Badger mail

A reader’s thoughts on reproductive rights

Hey guys, I love your show(s) and I have a lot of respect for the work you do.

I’m just going to get that in quickly so as to not belabor it and, ya know, get to my point, since I know you guys are busy people. I’ve held a position on abortion for a while that, as far as I’ve seen, I’m the only one honestly holding (at least, the only one who openly speaks and debates about it). I’m interested in opening a bit of a dialogue with you guys, in general, whoever’s reading these messages really, on the topic so that hopefully I can offer a perspective on the topic you haven’t encountered before, and you can, essentially, tear my position apart, or affirm it a at least making sense.

I’m of the, nowadays, pretty mainstream position that abortion should be legal. I also believe women should be afforded a unilateral choice to terminate their pregnancy (before the legally-established cutoff point of the fetus developing a functioning neural system) even if the man wants to have the child with her. That’s about where the agreement between my position and the common opinion ends.

I personally find the principle that forced procreation is bad, and that people should have the opportunity to opt out of procreating, valuable. The thing is, I don’t feel this way only for women. I don’t consider sex consenting to procreation, and I hold the principle for men as well. I also hold the principle that bodily autonomy is valuable.

Naturally, there is conflict there. When it comes to procreation, no matter what decision is made (besides the case of both parents agreeing to go through with the pregnancy), at least one party in the equation will be imposed upon. It’s an unfortunate reality. If the man wants to procreate and the woman doesn’t, and so they have an abortion, that decision is imposed upon the child and the father. If the woman wants to procreate and the man doesn’t, and so they abort, that decision is imposed upon the mother and the child.

If the woman wants to procreate and the man doesn’t, and so they continue the pregnancy, the father is being imposed upon. If the man wants to procreate and the woman doesn’t, and so they continue the pregnancy, the woman is being imposed upon. Ultimately, there’s no way to eliminate imposition, because inevitably sometimes the mother and father will disagree.

My position is this: in cases where the potential child is not the product of male-on-female rape, men should have the opportunity to opt out of procreation. However, to minimize the imposition upon the woman’s bodily autonomy, the cutoff point for this opportunity should be when it would require a medical operation to terminate the pregnancy.

I find this to be a fair compromise. Men, under the current paradigm of abortion, have no options to opt out of a process of procreation that has already begun. This is a serious problem for someone like myself, who holds the position that procreation should be mutually voluntary whenever ethically possible, and that forcing someone to procreate with you is unethical, and that people should have measures against this available to them.

Under the current paradigm where “my body, my say” rules, a woman can rape a man or boy, or inseminate themselves through deception (using a used condom, for example, or “forgetting” to take a birth control pill, etc.), and still force them to procreate with them. I personally find this unacceptable. I think not only should these men and boys have measures available to them to not be forced into procreation, but I think such measures should be available to all males who find themselves in a position where a woman is pregnant with their child, and it’s not a product of male-on-female rape.

The only responses I’ve ever really gotten on this are as follows:

1. You consented to procreation the moment you consented to sex. This one is simply ridiculous. Not only is it an arbitrary statement we don’t hold true for women, it also ignores male victims of deception and rape.

2. If this were implemented, women would simply force those men into procreation by withholding the knowledge of their pregnancy.
This is probably true. However, if a law against male infant circumcision were implemented, there would be people who go around the rights afforded to those boys, and pay for back-alley circumcisions. I don’t think this fact invalidates the principle that infant circumcision should be illegal, and I don’t think the fact that women would still engage in dishonest tactics to force men to procreate with them invalidates the principle that procreation should be mutually voluntary whenever possible.

3. “The right to bodily autonomy trumps the principle of voluntary procreation.” This is an arbitrary statement, and one that I simply disagree with. The consequences of a compromise to bodily autonomy as small as taking an abortion pill (remember, the cutoff point for these men’s opportunity I believe should be when it would require an invasive method of termination), are vastly outweighed when juxtaposed to the consequences of forcing another person to procreate. Beyond the arguments from principle, there would also be positive outcomes, I believe, to implementing such opportunities. For example, there would be far fewer children raised in single-parent households, since the majority of procreation would be done by mutually consenting adults who would most likely be in a relationship together. This would result in a decrease in child abuse, parental dependence on state assistance, children being raised in unstable economic conditions, and consequently to these things, a decrease in children growing up to engage in criminal and abusive activity themselves.

