptable. But I submit that it is not the only possible response. I imagine a reform something like this:

  • A pregnant woman has an absolute right to have an abortion or not. No one else may affect this decision.
  • If a married woman gets pregnant, her husband is responsible for the support of the child if she brings it to term. That's part of the package when you get married.
  • If an unmarried man gets a woman pregnant, he has a short span of time — say, 48 hours — after he learns of the pregnancy in which to decide if he's going to take responsibility for the child if she brings the pregnancy to term. If he decides he won't, he can never make a claim of any parental rights afterward. If he decides he will, he cannot change his mind afterward either. If he doesn't make an explicit decision, it defaults to him having taken responsibility. [Bold text added after original post; see Update 3 below.]
  • If an unmarried woman does not inform her partner that she has gotten pregnant, he is presumptively not financially responsible for a resulting child until she informs him. If he is informed about the pregnancy after it's too late for abortion to be a meaningful option — including years after a child's birth — he has the same choice about whether to accept the package of parental responsibilities and rights, with a longer window of time in which to make the decision.

I'm not necessarily attached to this particular solution, but it's the best that I can come up with, and has a number of virtues that I do consider important. It's not equal — given the material realities, it cannot be — but it's more fairly unequal. It protects women's right to control their bodies. It ensures that neither men nor women are compelled to childrearing responsibility they didn't choose. The short decision-making window for men ensures that a woman in this situation makes a decision about what to do that's meaningfully informed. I think any serious response to this question needs to address those virtues, or justify why they're not important.

There are several responses to this kind of proposal that I find particularly galling when they come from feminists:

He should have thought of that before he had sex; he has to take responsibility for a possible baby if he engages in sex

The penny drops about abstinence. That argument isn't funny when antis say that to argue that women shouldn't be allowed to have abortions. I don't see why it should be kosher when it's applied to men; in fact I think this drifts into sexist rhetorical territory that assumes that sex is something men take from women.

You're arguing for men having more ways to walk away from supporting their children

Point taken; we have a lot of men doing that without strong enough enforcement to stop it. I agree that we need to do a categorically better job there. My proposal presumes and supports that, and I think it might help make the case that men walking out on their children are breaking a commitment they made explicitly.

This argument also implies that a pregnant woman's fetus is a “child,” and it should be obvious why that is a bad idea.

Patriarchy visits injustice against women, not men, so who cares?

Patriarchy certainly visits much more injustice against women. But I submit that this is an injustice against men. I don't believe that the reality of male privilege means that anything unjust we do against men is therefore OK.

Maybe this is unfair, but men are going to have to wait in line; there are bigger injustices to correct first

Feminists are familiar with this argument. “Your issues will have to wait until we've corrected the greater injustices of racism first.” Or the class system. Or homophobia. Or whatever. It's nonsense; we should be addressing all injustices; indeed, fighting any injustice helps address other injustices, rather than hurts.

Ms Marcotte, I hope you're reading this, because I love a lot of your work. And I hope you have a serious response; if my thinking is screwy, here, I'd like to have it laid out for me.


Over at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte has a long post largely concerned with this question and our dialogue a about it on Twitter. (I am @miniver, she is @AmandaMarcotte.) Unhappily, I believe that she has significantly misrepresented my comments in both places.

I'll try to resist the temptation to respond point-by-point to what she says there. I think I actually predicted much of it in my original post above, and responded briefly to some key points. But the centerpiece of her argument is a clarifying description of the legal argument for abortion rights, which she says is grounded in women's bodily autonomy.

Reproductive rights are derived from the right to bodily autonomy. Becoming pregnant or impregnating another person is a big deal, so your right to exercise bodily autonomy over these aspects of your body is a fundamental right.
Abortion rights are about the right to terminate a pregnancy, not to say no to parenthood.
If abortion rights were actually about getting a “window” to say no to parenthood, then women who give birth without knowing they were pregnant would be offered this option, but they’re not.

Legally, abortion rights may not be “about” getting to say no to parenthood, but I think it's very clear that the urgent importance of abortion rights is about this very question.

