Up at Black Like Moi, the question being asked is, if a woman can choose to abort a child, can a man choose not to pay child support? Or to put it less bluntly, if having a child is a woman’s choice, is it still a man’s responsibility? I’m sorry ladies, but this issue warrants a good airing out.
For my part, I’ve always believed that the divvying up of reproductive rights, and by that I mean men having none, is the main reason that some men feel no responsibility toward their kids. In their minds, the mother chose – on her own, usually without or against his input – to have the child so she bears the sole responsibility of caring for it. As a friend reminded me, you have to ask yourself; what if a woman was forced to carry a child to term against her will, what kind of mother would she be? Point being, anytime one parent is forced into that role against their will, problems ensue. It’s a breeding ground for resentment.
This question of choice, or lack thereof, is poisoning the well. Women have the right to control what happens with their bodies, but since what happens inside a woman’s body can lead to a child, isn’t it fair to ask whether a man has the right to control when (or if) he becomes a father?
A man’s only control with regard to whether he’ll become a parent is at the point of conception, and granted, if both men and women exhibited more self-control here, this whole discussion would be moot. But the point is that although it takes two people to get pregnant, it is the woman’s choice to remain that way. This isn’t politically correct, I know, but it is an underlying cause for child abandonment.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. And so you can’t discuss what’s best for the child once it gets here without addressing how the choices were made before the child was born, or should I say, who held the authority to make the choice of whether or not the child even made it here at all.
To be fair, it does seem that the man should either a) have a say in whether the pregnancy is terminated or b) have an avenue to opt out financially (at least to some degree). I don’t like either of these choices but when I think of it only in terms of rights, it does seem clear that there is an erosion of the rights of men in the reproductive arena. Once the child arrives, the courts make provisions to secure the child’s best interest. And I totally get that. But again, at whose expense?
In our society women have the right to choose and men do not. But society has no problem using all of the state’s resources to enforce the father’s parental obligations once the child is born. That, to me, seems a bit lopsided. It would seem that fairness would dictate that a man should have more reproductive rights, and if he can’t have more rights, then he should have less responsibility.
And for those who are undoubtedly going to accuse me of giving men an opt out button, all I can say is – look around. Men are opting out at record numbers already. The question is how do we bring them back? In my estimation, we could begin by being fair.
We women have always made the case that we own the rights to our bodies, point blank and period. It does seem that we prematurely ended the discussion. It’s time to start talking again.