SHOULD DADS BE ALLOWED TO 'OPT OUT' OF PARENTING?
I’m a member of a parenting website that is mostly frequented by mums –stay at home mums, working mums, single mums, younger mums, not so younger mums. You get the point.
Recently a topic was raised to discuss whether men should have a set period of time to ‘opt out’ of paying child support for an unwanted pregnancy. The window of time proposed was the same for the mother to terminate the pregnancy. The mums on this parenting website are a clever lot but they can’t take credit for coming up with this proposal. An attorney in South Carolina coined the term “male abortion” and suggested this opt out proposal would give men equality in reproduction, in the same way that woman can opt out of parenthood by simply having an abortion.
As a topic on a mum’s forum it seemed like a non-starter. No mother would agree to take away a child’s right to financial security, just to save an unwilling father some cash, right? No mother would suggest that abortion is a simple option, right?
Debate was heated and probably half of the mums - and a few dads - agreed with a proposal. Some women argued that men can be duped into parenthood by conniving women. Others said the $1 billion dollars in child support owed by deadbeat parents was proof the current system allowed parents to effectively opt out - without signing away their rights to have contact with the child. In the opt out scenario, if a father opted out, his child loses their rights to contact the father at any point in the future.
The problems with this opt out proposal are so numerous and so obvious it’s not a reasonable enough idea to be convincingly half-arsed. Is there such a thing as quarter-arsed? Perhaps one eigth-arsed?
First, abortion is not an option for every woman. Some women have are passionately pro-life. For them, there is no opting out of an unwanted pregnancy so why should her male sexual partner have that right?
Second, abortion is not without risk or consequence. A man electing to walk away from the consequences of an ejaculation, is not comparable to a surgical termination of pregnancy. Suggesting these two acts are the same completely trivializes the very real physical risks to a woman who terminates a pregnancy, not to mention the possible emotional consequences.
Third, even unwanted kids have rights. International conventions and domestic laws give all children (even the annoying ones) the right to financial protection from their parents. Even if their parent doesn’t live with the child, has remarried, has more kids or is simply a self centred asshat, that child’s rights still exist. The parent’s wishes to safeguard their cash do not over ride a child’s need to financial security.
Fourth, this scenario puts 100% responsibility for fertility in the hands of women. Theoretically men could take no responsibility for contraception while having confidence that should anything happen, they have an equal lack of responsibility for the consequences. And that’s equality?
Fifth, this proposal would essentially provide financial remuneration for dads to abandon their kids. The money is a sweetener to stop men from attempting to have any relationship with an unplanned child. Surely a dad has more value in a child’s life than his wallet? And what happens if he decides he wants contact at a later date – does he need a bank loan to pay the years of child support, like a ransom – before that can take place?
The proposal is so ludicrous that it’s hard to find the upside.
But as ludicrous as this proposal seems it was recently tested in a US court. Naturally it failed because it’s not only morally repellant, but unworkable as public policy. However, in the court of public opinion, it could be a different story. If half of the women on a mum’s forum would support this proposal, presumably even more men would agree.
For once, I’m actually very glad that our judicial system is so ‘out of touch’ with public opinion.