A man's right to choose

By Cathy Young

By Letters to the Editor

Published October 23, 2000 7:11AM (EDT)

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Kudos to Cathy Young for "A Man's Right to Choose," a thoughtful and balanced article with a message that, unfortunately, many women don't want to hear. No one should be forced to accept responsibility for a situation in which they have no rights, but that's exactly what happens when a woman decides on her own whether to abort an unborn child (with or without the father's knowledge or consent) or bear the child and demand that the father provide financial support, whether he feels he's ready for fatherhood or not. Laws should be rewritten so that men have the same rights as women in this regard: If the father prefers to "walk away" from the situation, he should be legally allowed to do so, just as women are legally allowed to walk away from pregnancy by having an abortion.

-- Tom Johnson

I fully support the concept that it is the woman who has the ultimate say in how to handle an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. However, if the father does not want to have a child, and the mother carries the fetus to term, the father should be allowed full relief from any financial responsibility, provided he formally declares his intent within the first three months of pregnancy. This would not come without a price: I believe the father should also be restricted from having any direct personal contact with the child, and the child should have no legal claim to his estate, as is the usually the case in adoptions. If the father later has a change of heart, and the child agrees, he should be allowed to go through a formal adoption procedure to restore his full parental rights, and the child's right of inheritance. This makes responsibility equal to authority for both parents, and is ultimately in the child's best interests.

-- Michael Spindler

As executive vice president of the National Coalition of Free Men (NCFM), an organization cited in Cathy Young's article, I would like to respond to an error in her article that results in a grave misrepresentation of our organization's position with regard to the issue of abortion and parental choice.

At the outset, let me point out that we applaud most of the rest of the contents of Young's article, and the fact that Salon has the courage to confront the politically correct taboo against representing men's concerns regarding gender equality. However, I beg to differ on her representation of our stance on the issue of abortion and parental choice. Young gives her readers the impression that NCFM may support an anti-abortion agenda, and that we support the "Veto for Fathers" concept. This is incorrect on both counts. I am sure it was an unintentional oversight on her part.

The NCFM does NOT endorse the idea that the father should have the right to veto the mother's decision to abort a child. The NCFM is an educational nonprofit organization that seeks to educate the public, the media and our government on the ways in which sex discrimination affects men and boys. We are neither a liberal nor conservative organization and, as an organization, do not take either a pro-life or pro-choice stance. Rather, we seek only to point out that at this time men do not have reproductive rights equal to those enjoyed by women and that this problem must be remedied if both sexes are to have equal rights, responsibilities and protection under the law.

There are two obvious ways to give men and women equality with regard to the unilateral termination of their parental status after conception. One way is to make abortion illegal -- then neither men nor women would be allowed to terminate their parenthood. Another way is the one espoused by Choice for Men: to give men the right to sign a legal document unilaterally terminating their parental rights and responsibilities. NCFM does not advocate either option. We simply seek to put the issue on the table for discussion.

We invite you to visit our Web site to learn more about us.

-- Pradeep Ramanathan
Executive vice president
National Coalition of Free Men

This issue affects my current wife and me personally. A little over two years ago, I asked for a divorce from my then-wife. Within hours, she announced that she had just taken a pregnancy test, and that she was indeed pregnant. Long story short, even after weeks of discussion of how I wanted nothing to do with bringing a child into the world with her, especially in the middle of a divorce, she CHOSE to keep the baby. I tried everything in my power to get her to change her mind. I constantly explained that not only had I asked for the divorce, but that I had also moved to another town, and would not be there to help her in any way. This of course meant nothing to her, and as she put it, she "was going to do this on her own." This of course means that I am now stuck paying support for a child that was not wanted, nor planned on. I am now financially responsible for a child, for the next 18 years, that should not have been brought into this situation in the first place.

-- David E. Hall

Leave it to Cathy Young to bring "out of the box" thinking and explanation to a complex, emotional and divisive issue. I applaud her exceptional work and I applaud Salon for publishing it. As a founder of the moderated Choice4Men e-mail list, I am aware of the fractious nature of debate on this issue.