A woman risking her life with a coathanger in 1955 (or 2005) isn't doing so to protect some abstract concept of her bodily autonomy. She's likely doing it out of an awareness that if she births a child she will not be able to care for it properly, and she takes that responsibility seriously enough that she'll risk her life rather than take on a responsibility she cannot meet. As an aside, I have long found it profoundly offensive that so many anti-choicers frame this as “selfishess” when it is exactly the opposite.

My fundamental argument is that, given our level of medical technology, we should think of “reproductive rights” not simply as the right to control over your reproductive organs, but the right to control over your reproductive destiny. This is not some fanciful new idea I've invented to rationalize what I want; it's as old as Margaret Sanger.

But there is a fundamental limitation in the control over their reproductive destiny that men have, because women's bodies are so much more profoundly involved in the process of reproduction that their right to bodily autonomy trumps any right men might claim. I don't know how I could have been more clear that I take that with the gravest seriousness.

Marcotte's post counters the claim by some unnamed MRAs to a right to “paper abortion,” allowing them to shirk responsibility for born children at will. She lays out the objections to this quite well, and I agree with her that this straw argument that I didn't make is awful. That's why my proposal tries to tread carefully, and creates a very tight limitation on how and when men may declaim responsibility for their offspring. It's an attempt to balance situation which is inherently imbalanced by the mechanics of reproduction. Maybe my proposal is still a lousy idea. But it isn't the lousy idea she attributes to me.

One last thing: Marcotte refers to me as

a guy claiming to be sympathetic to feminism freaking out because men don’t have “reproductive rights”

I'm not freaking out. I'm raising the point. As she says, there are a lot of other things more urgent. But it's nonetheless a real issue, and I confess that I am frustrated that it's so difficult to get to the point where we're actually talking about it.

And I confess that this “claiming” business gets right up my nose. I invite readers skeptical that I'm not at least sympathetic to feminism to check out the contents of the feminism label on this blog [since consolidated under kulturkamph] (which applies to more stuff than my blog is configured to show you at that link; disappointingly, my attempt at a definition of feminism doesn't make the cut) and the tweet I addressed to Ms Marcotte about Victoria Woodhull just yesterday.

Update 2

The Twitter conversation between Marcotte and me remains lively, and at the time I write this it has evolved to a point that better addresses my proposal here ... including some interesting criticisms of the legal implications of what I've said. When time permits, I'll find a way to transcribe the tweetstream into a relatively readable form here, and comment more thoughtfully than the Twitter medium permits.

Update 3

I just added a snippet of text clarifying that a father who refuses responsibility for his offspring must do so when he learns of the pregnancy, rather than after the child is born. Evidently some MRAs advocate something like the latter meaning, calling that a “paper abortion,” an idea so stupid and mortifying that it simply hadn't occurred to me as a possible reading of what I'd described. It certainly explains why Marcotte seemed so intent on a seemingly willful misunderstanding of what I'd suggested.

Update 4

Discussion here and elsewhere has made it clear to me that my original proposal was embarassingly irresponsible in failing to talk explicitly about how we should provide for children's needs. Taken in itself, giving unwilling fathers the legal power to evade responsibility for the costs of childrearing harms children. That's an unacceptable bottom line.

But if we accept that the state has a compelling interest in ensuring that children's needs are supported—and I believe that it does—then we should ask not only whether compelling unwilling fathers to provide that support is better than leaving those children unsupported; we should ask whether unwilling fathers are the best solution altogether. And framed that way, I find it impossible to claim that it is. Depending on unwilling fathers is, in fact, a sloppy and ineffective solution for ensuring children's welfare. Setting aside the questions of enforcement and father's willingness, imagining that all unwilling fathers nonetheless provide what support they can, the vagaries of fathers' fortunes will too often leave children wanting.

I was wrong to ignore the problem of children's material needs in my proposal, but to say “let fathers take care of it” and leave it at that is dismissive of the same fundamental problem. We need a better solution that provides for all children, and it's hard for me to imagine such a solution which doesn't involve a categorically greater level of government investment than we have now. That is a necessary precondition for the kind of policy I proposed above.

