Thursday, March 23, 2006

Painful pregnancy or simple Ponzi scheme?

You know, if women actually got rich by "trapping" innocent men, getting them drunk and forcing them to spill their precious seed, we'd be living in a matriarchal society by now. There'd be Boys Gone Wild videos, dancing man-servants in those mansions all women have, and male nannies to care for our kids while we did our nails and ate our bon-bons.

While I don't see any of that happening, the groups who propose "equal reproductive rights for men" seem to see it, everywhere. At the center of their little morality play (Roe v. Wade For Men - like it's some sort of ad for unisex deodorant) and subsequent argument for their rights is always a wildly fertile femme who uses her apparently singular skills of manipulation and devious plotting to earn money through babymaking.

To them, her vagina is a cash register, complete with the ka-ching sound. She strings along all these little local Rockefellers by seduction, luring them in just to collect the millions in child support that'll have her living large in no time!

And, according to these deadbeat-dads-in-waiting, the only way to rectify their horrific, yet tragically doomed future is to allow men equal rights to decision-making when it comes to pregnancy. More pointedly: to opt out of responsibility, period.

(Did you think I was going to say "ask them to be responsible for their own protection?" Don't be silly! That's too easy.)

Since they shell-out those millions in support to keep the hideously deadly She SpiderMom in furs and jewels, they argue that they should be able to terminate parental responsibility and/or have a say in whether or not a woman has the child. After all, they reason, adoption is always an alternative for the woman if she doesn't want the responsibility of motherhood. Where are their options?

These poor oppressed men.

It almost sounds reasonable, until we think about the reality of an unwed mother's situation. Nobody offers her the right to reneg on her responsibilities, to opt-out, once she takes that child home. She is inherently responsible for feeding, clothing, nurturing, growing and meeting the needs of that child - whether or not the father is financially contributing. She must have the child attended by an adult at all times, if not her, then someone else. Should she be financially or otherwise unable to provide these things, she must seek help from others, including the government, to do what she cannot. And if she fails at these, she is legally punished.

The law already puts a larger burden on the female in the case of unwed parents. The father of the child doesn't have to take her to court to prove she's responsible for these basic details. The court impudes half the cost of yearly care to the mother, automatically. Because it isn't physically seen as money transferring from one set of hands to another, it's apparently discounted by those who argue for patriarchal equal rights.

Nevertheless, I defy anyone to raise a child on, say, $4,000 a year. Which is the amount of child support paid in Ohio by men making approximately $70,000 per year.

$4,000 a year will buy food for a child. It might, when stretched, also pay for clothing (if said clothing is purchased secondhand or cheaply). What it will not do, by any stretch of anyone's imagination, is provide housing, medical, food, clothing, school supplies, haircuts, musical instruments, recreational activities, school fees, and so on and so on.

But I digress. This isn't a discussion about money (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

It's about men's equal rights. And it's about time, too, since having only ruled our country for 200 some years men are certainly oppressed. So they want to have their say about whether or not a woman can bear their children and whether or not they should have to pay their half for said children. Oh, wait. I thought this wasn't about money...

A long time ago, a wise divorce attorney told me that every domestic relations case involving children that he handled boiled down to two issues; for the man, the issue was money. For the woman, the issue was the children. Men often used the children as leverage when it came to getting what they wanted (less spousal support) and women used the money as leverage to getting what they wanted (sole custody). Having worked in the field, I came to believe he was right.

But for some paternal rights advocates, it actually does go beyond money. Way beyond.
Up to, and including, the choice for abortion. Believe it or not.

Salon's own Farhad Manjoo has this to say:

"Conley's call for fathers to have a greater say in whether an abortion occurs really means two things: One, that the father should have a right to veto an abortion, but also that the father should have a right to veto a pregnancy by insisting on an abortion. And to this second scenario -- giving a man a right to an abortion -- I say, Why not?"

Well, let me tell you why not, Mr. Manjoo:

Let's extrapolate on this vision of fairness you see. How will it be implemented? Will women be dragged off by the authorities, strapped to tables and have their pregnancies terminated against their will? Alternatively, if the man desires the woman carry a child to term, and she does not wish to, will she be held under observation, perhaps locked-up, and then forced to give birth nine months later?

How would either of those scenarios be different than imprisonment and/or enslavement?

Doing either of these things to a minor - yes, even your own child - would result in a prison sentence for the parent or adult. The law recognizes that children have a modicum of autonomous rights and are not the property of parents.

But what is being suggested by this group of advocates is giving a man more rights over his spouse than parents have over children. Which is why Justices Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor declared unconstitutional Pennslyvania's clause that a woman must inform her husband of abortion decisions in Planned Parenthood v Casey.

Section 3209's husband notification provision constitutes an undue burden, and is therefore invalid. A significant number of women will likely be prevented from obtaining an abortion just as surely as if Pennsylvania had outlawed the procedure entirely. The fact that ยง 3209 may affect fewer than one percent of women seeking abortions does not save it from facial invalidity, since the proper focus of constitutional inquiry [505 U.S. 838] is the group for whom the law is a restriction, not the group for whom it is irrelevant. Furthermore, it cannot be claimed that the father's interest in the fetus' welfare is equal to the mother's protected liberty, since it is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the fetus will have a far greater impact on the pregnant woman's bodily integrity than it will on the husband. Section 3209 embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common law status of married women, but repugnant to this Court's present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. See Planned Parenthood of Central Mo. v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52, 69. Pp. 887-898.

If children are (rightfully and sanely) not allowed to be viewed as their parents' chattel, how can anyone argue that women should legally be the chattel of men -- in 2006? Yet that is what some paternal rights fans advocate: control over what a woman does with her body.

And, while they're at it, some of these same advocates are also in favor of teaching only abstinence to high schoolers, removing birth control options from the public market and reducing social safety nets like Medicaid and Welfare. Which largely benefit children of single parents.

Thanks for trying to consign us back to the dark ages, where women will have two choices: raise a child in abject poverty, alone, or get married to someone - anyone - just to give said child a fighting chance at survival.

We've come a long way, baby. Apparently, in the eyes of some men, much farther than we should've.
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