Should Men Be Forced to Pay For Children They Didn’t Want?

Should Men Be Forced to Pay For Children They Didn’t Want?Held By Father

I’m a man who helps women understand men. Not all men. Not in every situation. But, in general, if you want to hear how honest, loyal, sensitive, successful, confident, self-aware (and self-aggrandizing) men think, this blog is a pretty good place to start.

Which is why I’m excerpting what is sure to be a controversial post that recently ran in the New York Times. It was written by Laurie Shrage, a women’s studies professor in Florida and it’s like she took the words right out of my brain. In short, while no one in the world will defend deadbeat dads who don’t support their kids after a divorce, that’s a completely different scenario than men who are forced to support a child that they never wanted to have. In her opinion – and in mine – the law should reflect this obvious difference.

“If a man accidentally conceives a child with a woman, and does not want to raise the child with her, what are his choices? Surprisingly, he has few options in the United States. He can urge her to seek an abortion, but ultimately that decision is hers to make. Should she decide to continue the pregnancy and raise the child, and should she or our government attempt to establish him as the legal father, he can be stuck with years of child support payments.”

I’ve been around long enough to know that many women have the reflexive answer that if she accidentally got pregnant, he should be on the hook for it. But that doesn’t quite hold up logically. He can’t have a say over the birth of the fetus (because it’s her body), but she can have a say about whether he supports the accidentally conceived child for the next 18 years?

“The political philosopher Elizabeth Brake has argued that our policies should give men who accidentally impregnate a woman more options, and that feminists should oppose policies that make fatherhood compulsory. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy she wrote, “if women’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a fetus, then men’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a resulting child.” At most, according to Brake, men should be responsible for helping with the medical expenses and other costs of a pregnancy for which they are partly responsible.”

Continues the author, “Feminists have long held that women should not be penalized for being sexually active by taking away their options when an accidental pregnancy occurs. Do our policies now aim to punish and shame men for their sexual promiscuity? Many of my male students (in Miami where I teach), who come from low-income immigrant communities, believe that our punitive paternity policies are aimed at controlling their sexual behavior. Moreover, the asymmetrical options that men and women now have when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy set up power imbalances in their sexual relationships that my male students find hugely unfair to them. 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 counseling, or community service.”

Is any of this ideal? Of course not. But it’s reality. No matter what we legislate, men and women are going to get drunk, hook up, forget to wear a condom, and have to deal with the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. The question is: what’s fair? Shrage seems to suggest that the current laws are anything but.

“However, just as court-ordered child support does not make sense when a woman goes to a sperm bank and obtains sperm from a donor who has not agreed to father the resulting child, it does not make sense when a woman is impregnated (accidentally or possibly by her choice) from sex with a partner who has not agreed to father a child with her. In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent, just as in consenting to any activity, one does not consent to yield to all the accidental outcomes that might flow from that activity.”

As the author proves, one can be a feminist, demand equal rights, and still believe that a system that penalizes men so harshly for an innocent mistake is unjust. While you are entitled to disagree with me, please understand that my whole business is about learning to put yourself in men’s shoes and find a measure of sympathy and understanding for them. By insisting that a man pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime for a one-night stand and a broken condom, you are not indicating that you’re considering his plight at all.

Concludes Shrage, “Policies that punish men for accidental pregnancies also punish those children who must manage a lifelong relationship with an absent but legal father. These “fathers” are not “dead-beat dads” failing to live up to responsibilities they once took on — they are men who never voluntarily took on the responsibilities of fatherhood with respect to a particular child.”

Your thoughts below are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 331
    sally

    I have a guy friend who’s ex girl friend told him she couldn’t have children even told his family, said she had the human pepaloma virus and Dr told her she couldn’t get pregnant she told the family she had tried for years she is in her Thirty’s and now she’s pregnant with my friends baby and he believed her that she couldn’t get pregnant now he has to go to court and pay child support and pay hospital bill for a child he never wanted. She should be charged with lieing. Its like somebody having aids or some other disease and not telling your partner and giving it to them, they stuck for life. Smh. I advice him to get a attorney. Not that it will do any good the system sucks. I bet if he gave her a life changing anything he would be charged.