Many deny that a man should have any choice other than abstinence but when even insemination with "stolen sperm," as Young mentions in her article, results in liability that, too, is shown to be no choice at all.

Statutory rape? No defense! Boys who do not have the legal capacity to consent are saddled with a father's obligation of support. If such a child fell behind on those support payments, would he be found in contempt and jailed? If not the boy then what of the boy's parents?

We thought that debtors' prisons were a thing of the past but from the number of men who are in jail for failing to support children, even those biologically unrelated to them, that notion is hard to defend.

This is an issue whose time is coming. The damage to men, to children, to families, to second wives and to trust between the sexes demands it.

-- Alan S. Atwood

Oh my gosh! Men are being treated unfairly when women are making decisions to end a pregnancy or bring it to term against the father's wishes! The poor fellas! They get paid more, discriminated against less and in general are given far more opportunities to succeed in life than women are. So this really is a travesty that they can't have control over women's bodies, too. Of course, many of them eagerly participate in sex with not much thought about preventing pregnancy, but why should that matter when their lives are being wrecked by the thoughtless women in their lives?

Please. I think men should just get used to the idea that they can't have everything the way they want it. Women certainly have to.

-- Marci Lambert

I think Cathy Young made some good points in her article about whether men should have more input in deciding whether to end a pregnancy. But I think she was too dismissive of the idea that men need to take more responsibility for birth control. Lots of men refuse to wear condoms, or simply don't consider birth control, believing that it's the woman's problem. If a man really isn't ready to have a child, he should take every precaution he can. And if he's anti-abortion, he should discuss that with his partner before the "accident" happens. I think Young's article would have been better if she had mentioned some things that men could do to improve their situation, rather than just complaining about the way things are now.

-- Christine U'Ren

I was rather surprised at the lack of mention of a "pill" for men. While not covering all aspects of the issue, a pill inhibiting the production of viable sperm would certainly seem to free men from entrapment in unwanted fatherhood. Not from sexually transmitted diseases, but that's a different article.

-- Barbara Goldstein

The right to child support is not a right of the custodial parent. If it were, then I could certainly understand Young's concern over the imposition of the duty to pay child support on unconsenting parents. However, in most, if not all, jurisdictions, the right to child support lies with the child. A child has no control over the circumstances of his/her conception, and, as such, should not be held responsible for the behavior of his/her parents.

It is true that most suits for non-payment of child support are brought by a custodial parent. Closer examination, however, usually reveals that the suit is brought in the name of the child. In fact, it is quite possible for a minor child to bring an action for child support without the consent or cooperation of either parent. In such a case, the court would appoint a guardian to prosecute the case and to protect the interests of the child.

Unlike many of the issues being bandied about in these heady, pre-election days, the right to child support actually is about the children.

-- Richard Anderson

Six years ago, I became pregnant by a man who swore he'd had a vasectomy. When I told him I was pregnant, he proceeded to tell our neighbors that I had had sex with half the men in the neighborhood, then skipped town to avoid any financial responsibility. If stories like mine were less common, the men's rights guys might get more sympathy. Of course, their deep misogyny also repels potential supporters. (Don't believe me? Visit their Web sites and make sure you read past the first page.)

Forced pregnancy and forced abortion are not viable alternatives. The right to control what goes inside and stays inside one's own body is the most fundamental of human rights. I'm glad Cathy Young doesn't seem to want to allow men to control women's bodies. No man will ever die from complications of childbirth or abortion. However, Young seems to focus entirely too little on the effects of what she calls reproductive choice for men on children. She does not weigh a man's right to financial and reproductive choice against a child's right to the best possible chance at life, which means not just food, housing and shelter, but any advantages a parent's financial support can provide -- educational opportunities, better health care, a home in a better neighborhood.

Finally, Cathy Young's assertions that societal responses to men who abandon unwanted children constitute gender bias against men are just plain wrong. Men who abandon their children are called "irresponsible," women who have abortions are called "murderers."

-- Sherry E. Mead

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