“No shame. No blame. No names.”
Posters bearing this slogan can be found in bus stops and on billboards all over Los Angeles, urging unhappy new mothers to drop off their babies at hospitals and fire stations. The noble intent of the Safe Haven Laws now in place in 44 states is to prevent new mothers from abandoning or killing babies they do not want. However, these laws also starkly reveal the enormous inequality in reproductive rights between American men and women.
When a woman gets pregnant she has the right to decide whether or not to carry the baby to term, and whether to raise the child herself, give it up for adoption, or abandon it shortly after its birth. Yet if she decides she wants the child, she can demand a quarter or more of the father’s take home pay for 18 years and have him jailed if he is unable to pay.
Fathers have a large personal stake in a decision in which they are not allowed to take any part. Their wishes are irrelevant. When it comes to reproduction, in America today women have rights and men merely have responsibilities.
The Choice for Men movement seeks to address this inequality by giving fathers the right to relinquish their parental rights and responsibilities within a month of learning of a pregnancy, just as mothers do when they choose to give their children up for adoption. These men would be obligated to provide legitimate financial compensation to cover pregnancy-related medical expenses and the mother’s loss of income during pregnancy. The right would only apply to pregnancies which occurred outside of marriage, and women would still be free to exercise all of the reproductive choices they now have.
Glenn debated the issue of Choice for Men with Kingsley Morse of the Voluntary Fatherhood Project and feminist columnist Elaine Vigneault on His Side with Glenn Sacks in Los Angeles and Seattle on Sunday, October 19. Callers sparred repeatedly with Vigneault, a staunch advocate of reproductive rights for women who has been critical of the Choice for Men movement. To listen to the show, go to His Side Archive.
To learn more about choice for men, see Glenn’s columns 30 Years After Roe v. Wade, How About Choice for Men? (Mail &Guardian (1/27/03) and Pennsylvania Abortion Case Raises Question of Choice for Men (Newsday, 8/7/02). The latter was coauthored by Dianna Thompson of the National Family Justice Association (NFJA).
To read Vigneault’s views on Choice for Men, see her column Men Need to Accept Responsibility.
Also see Kingsley Morse’s Frequently Asked Questions About Choice for Men, Warren Farrell’s Fallacy of ‘A woman’s body, a woman’s business’ (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/31/01) and Richard Sine’s Revenge of the Deadbeat Dads (Metro, November 14-20, 1996). Also visit the National Center for Men’s Voluntary Fatherhood Project.