Supporting reproductive freedom for men isn't the most important reason to make a government commitment to ensuring that children's needs are provided for, but it is a nice side benefit.


China said...

oooooooooooooh....Miniver, I *hope* I can find a hot minute to compose some thoughts to respond to your post. You bring up some excellent points and I agree it is mostly a stinky kettle of fish that we are dealing with.

Thanks for taking the time to share this. It certainly will give me pause to frame some words around my thoughts and experiences in this matter.

J'Carlin said...

Sorry, condoms are reliable enough that sex without one is tacitly admitting responsibility for the pregnancy. Even if the woman is lying about contraception. Yeah, there will be the oddball cases where she bites the end off. But one wonders how the man allowed himself to get into that kind of a situation. In some cases abstinence at least for the night is a reasonable choice.

Jonathan Korman said...

Agreed in terms of personal ethics, J'Carlin. But is that what we should legislate? And what about the case where the condom fails?

Anonymous said...

Here's a proposal I've offered elsewhere.

Instead of a paper abortion, why not have it so that the father of any child born will have the presumption of shared custody with the mother. If he declines a fifty-fifty split in childcare then child support will be awarded to the mother(or vice versa.)


Anonymous said...

I am a strong believer in the mens rights movement and I really don't know where you get the idea that we think men should make abortion decisions. For me and the activists I know it is quite simply not true.

I have no problem with women and I am just looking to be able to make the same choices they are able to. One of these choices is the unilateral decision to be a parent or not. She should be able to have an abortion or have the child and give it up for adoption if she wants. All I am asking for is a similar right, to just walk away before I ever become a parent.

Oh and one last thing. You think married men should be liable for the child no matter what? That is not fair at all! It is like saying married women should not be allowed to have abortions!

Anonymous said...

"If a married woman gets pregnant, her husband is responsible for the support of the child if she brings it to term. That's part of the package when you get married."

Are you including children from affairs in this? I assume not, but clarification would be ideal.

Anonymous said...

Here's the major problem with trying to sort out cutting off child support to a child after it's born. In most states Child Support is considered to be a right of the child's not the mother. Therefore she has no right to terminate it.

J'Carlin said...

With condom failure rates in single digits. It is not worth worrying about in law or ethics. If the DNA is yours on purpose of by accident you are on the hook for support. If you don't like the rules don't play the game. Rosy Palm never sued anybody. If I suspect a predator, I walk away. It is never worth the risk.

Your Bro said...

I think you've talked yourself into a terrible position. It sounds like you're saying that because women have extra time to control their "parental destiny" (because they can abort a fetus after conception), men should have a similar post-conception right. Where that breaks down is when you look at parental responsibilities as the critical consideration (rather than parental rights, and this notion of a right to parental destiny or self-determination). The way you've put it suggests that a woman's actions after finding out she's pregnant (or rather inaction, by not having an abortion) somehow force responsibility upon a man that he may not want. This isn't the right way to think about it, when really that responsibility was put in motion by the prior acts of both parties (ignoring the trash scavenging scenario, which is not really at the heart of this issue).

More importantly, while an abortion reduces everyone's responsibility for the future child to zero, giving men a mechanism to unilaterally shift 100% of the responsibility to someone else (the mother, presumably) doesn't fix any imbalance. This isn't any different than saying it's okay for men to issue ultimatums to women: have an abortion or I will absolve myself of all responsibility, essentially giving a free pass to men who would already abandon children.

If you want to fix the imbalance in men's control over their parental destiny, the appropriate place to focus attention is prior to conception (more/better male birth control options), not on post-conception male rights.

Demonspawn said...

"Reproductive rights are derived from the right to bodily autonomy."

It absolutely shocks me how many people talk about abortion having never read Roe v. Wade.

