The right to abandon your child

Posted: Mar 10, 2006 12:05 AM

This is one of those moments when you want to grab liberals by the lapels and demand, "Well, what did you expect?"

A group called the National Center for Men has filed a lawsuit they are calling "Roe v. Wade for Men." Here are the facts: A 25-year-old computer programmer named Matt Dubay of Saginaw, Mich., was ordered by a judge to pay $500 per month in child support for a daughter he fathered with his ex-girlfriend. His contention -- and that of the National Center for Men -- is that this requirement is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause.

Dubay does not dispute that he is the child's father. Rather, he claims that during the course of his relationship with the mother, he was given to understand that she could not become pregnant because of a physical condition. He insists that she knew he did not want to have children with her. The courts, he and his advocates argue, are forcing parenthood upon him in a way that they cannot do to a woman. Here's the money quote from the NCM website:

More than three decades ago Roe vs. Wade gave women control of their reproductive lives but nothing in the law changed for men. Women can now have sexual intimacy without sacrificing reproductive choice. Women now have the freedom and security to enjoy lovemaking without the fear of forced procreation. Women now have control of their lives after an unplanned conception. But men are routinely forced to give up control, forced to be financially responsible for choices only women are permitted to make, forced to relinquish reproductive choice as the price of intimacy.

The feminists may well be stumped by this argument. After all, they've based their abortion advocacy as a matter of women's reproductive rights. Is it logical to claim that women have reproductive rights that men lack? Yes, a woman has to carry an unplanned pregnancy for nine months and give birth. But Mr. Dubay, and many other men, are saddled with 18 years of child support. That's a pretty substantial inhibition of one's "reproductive freedom."

Imagine that John and Jane learn that she is pregnant. She has full latitude in the decision-making. She can decide, over his objections, to abort the child or to raise it alone (he'll be lucky to get generous visitation), or to place the child for adoption (in which case he can object, but only if he wants to raise the baby himself).

The National Center for Men could argue that since a man cannot oblige a woman to carry his child to term, neither should she be able to demand 18 years of child support from him. (The NCM has other complaints, too, and it's amusing to see the tables turned. They whine, for example, that men tend to die an average of eight years earlier than women, and that the overwhelming majority of the homeless are men. True. Is it the fault of the matriarchy?)

But the gravamen of the men's complaint is unwanted fatherhood. These poor fellows who have sex with women they do not want to marry or have children with are persecuted in this Brave New World we've created. When the only frame of reference is a competition of rights, both sexes strive to outdo one another in selfishness.

The point (and it is not one the feminists will find in their quiver) is that sexuality requires responsibility -- and that doesn't just mean using birth control. It means that if you engage in sex you have an automatic obligation to any child that may result. Pro-choice women have been vociferously rejecting this responsibility for decades. It should come as no surprise that men are inclined to do the same.

Roe v. Wade and the sexual carnival we've encouraged in this country ever since have planted the idea that men and women have some sort of constitutional right to enjoy sex without consequences. Mr. Dubay and all of those similarly situated (including women who use abortion as emergency contraception) should look into the faces of their sons and daughters and explain that it's nothing personal.