While many feminists rail against the notion that religio-conservatives are attacking women’s reproductive rights, many might be surprised to learn that in North America, men do not have reproductive rights to protect.
Many people think that reproductive rights are about what happens to a woman. This is a symptom of gynocentric thought. Humans, a mammalian species, reproduce sexually, that is it takes a male and a female to conceive a child. It’s is not women who reproduce, exclusively, but men and women together. Reproductive rights extend beyond pregnancy to the raising of a human child until such time as it can become independent.
Men’s Rights Activists stand for everyone having full choice as to whether to become a parent or not. We have no interest in legally denying anyone the right to control their reproduction, we seek equitable reproductive rights for all persons regardless of sex.
Men also want what women have: fertility control and reproductive autonomy.
Let us start the discussion at a logical beginning.
Contraception and reproductive rights are not the same thing. Contraception is not a reproductive right, but a strategy to prevent conception. Reproductive rights come into effect only at the moment of conception–the initial stage of reproduction.
Fertility control and contraception.
There is a distinction between fertility control and simple contraception. Fertility control involves processes to increase, decrease or halt the body’s natural reproductive functions.
Contraceptives are devices or methods used to prevent the interaction the male-female reproductive interactions that lead to conception.
As of the time of this writing, women have the opportunity to enjoy a vast number of contraceptive methods, a good number of them being both discreet (private) and reversible:
- Birth Control Implant (Implanon and Nexplanon)
- Birth Control Patch (Ortho Evra)
- Birth Control Pills
- Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera)
- Birth Control Sponge (Today Sponge)
- Birth Control Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
- Breastfeeding as Birth Control
- Cervical Cap (FemCap)
- Female Condom
- Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FAMs)
- Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception)
- Sterilization for Women
- Withdrawal (Pull Out Method)
Here are men’s current choices:
- Withdrawal (Pull Out Method)
- Applied heat
There is an excellent candidate that is safe, effective, discreet and reversible, known as Vasalgel. It is still in testing phrase with the FDA in the United States and is not yet available in Canada (but I’m working on it).
Also, for clarity’s sake, a condom is not a fertility control device but a barrier device.
“Women have the pill, why should we trust men to control their own fertility?”
Some have used the objection that if men had discreet fertility control methods that the line “I’m on the pill” would be a way for men to defraud women into pregnancy.
This argument is surprising, since it seems evident that if such a fertility control method existed for men, that in no way would women be precluded from continuing to use their own fertility control methods.
Once a woman conceives, she has the following rights:
1) Terminate pregnancy.
2) Carry pregnancy to term and
2a) Legally abandon the child, or
2b) Raise the child
3a) To legally assign paternity rights to a man (on the birth certificate)
3b) To deny legal paternity rights to a man.
1) and 2) are reproductive rights that a woman has before a child is birthed. 2a), 2b), 3a) and 3b) are all postpartum reproductive rights. All are assigned to the woman, none to the man.
“Don’t men have the right to have children?”
Our rights extend only to the point of providing sperm to inseminate a consenting woman’s egg. One conception has occurred, all rights that can be enjoyed belong exclusively to the woman. Obligations and duties, however, can be imposed on men and enforced until the child reaches the age of majority.
Her body, her choice.
When it comes to pregnancy: Her body, her choice. Given the physical risks associated with the pregnancy, if we accept that people should be treated as the masters of their bodies and their lives, the only correct measure is to respect the individual’s wishes and choices. It is up to the woman to choose whether or not she is willing to take this risk.
The inevitable downside to this for men, of course, is that he has no say in the matter. It’s an unpleasant fact, but it is fair.
His body, her choice.
At no point, postpartum, does the man enjoy the benefit of equivalent rights to those of a woman.
- Should the man wish to be part of the child’s life, the mother can exclude him, the man has no recourse.
- Should the mother choose to abandon the child, and the man wishes to care for the child, she can exclude him and he has no recourse.
- Should the man not wish to be part of the child’s life, the mother can use the state to enforce submission to state-imposed financial obligations upon him until the child reaches the age of majority.
The woman dictates and controls all of the options, and the man has no say or legal avenues available to him. His state of parenthood is purely dictated by the female.
“But bearing a child is far more dangerous for a woman than a man!”
The claim that motherhood, given the burdens of pregnancy and childbirth is more difficult than the male’s role in the reproductive is certainly true–and it is a choice that a woman makes of her own accord, as a free adult. When the woman is the only one who has the choice to permit conception and pregnancy to come to term, this inequity is not a reason to enforce laws that forces fatherhood on unwilling men.
“Keep it in your pants buddy!”
In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent, they are consenting to have sex. The oft-heard argument is “If you didn’t want the responsibility of being a father, you should have kept your penis in your pants!”.
This argument places all of the responsibility for reproduction on the male, and none on the female–the only one who has any choice in the matter. Let us reverse the roles for a moment: Would society dare tell an adult woman that she should abstain from sex unless she intends to create a child? Other than the Catholic church, I know of nobody in these modern days who could do so without being accused of being a misogynist and of wanting to keep women in their place. If “sexual liberation” is something that women are entitled to–why would men not also be?
With far more contraceptive options (many of which can be used simultaneously) and the only one having any reproductive rights, and the only one who is able to use discreet contraception and lie about it if she’s of such a character, the only security available to men is complete abstinence unless one has the specified goal of creating a child.
Even when raped, the male can be held liable.