For your (and Amanda's) reference, an excerpt from the majority decision in RvW:

"This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. (1)Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. (2) Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. (3) Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. (4) There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it." [Enumeration is mine]

denelian said...

there are, so far as i know, two reasons why feminists "ignore" this problem.

the first is that SO MANY people have been using this argument, and similar arguments, for DECADES as part of the effort to get rid of abortion and control women.

the second is that NONE of us can think of a way to do this that cannot be abused and doesn't make life WORSE for the child involved.

while it is true that it's "unfair" to "force" man to pay child support for a child he doesn't want, it is MORE unfair to not have the child support for the child it it's needed.

i use scare quotes for a reason, and that is that it is MUCH more likely that it's MAN forcing decisions - forcing a woman to keep a pregnancy, or forcing a woman to get an abortion.

but even if we ignore that - the PROBLEM is that you go from an abstract collection of cells that ALREADY has at least a 25% chance of spontaneous abortion [i.e. miscarriage] and that is completely supported in all ways by the mother, to an actual, independent, discrete individual. that has NEEDS [not wants. NEEDS]

further, it's NOT always automatic child support. there are only a couple types of cases where CS is mandatory -

if the woman NEEDS state aid of some kind [and isn't aware that she can say "i don't know who the father is"] the STATE will sue for CS, because the CHILD needs aid but the government has decided that it's better for the country AS A WHOLE to make the bio fathers specifically pay for that [when they can] rather than make tax-payers as whole pay for that.
and i can't disagree with ANY of that, really - those kids *DO* need the support, and in many cases [not ALL - MANY] i do feel that it IS the father's responsibility to at least pay some money. and please note - it's NOT actually a lot, unless you don't pay for a while.

the only other time where there's some sort of almost automatic/mandatory CS is when the father wants to be involved - he sues for paternity, say, or insists on being on the birth cert. and even then, it ONLY happens if *HE* brings suit for something, or SHE sues for child support. according to my sociology class two years ago, in these types of cases, the fathers trying to get out of paying CS are generally sueing for custody - in general, if the father wants to be part of the child's life, the money itself isn't the issue - if it *IS*, the court will probably react BADLY to it.

but back to the general.
women have that "delay" built in because of our biology, as you noted.

in a VERY real way, we're allowed to decide to keep a pregnancy or not because we're the ones taking the very real risks
and it *IS* risky - pregnancy is dangerous. it kills, it mains, it cripples.

how is THAT fair? how is it fair that a man can BE a father because, in essence, his penis sneezed in a woman's vagina - but a WOMAN can't become a mother without, at minimum, playing host to a parasite for 9 months and risking life and limb to do so?

not everything is FAIR.


denelian said...

if you want this *FIXED*, we need MORE OPTIONS. we need more - and better! - birth control, for one.
we need boy to be taught that pregnacy happens to THEM, TOO - that's part of the problem, boys are essentially being told that pregnancy is JUST a woman's problem, and really has NOTHING to do with them - and then get someone pregnant and are SHOCKED that they are expected to HELP TAKE CARE OF THE BABY THEY HELPED MAKE.

we need TRULY comprehensive sex ed.

we need society to STOP viewing pregnancy as a "punishment" for women who have had sex [and you know a large portion of society DOES believe this, especially on the right]

we need many medical advances that aren't even being EXPLORED, because companies are getting rich on viagra and prozac, and don't look to new things - like the aformentioned better BC, like artificial wombs, like other things i can't even IMAGINE because we've done almost ZERO new research into this stuff [all these "new" BC pills? are either variations of the old, repackaged, or BC they've been trying to get approved for decades. the Implanon is just a shorter version of the Norplant, and that became available in the early 90s, and work started in the late 70s on it. the IUD is just a refined version opf the old IUD. etc ad infinum]

and i believe that THAT is where the answer to this "problem" [which is MUCH less of a prblem than MRAs make it seem, at least in the WAY they make it seem...]

Jonathan Korman said...

Thank you to all of my commenters for taking time.

A few of you have suggested that the vigorous pursuit of better birth control options for men is vitally important in addressing the challenges of this question. I agree wholeheartedly, and am baffled by the occasional article one sees on the subject that suggests that of course, men will have little interest in an equivalent to the Pill; I believe quite the opposite, that men would be keenly interested indeed.

