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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  1. 331

    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.

    1. 331.1

      If she has HPV which is an STD, your friend also has it. He MADE his choice to bed,with her even after he knew she had an STD. Therefore HPV is a skin on skin contact disease he will continue to pass it on to his next victim, oh and when he receives oral sex the woman will have oral HPV.

  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): In short, there are more creative ways to protect children’s interests than coercing men into legal fatherhood… Laurie

  3. 333

    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

    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

      Thank you I completely agree.

  5. 335

    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

      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

    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

    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

    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

    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

      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

    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

    1. 343.1

      Men have choices too! They choose to have sex with the woman without using protection! Grow up it takes two people to have sex.

      Plain and simple, don’t want kids than get STERILIZED, but that won’t protect you from STDs! Or don’t have sex!

      I can not believe how stupid some people are, you blame a woman for getting pregnant but when you’re both responsible for your own actions.

      Read up on on std facts obviously some people don’t understand about sex and consequences.

  14. 344

    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.

    1. 344.1

      As a woman’s ovulation schedule NOT EVERY WOMAN OVULATES! She could have irregular periods!Love how you MEN know so much about women’s fertility lmfao!

      If a man doesn’t want to have children THEN GET A VASECTOMY or DON’T have SEX! Or use your hand!

      1. 344.1.1

        I dont know what world you live in but, this happens in real life. There are women out there who get pregnant on purpose to trap a man.  They get drunk or high and they lie. I wasn’t speaking to the responsible wonen. I expressing about the insecure, gold digging, desperate, and scandalous females out there who trap good men. If you’re not guilty of such shenanigans then your reply is irrelevant. If one is guilty of getting pregnant for selfish reasons such as to trap a man. Then shame on them.  That good responsible man does not want to turn his back on the child who was conceived by her deceit. These good men sometimes marry these scandalous because the woman refuses shared parenting.  Then they use the child as a pawn. My brother-in-law’s sister trapped a good man. They were friends first then dated 4 months and she found out he was going to break it off. So she got pregnant on purpose.

      2. 344.1.2

        Oh! Did I forget to mention my BSN and that I work full-time in Maternity at a hospital and PRN @ obstetrician gynecologist office. Trust me I know the odds. And trust me I have heard such conversations in the patient’s rooms.

  15. 345

    Let’s look at it from this perspective. First of all, the baby was created by two human beings who made a mistake together. Absent the law, the father doesn’t have any medical issues to deal with, since he’s not carrying the baby, and he also doesn’t have a requirement to pay anything at all. He gets to have sex and leave, because he made a mistake and he’s not obligated. In this situation, the woman pays all the bills and have medical repercussions. Men won’t date her because she constantly has to care for the child. Motherhood is being forced on her because the father doesn’t have that requirement.

    How do you split such a thing 50/50?

    We could determine how much the average pregnancy costs, and the average cost of raising a child. Or, what we could do is have them split the bill 50/50 if each person gets to see the child for half the year. Currently I think that child support is charging massive amounts because it is based on income and not NEED. The bottom line is that the child is a responsibility and needs to be cared for by someone. If the father doesn’t want to care for the child at all, then he should be required to pay for a certain percentage of the costs, but not let the mother get off free from any bills. Without either party, there would be no child, so it’s only appropriate that they at least split the bills for what they are.

  16. 346

    The laws requiring men to support their children, whether born in or out of wedlock, were passed by our elected legislatures, the vast majority of them male.  So perhaps it’s you who doesn’t know how most men think, Evan Marc Katz.  You certainly have no understanding of the woman’s situation, though you want her to understand yours.  A woman may hold most of the cards when it comes to decisions concerning an accidental pregnancy, but unless marriage is a viable option then they’re all bad cards – a throwaway hand in poker.  She has a choice to abort, which some women think is murder and thus will be scarred for life by such action.  She has a choice to put the child up for adoption, an extremely painful option after carrying the child for 9 months and a choice that also scars many women for life.  And she has a choice of keeping the child, which means a lifetime of obligation – emotional, financial, constraints on time & freedom – that far exceeds the child support obligation you’re complaining about.  You do realize – no, you probably don’t – that child support does not pay the entire cost of raising a child.  The woman is lucky if it pays half – it normally falls well below that.  Study after study has found it’s the custodial parent who pays the most towards a child’s support, even though she or he is not making checks out to a different household.  I was a single mother for 4 years, and that was certainly my experience.  My ex-husband did pay his child support on a regular basis, but what started out as roughly 50% of our daughter’s support fell well below that as expenses mounted, housing & child care being the biggies.  I could have taken him back to court, but it wasn’t worth it to me – especially since I was doing fine.  I’m 67 years old now, with wonderful children & grandchildren, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from life, it’s that problems that can be solved with money (like child support payments) are the easy problems.  Try facing cancer, insanity in the family, or many years of a stressed out schedule being a single parent – that is, try facing the problems that can’t be solved by money.  You’re complaining about an 18 years child support obligation?  Brother, you’re getting off easy.

  17. 347

    He could sign his rights way,therefore he won’t have to pay child support. Let’s be honest, if you don’t want to pay child support then why are you having sex you’re before marriage?How about men get a vasectomy so they’ll never become a father. Plain and simple, don’t want to pay the consequences of having sex, then either get fixed or simply don’t have sex.

    Sex is a want not a need, no one has ever died because they didn’t get their gentiles rubbed and wet. But I guess in today’s world, there’s no STDs just pregnancy lmfao! How about get educated before you open your legs or stick your dick into random holes, because one day you’ll pay with your life. Just keep sweeping STDs under the and pretend it won’t happen to you and see where you’ll end up. Oh and condoms don’t always protect you from Skin on skin contact diseases.

    I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but seriously anything can happen when you have sex. But hey STDs don’t take a % of your paycheck, it just takes your life. What the heck your still alive right that all that matters right?

    1. 347.1

      Here in the U.S., you cannot avoid child support by signing away your parental rights.

  18. 348

    The way I see it, a female can trick any guy into getting them pregnant. And then there are the accidents. But there is a legal way out of it for a man that most for get, he has the right to give up his rights as a father. He can legally sing his right way and give full custody to the mother and the mother can do nothing about it.

    1. 348.1

      Pepper, giving full custody of the child to the mother does not relieve the father of his child support obligation. Nor does giving up his right to visitation. If she chooses to have the child, and there’s no 2nd parent willing to adopt (such as the mother’s current boyfriend or husband), then you’re stuck regardless of whether you play an active role in that child’s life. But then, so is she – the mother. Most woman do not relish being a single parent and it costs them too, even with child support coming in. That is not to say NO woman will purposely get pregnant as unwise as it is.  You just have to be careful to make sure one or both of you are using effective birth control.

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