This is so ingrained in law (and in our culture) that there are examples of where a woman will have raped a man, or committed statutory rape and the man or boy is STILL responsible to bear the burden of raising a child at the penalty of garnisheed wages and potential prison sentences. One extreme case comes to mind where a 34 year old woman raped a 15 year old boy, and he was found responsible for paying for the child.
Victims have rights. Here, the victim also has responsibilities.
A 34-year-old woman seduces a 15-year-old boy and becomes pregnant. She gives birth to a daughter and thereafter applies for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Is the child’s father obligated to pay child support even though he is a victim of statutory rape? (Pen. Code, ? 261.5, subd. (d).) We conclude he is liable for child support.
County of San Luis Obispo v. Nathaniel J. (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 842 , 57 Cal.Rptr.2d 843
Would we force a 15 year old female rape victim to bear and raise the child? This 15 year old boy must pay his rapist the price of raising a child to the age of majority or face having his wages garnished, or going to the equivalent of debtor’s prison. As the boy, at the time, was below the legal age to be allowed to work, and having no work experience whatsoever, will he be branded as a “deadbeat dad”?
If a 15 year old boy who was statutorily raped can be held responsible for a child’s life, longer than he himself has lived, where are the cries from the radical feminists who decry “Don’t blame the victim!”. This is a sexist double standard at it’s most evident. What do we think when the roles are reversed?
Cuckoldry a.k.a Paternity Fraud.
The previously mentioned obligations of forced paternity can apply to men who are in fact NOT the genetic parent of the child but can still (and often is, and often though duplicity) be held responsible for paying the mother a significant portion of his income until the child reaches the age of majority. This has even held in cases where paternity tests have proven no genetic linkage to the child.
No paternity test is required by law at or near the point of birth. A woman can always be sure that the child that she is giving birth to is hers, as a direct witness, requiring only that she look down. The man can never have such assurances, save for a paternity test, after the fact.
More dangerous for men yet, the State (at least in Canada) will transfer parental obligations to the man that is married to the woman in question, even in proven cases of cuckoldry. Common law marriages in Canada are automatically assigned the status of “marriage” after a number of months (this varies by province) of co-habitation.
Should a man take a woman at her word that she’s using some form of contraceptive device, and eschew a condom, placing his trust in her, and she, intentionally lies about using the contraceptive in order to meet her own desire to have a child, the man is a victim of paternity fraud. The “Oops Baby” method is quite common and spoken openly amongst women.
Abuses that men must contend with.
In a world of imperfect humans, the following scenarios are a reality of life.
- The man is not informed of the pregnancy.
- The man is informed of the pregnancy, but only years later, when he learns that he must pay child support–and often retroactive child support.
- The man’s contraceptive device has been deliberately tampered with (poking a hole in the condom, for example.)
- The man’s sperm has been stolen from a condom
- The woman has wilfully or accidentally allowed a man other than the named father to impregnate her.
- Woman wilfully fails to use of her own discreet contraceptive but assures the man that she is using it.
- Women who make improper use of the pill (skipping a few, or taking them with antibiotics).
- A surrogate mother violates her contract, sues the sperm and egg donor for child-support.
- Women who have used a sperm bank sue for child support.
- There are those of baser character who use the state’s power and money as a means to support themselves. The state is too frequently used as a surrogate husband, enabling a woman to use force-by-proxy to extract money from a man.
- Some women seek impregnation as a means to suing a man for child-custody. Worse yet are those who “double dip”, that is to sue for alimony and child-custody payments from multiple men simultaneously.
In each of these cases, the law grants women full rights to the man’s money–the time-of-life and physical energy exerted converted into currency. The man has no say in the matter. His life can, quite literally, be stolen away from him with no recourse. It is what Amy Alkon calls “transforming casual sex into cashflow sex”.
The most obvious solution is to grant men reproductive rights in law. Easy to say, but what of the details?
[2013-11-16 placeholder: items to be fleshed out.
- Access to contraceptives such as Vasalgel;
- Educational, social and governmental programmes and frameworks.
- Legal framework.
- Mandatory paternity test at birth.
- Opt-in/Opt-out contracts.
- Repudiation of tender years doctrine.
- Reform of family court and governmental “child care’ systems.
- Discussion of impacts on above reforms from interpersonal, cultural, political and legal standpoint.
The legal scholar Jane Murphy offers:
Rather than punish men (or women) for their apparent reproductive irresponsibility by coercing legal paternity (or maternity), the government has other options, such as mandatory sex education, family planning counselling, or community service.
I agree that the above are excellent suggestions to add to the mix, if the mix includes a safe, discreet, reversible and effective means of contraception for men, and were men to have the following rights:
- the right to know with nearly the same degree of certainty as the mother, the provenance of the child
- the right to opt-in or opt-out of parenthood
Many injustices against men would be avoided, and the multi-year, very expensive, and often (literally) life destroying meat-grinder of family court could be averted. This would significantly reduce the number of abortions, and unwanted pregnancy and single-parent situations.
This of course leads us to a discussion of abuse of divorce laws and discrimination against men in “Family” court, which shall be addressed in another article.
I will conclude with a quote by Kerrie Thornhill in her article A feminist argument against child support:
Voluntary fatherhood—combined with voluntary motherhood via contraception and abortion, as well as an ensured minimum standard of living for children—is a better formula for happy and healthy families.
I couldn’t agree more.
Other articles on the subject.
- Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?
- Make fatherhood a man’s choice!
- A feminist argument against child support
- When is it illegal to make reproductive choices for others? When you’re a man.
- Presumed Fathers Act: Should a Man Pay Child Support Even If He is Not the Biological Father?