In the meantime, however, we need to construct policy for the world we have.

Denelian and Your Bro suggest that a man who has sex has, by having sex, committed to an implicit and automatic responsibility to a child that ultimately issues from the union. I cannot see any daylight between this argument and the anti-abortion argument that a woman who has sex has responsibility for a child that ultimately issues from the union, and therefore would be a murderer of that child if she aborts the pregnancy.

Jonathan Korman said...

One Anonymous reports that he has never heard MRAs make the argument that men should be able to control whether women have abortions. I have encountered this argument a few times in personal conversations, but it may be atypical.

For the record, I abhor the Men's Rights Movement, for being transparently misogynistic and antifeminist. To have the agreement of an MRA and the criticism of feminists inspires me to skepticism that my own proposal is wise, but I remain dissatisfied with the critiques I have seen in this conversation so far.

Another Anonymous asks if a married man should be responsible for a child conceived in an affair his wife has. I don't think this is integral to the fundamental policy question I'm raising; an argument could be made either way. Personally, when I consider the fella who belatedly learns that the nine-year-old he has raised is not "his own," I would think that actual lived family is more important that blood, and so I would be inclined to say that marriage is a serious enough commitment that it includes responsibility for whatever children it produces, even in the wake of an affair.

Jonathan Korman said...

Denelian raises several relevant points, many of which I agree with.

As I said above, I agree that we need to make a real effort to improve the range of birth control options available to men (and women), as well as more exotic reproductive technologies so that we all have better control over our reproductive destinies. We need better sex education. We need to protect women's access to abortion because of the high stakes of pregnancy. We need to ensure that children are supported with the resources they need.

To that last point, though: as this interest justifies the intervention of the state I do not understand why it would be best to make those resources dependent upon the mother identifying the father, the state locating the father, and the father being able to pay. Surely if our interest is so compelling, we can find a more reliable way to fund it.

If we must fund the system through fathers, then this logic suggests that we should work to reduce those potential points of failure. Perhaps we should maintain a DNA database of all men, and require that men report their whereabouts so that the database is current? This would resolve the problems of the identification and location of fathers. But I hope most readers would agree that this is a troubling solution, which suggests that supporting needy children by drawing upon their fathers is not an interest that trumps all others.

J'Carlin said...

Perhaps it would be useful to refocus on the child's rights if the woman chooses to carry it to term. Does the child loose the right to financial support at the very least, simply because daddy said "Sorry kid the condom slipped?" Or, worse "I was drunk and forgot the condom?"

Mistakes have consequences and when the consequences are living breathing people, "Sorry" is simply not adequate. I agree that encouraging abortion (and paying for it) is a better option, but if the persuasion does not work, financial support at the very least is morally and legally required. Not incidentally support issues may not be used to coerce an abortion.

J'Carlin said...

Sorry, if the kids are needy because the prick that made them refuses to pay his share society shouldn't have to pick up the pieces. Society obviously will, but it should not be a legal requirement.

denelian said...

i just thought of an option.

pre-sex "paper abortions"

that is, BEFORE you have sex with X person, you go and file a statement that you DO NOT WANT TO HAVE A CHILD IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM.

if a pregnancy THEN happens [and it happens to be a person who WILL keep the child] then it's ALL on the person who DIDN'T sign such a paper.

i think this would be fine - the woman is walking into the SEX with eyes wide open. [and i guarantee that many women? wouldn't have sex with guys who would file this form, thus making it even LESS likely that he'd be stuck]

because it's about responsibility - you need to make the decision BEFORE sex as to what you'd do. i have NEVER had sex without discussing it first [although i HAVE been lied to about it - the guy who poked holes in condoms and got me pregnant against my will was ALSO a guy who told me he loved me and he DIDN'T want to get me pregnant and risk my life, because i have porphyria and pregnancy will kill me]

how's that for an idea?
and please note - i'm completely serious. i would get behind such a plan. so long as it was PRE-sex.

denelian said...

also - i'd like to point out that the REASON the State has decided to go after the father for child support is because of Regan and his "Welfare Queen" bullshit - before Regan and the Republicans [that should totally be a punk band name] there WASN'T presumptive child support from the father - if the mother needed state assistance, she just got it, no going after the father at ALL.