  2. 332
    Laurie Shrage

    Hi Evan, Thanks for hosting a discussion of my op-ed on your blog. I just quickly looked over the comments and your readers make many good points. I’ve been trying to find organizations that might be taking on state laws that essentially permit men to become unwilling sperm donors, and, unlike voluntary sperm donors, are held financially responsible (it seems because they had sex with the mothers). The main worry I hear from readers is in regard to the interests of children in having at least two parents. But of course forced paternity often creates a troubled relationship between a father and his offspring. I recently wrote another piece in which I’m exploring ways for adults (who may not be genetic parents) to become voluntary parents (with or without legal parenthood status) in order to address the need for children to have responsible and loving adults in their lives (and who get along with each other): https://aeon.co/ideas/we-need-a-contract-for-co-parenting-not-just-for-marriage In short, there are more creative ways to protect children’s interests than coercing men into legal fatherhood… Laurie

  3. 333
    James

    Given the current laws regarding abortion, It’s only logical that if the woman is able to decide whether or not she becomes a mother, the man should be able to decide whether or not he becomes a father.

    I must say, however, that I believe abortion is wrong, and not fathering a child is also wrong.

  4. 334
    Michelle

    IF A MAN IS “RESPONSIBLE” ENOUGH TO HAVE SEX HE SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO TAKE ON THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES LEADING AFTER SEX ! Also, don’t have sex with a woman you would not want to impregnate or raise a child with (just in case an “accident”) occurs.. POINT BLANK

    1. 334.1
      Chanel

      Thank you I completely agree.

  5. 335
    Denise

    What about the men that lie I am 30 weeks pregnant from a man who claimed that he had a vasectomy. I don’t believe in abortions and he will not support the pregnancy at all. Everyone like to blame it on the woman when in some cases it is not our fault. I take ownership in the fact that I shouldn’t have placed my trust in him after all those years but I did and I am in the situation that I am. He thinks that it is ok to just abandon the fact that I am pregnant. It’s not right he lied. So in this case you think he shouldn’t be placed on child support just because I don’t believe in abortions, yeah right.

    1. 335.1
      Katie

      A similar thing happened to me as well.

      I understand adoption is a difficult option, but I suggest you consider it anyway. There are all kinds of adoption options, from very open types to absolutely closed.

      The dude is being an ass, but don’t feel obligated to pay the consequences for the next 18+ years because of him.

  6. 336
    Hannah

    I’m a feminist and I agree with you. Men should not pay for a child they didn’t want. I think there should be some sort of law for example if a man doesnt want the child he should let the woman know that if she choose to keep the pregnancy she will have to be fully responsible for the child. And if she choose to terminate the pregnany then both the man and woman should pay for it. It’s fair because it’s the woman who take the decision since no one can force a woman to keep a pregnancy or terminate it but she should be aware of the partner decision on if he wants kids or not.

    Excuse my English I hope my comment make sense 🙂

  7. 337
    Chanel

    I feel if you both knowingly have unprotected sex there is no such thing as accidental pregnancy so of course the man should be obligated to pay child support if he wants nothing physically or emotionally to do with child. Especially since she wasn’t the only one to make that baby on her own.  If you don’t want a baby wrap it up and be on birth control or don’t have sex, it’s that simple.  No such thing as guys being trapped if you had unprotected sex with the girl in first place you trapped yourself.

  8. 338
    Brittani

    Big Pharma needs a birth control pill for men so they can’t use the excuse “she lied about taking the pill” problem solved.

  9. 339
    Susan DaMetz

    I agree!

    My son 23 was in a very dysfunctional relationship for 3 years. The girlfriend was drug addict numerous suicide attempts and in managed bipolar in and out of rehabs.

    He finally left the relationship and was very difficult

    now we found out she is 5 months pregnant!

     

    My son always told her he never wanted children and always used protection and she always said she also had protection

     

    now worried not not only about health of child he can’t deal with this and be connected to her and her family

    he has decided to not acknowledge child but will take paternity test and pay child support

    everyone has turned their backs on him and the words they use to describe him break my heart

    I’ve even loss friends over this

  10. 340
    Will fields

    Not saying I’m for or against abortions. But if a woman wants a child she should accept financial responsibility for it.  If not there are other options such as adoptions, if she cannot afford it and is so against abortions. There are many options for women and no options for men.

  11. 341
    Rox

    So what is the solution? How would a man prove that he didn’t intend to get the woman pregnant? But seriously, if that was the case, then no man would pay child support. All men could claim they didn’t want the baby.