Regan decided [and spent gods know how much in propoganda convincing a huge portion of the populace] that this was "cheating" - that these couples weren't getting married SPECIFICALLY to "steal" welfare from the state, but in all other ways were acting as "married couples" and that the fathers were THERE and helping raise the child, but ALSO bilking money from the state by the woman claiming that she WASN'T getting the support she was, in fact, getting.
the fact this was NOT true for the VAST majority of single mothers DID NOT MATTER. it was POSSIBLE, and so Regan [and the Republicans] pushed for the current system.

NOT feminists - feminists FOUGHT this system, and failed.

so, people who HATE this system - blame the correct people. Regan and Republicans and the Right.

Factory said...

You guys are right...giving men the same reproductive rights as women is impossible...

I guess that only leaves one alternative..

It's time to start limiting women's choices to mirror mens.

After all, doing otherwise is impossible right?

Somehow, I think if it ever came to that you sexists would come up with all sorts of different ways for men to achieve parity.

Hypocrites much?

Jonathan Korman said...


I entirely agree with the sentiment of your two newest comments.

As your pre-sex legal agreement suggestion implies, this is a place where we do a very poor job in our society of supporting clear consent around sex --- or even being able to conceive of what that would mean. That's true along many dimensions, which is why the feminist critique of “rape culture” is no exaggeration; the mistreatment you've experienced is a dramatic demonstration.

So sign me up.

As for the current sorry state of affairs in supporting single mothers, please don't misunderstand me as blaming feminists or feminism. Your description of the Republican war on AFDC is entirely correct.

I have to confess that my original post irresponsibly implies that my proposal would be a good idea in isolation. But that's obviously not true. For it to make sense, it has to be one part of a coherent plan to better ensure that we provide for children's needs. When time permits, I plan to write about that at greater length.

Jonathan Korman said...

Factory, that is the furthest thing from my intent. I invite your suggestions for how I might make that more clear.

denelian said...


the info about Regan wasn't aimed at YOU, but rather at the people who *DO* blame feminists for the situation :)

that said - i like my idea. i have NO CLUE if it's a *GOOD* idea - i like it because it's a thing that will legally require people to walk into sex with some measure of full-disclosure - and, to an extent, punishes LACK of full disclosure.

and would, in THEORY, make it a small bit easier to say "it was really rape". "prove it" "he never filed a pre-sex form" "oh, good point..."

now, it could ALSO prove that it "wasn't" rape "prove it, he filed the form!" "that was SIX MONTHS AGO and we've broken up since!" "sure you have, whatever" so OBVIOUSLY there's a LOT more than can be desired....

Anonymous said...

vs. "Denelian and Your Bro suggest that a man who has sex has, by having sex, committed to an implicit and automatic responsibility to a child that ultimately issues from the union. I cannot see any daylight between this argument and the anti-abortion argument that a woman who has sex has responsibility for a child that ultimately issues from the union, and therefore would be a murderer of that child if she aborts the pregnancy."

Really? I can see a lot of daylight, i.e. the whole period in which there's a pregnancy but the woman, the law, and/or I don't believe there is a child yet. That's the only point at which the woman's rights differ (IMO), and they differ only because it's her body taking the risk of the abortion or pregnancy. Once there's a child, no-one has the right to murder it and its parents owe it support.

If abortion were impossible for our species for biological reasons, wouldn't this be an easier case? Both had sex, child ensued, child needs support. It's only the possibility of abortion that makes it complicated, and I think we all agree that that has to be the woman's choice. If no abortion, one is in no-abortion world and both owe support.

I actually can't feel how this is unfair to men; not having the choice doesn't seem nearly as terrifying as having to make the choice.

(In the horrible case of the condom from the wastebasket, I think the father owes the child support because it's his child, but the mother owes the father something for ... I don't know what that is. Some kind of fraud or IP theft.)

denelian said...

latest Anon -

i like it! one can argue that one's own genes are the ULTIMATE in Intellectual Property - so it's a damned good idea.
[although we should walk softly - otherwise, certain corporations are going to start buying the IP of a person's genes... Michael Crichton wrote a book about just that, and while i'm MOSTLY sure that the Bill of Rights would prohibit a good chunk of what happened in the book... corporations are now "people", so... i sometimes worry. then i decide i'm being paranoid. then i decide i'm RIGHT to be paranoid... i've spread it out over the week: on Monday's i'm optomistic, on Tuesdays i worry, on Wenesdays i decide i'm paranoid, on Thursdays i decide i'm right to be paranoid, on Fridays i decide the entire world is insane, on Saturdays i go with solopsism and blame myself for creating such a crazy world, and Sundays i take off :D]

i hear what you're saying, and it's not that i don't agree with you [i obviously do!] but rather i can see the other side without assuming it's correct - and a scheme that has consent over abortion decided BEFORE any pregnancy could happen would, i think, solve all problems - and allow people to not have sex with people who have different notions. again, at least in theory. theory isn't reality, to be sure, and people lie all the time - but at least there would be some BASIS for how these things are decided before the decision even becomes necessary.

*shrug* there are some MRAs who feel that women should never be allowed to abort, who feel that *they* are the ones who should make the decision about abortion, or who feel non-married women should *always* abort. it varies - but at heart, it's all the same thing - she should have NO right while he has ALL rights. they want to turn the clock back a century. it isn't, gods pray, actually possible - but.

there are some people who will NEVER believe that women have ANY right to decide about their own bodies, if they made the choice to have sex. we simply have to outlive them.

Jonathan Korman said...

I actually can't feel how this is unfair to men

Again, the bottom line: Given women's access to abortion, women cannot be forced into parental responsibility as a consequence of sex, but we have strong legal mechanisms ensuring that men can be.

Defenders of abortion rights do not accept “she should have thought of that before she had sex” from anti-abortion activists, yet many of them will defend this status quo by saying “he should have thought of that before he had sex.”

denelian said...

my idiocy aside, there was a point i made that is a point to whomever makes it.

women have mere WEEKS to decide, in almost all cases, or LESS. depends on when they realize they're pregnant. they don't have a lot of time.

and it still isn't about "parental responsibility" but about "bodily integrity".

[damn, i feel so bad for mixing you up!!!! please, please forgive me!]

Jonathan Korman said...

Again, I would submit that both bodily integrity and parental responsibility are in play. Sovereignty over one's body is why the abortion decision must rest solely in the pregnant woman's hands. But parental responsibility is why access to abortion and birth control is so vitally important; it's why Planned Parenthood has the name it does.

(Readers puzzled by denelian's "idiocy" should know that it's a reference to a batch of bogus comments denelian accidentally made. You cannot see them because I cleared them off the page.)

denelian said...

thanks for the clean-up, Jonathan - and i'm sorry, again, that i mixed people up. sigh.
[it's ESPECIALLY bad cuz you're a cool dude, and i was confusing you with the least cool dude ever! *sob* at least now i'm pretty sure i won't make the same mistake again lol ]

i know that you think it's both, but it's only both in a few situations. we've covered it before.

hrm... know anyone who can try to draw up a proposal based on that pre-sex-registry idea? we could work on trying to get it implemented.

Anonymous said...

"Really? I can see a lot of daylight, i.e. the whole period in which there's a pregnancy but the woman, the law, and/or I don't believe there is a child yet. That's the only point at which the woman's rights differ (IMO), and they differ only because it's her body taking the risk of the abortion or pregnancy. Once there's a child, no-one has the right to murder it and its parents owe it support."

Oh really? Are you so disingenuous or simply ignorant? Are you NOT aware that a woman can "drop" a new-born in the state's hand after she delivered it?