    And yes irresponsible people are going to have sex, and sometimes end up with decisions and consequences they don’t want. But to say that women have more to gain is stupid. MOST women have more to lose from an unplanned pregnancy than a man. They will be responsible for that child for 18 plus years, the father can walk away while throwing a few pennies at the child. The mother is left to rearrange her life for the mistake made by two people. The woman is stuck with lower wages, and less years on the job, not the man. The woman is left to most likely live in poverty when she is older because of the consequences of having to raise a child in a man’s world. And until men can have kids, until men are legally required to take physical and financial responsibility, until men are expected to leave work for a sick child, until men are required to leave work to bond for 6 unpaid weeks to a newborn, to work with little or no sleep, to come home after a long day at work and still raise a kid, until then, men should feel lucky that their only consequence is paying child support. Don’t any of you men try to compare you having to pay child support with what most woman have to do; raise the kid and also support the kid.

    And yes it seems unfair that women have the right to get out of the mistake by either a pill or an abortion. And if the man wants to get out of the mistake he may not be able too because the woman has chosen the opposite. I understand that frustration, but how many women have kept the kid based on the man saying he wanted the kid??? And then for him to change his mind, for reasons such as when the relationship has gone south or because he is busy chasing the new one. Betcha you never thought about that.

     

    And how many women have gotta pregnant and the man never knew? Plenty. She did it on her own. So stop crying about what is unfair. Women and men have both suffered from unplanned pregnancies.

    More likely than not, women will have to deal with the consequences more so than men. No matter if you are paying child support for an unplanned or unwanted kid. It’s only money, not time, not loss of advancement, not loss of being who the hell you wanted to be, not feeling overwhelmed, overworked, underpaid, and over burdened.

    So go cry a river.

    1. 341.1
      mm

      if the girl and guy were having sex knowing both party’s were committed (wife and boyfriend in jail)  then baby appears,

      what if they used all ways to stay protection and still got pregnant

      the mother can abort pregnancy

      the mother can choose to give birth and give the baby up for adoption

      she can be the women she choose to be and handle her consequences of her decisions

      the jobs we get depends on the individual skills and talents and what they want for themselves out of life

      she knew that that baby wasnt wanted before getting pregnant yet she still had it thinking it will change his mind after that he would want to be with her. she chooses to live in poverty u stay in poverty. u can always make a situation better.

      men ,fathers ,responsible human being dont need to carry the baby for 9 months so they bond

      it took two to make the baby they should have the same wrights mom carried the baby dad should help care when it comes home  (6 weeks)together, when they call that the child is sick they should be sharing responsibility and loving it naturally ,little or no sleep to come home after a long day at work and still raise a kids is called family and if you dont want family u shouldnt have any kids

       

       

  12. 342
    Nicole Hughes

    I got pregnant in a short term relationship and I wanted my child and my ex did not want one. He had anger issues and every one won. I dumped his lame ass which I think he was wanting me to so he wouldn’t be the “bad  guy”. I had my child and he is not on the birth certificate so he does not send money which is fine. My kid never has to meet his douche bag donor and encounter his anger issues. Every situation is different and I have been judged a lot since moving back home to the south. Dudes avoid single moms like the plague but I got the pride of taking the hard road and I am veteran that once defended the freedomes of the idiots where I live so they can all get over it.

  13. 343
    mm

    i feel women are fully responsible for  getting pregnant. we have choices ,

    1 to choose who we have sex with

    2 to protect ourselves from pregnancy and diseases

    3 to keep or abort child

    your responsible for your own outcome if the choices you make you made on your own then on your own you should face consequences of your actions, being a parent that pays money is not a parent and if your satisfied with that you never loved the child in the first place and your intentions were cruel. if the father doesnt want anything to do with the child why make him by pay child support for a  child  he never wants to see again

  14. 344
    Donner245

    I’m a woman. After a certain age a woman knows her ovulation cycle. Also a woman knows sperm can remain alive inside her 3-5 days. Therefore a woman knows when the best time to plan to conceive. In most cases a man DOES NOT know a woman is ovulating. Everyone says it takes 2 and it’s 50/50. I strongly disagree. It’s more like 75% woman and 25% male. There is a problem with women trying to trap men.  THAT’S NEITHER GOOD NOR FAIR.  This brings about the dilemma of unwanted children and childish support.  If the tables were turned and a possibility a women could be charged with deceit, there would be less unwanted children. Also women would stop trying to trap men. I feel a woman is irresponsible if she does not know her ovulation cycle. There is no such thing as a “surprise baby” or “it just happens” in this age of GOOGLE. There are some women who have unusual menstrual cycles. On that note I feel that woman is obligated to inform the man she is sexing. If a woman wants a child she will have it. There are too many options available for a woman to prevent pregnancy including the very inexpensive morning after pill. For those who don’t believe in birth control there’s the billings method. I’m very sure a man is willing to go in half $25-40 to purchase the morning after pill.

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