I realize my position is repulsive to the sensibilities of most people. But so, in my perspective, is the current paradigm. I’m only turning 19 this month, so maybe my position comes from a place of youthful ignorance and naivete. Keeping this in mind, try not to judge me too harshly for holding it if you also find yourselves repulsed by the idea.

Maybe it works better as an ethical principle, maybe it makes sense as a legality if we think outside of our current paradigm for a moment. That’s actually the impasse I’m at, whether or not I support this being codified. Perhaps we can open somewhat of a dialogue on the topic.

Hopefully you guys can offer a clarifying perspective, and if nothing else, I hope I offered a new, interesting perspective for you guys to consider. Anyways, as I said at the beginning, I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for you guys. Keep being badass, the world needs it now more than ever.

– Syne

Dear Syne,

The idea you’ve described is frequently discussed in the men’s rights movement with various labels, including Paternal Surrender, Parental Surrender, and Financial Abortion. It’s a reasonable position to take when considering a mandatory child support system. However, the fact that women have the option of safe haven abandonment and the ability to use the adoption system without the father’s consent justify extending the period during which a father would have the legal right to choose to abandon paternal responsibility to as long as a woman would be able to do either of those two things. 

Personally, I think child support should be voluntary, something the parents work out on their own using a contract to make the agreement legally binding, placing enforcement under contract law. Many people argue that this and the above idea would place undue burden on mothers, or treat giving men the choice to opt out of child support as a theft of freedom of choice from women, but I disagree. Women would still have their full range of choices. They would simply have to take full responsibility for them, rather than depending on a partner to fund them.

Three things make the clear case that mandatory child support isn’t for the child’s benefit, but to alleviate the mother’s burden. One is that argument, that giving a man a choice would take a woman’s choice away. Another is the fact that when fathers receive custody, the child support system is not as strict with noncustodial mothers as when the genders are reversed. The third is the fact that in cases of poverty and welfare receipt, the government confiscates child support payments. If the system existed for the good of the child, mothers who knowingly choose to bring children into conflicted support situations would be judged irresponsible. The gender of the parent with the support obligation would have no bearing on the size of the obligation or the strictness with which it is enforced. Most of all, the state would never confiscate that money. The state should never, under any circumstances, be able to do that. That is certainly not in the child’s best interest, and it doesn’t provide the one benefit it is purported to provide. It often costs more to collect that money from unwilling fathers than the state gets upon collection. 

I also think if the state were not confiscating a significant number of men’s payments, there would be far less official interest in enforcing and maintaining this system. Federal financial incentives make child support collection big business for local agencies.

The issue may be clouded by the state’s financial chicanery, but the bottom line is simple. With all of the choices women have and support that is available to women in challenging financial situations, there is no reason why they should ever be able to make the choice to conscript a man into a support obligation. 

– Hannah Wallen

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  • Alexandre Plante

    No method of birth control is 100% certain, and that includes the risk of deception.

  • Gyor

    Men will get more of a choice when the male pill becomes availible.

  • IamReallyBored

    What I don’t understand is why this is so difficult for everyone. This is just my opinion but here is a quick, simple way to solve all of these problems.
    1. completely remove any and ALL inequality between men and women in pay and opportunity (despite what everyone likes to believe, it’s still not there).
    2. Remove all restriction on abortion.
    3. Now that women have every possible avenue of financially supporting a child as men do, due to equal pay/opportunity, every non married man has a brief period to opt out of the pregnancy. The woman is required by law to inform him immediately. Actually, here’s one better. Men are informed via mail just like for child support and everything else.
    4. If the man wants it, and the woman doesn’t, the woman pays for her procedure (as it is still her body after all). If the woman wants it and the man doesn’t, but they do agree on abortion, then he must pay all abortion/care/whatever other fees and a small amount in emotional damages and then be on his way (I am fairly certain this is a small price to pay in the face of child support). And if they both agree, they share the costs. If she DOES choose to keep it, then he is responsible only for pre-natal, medical, whatever other stuff until that baby comes out. He did play an equal part in making it, so he should be responsible for making sure it comes into the world properly and healthy. However, once that is over, he is to relinquish all rights permanently. He is never to contact the child. Ever. If he even so much as sends a birthday card, he gets hit with support.
    4 steps is all it takes, is the way I see it. Now I understand that these are in no way, shape, or form easy… but not impossible. I know it may sound harsh on both sides, but I am all for personal responsibility. Ladies, you want a baby? Okay. Take care of it. Men, you want to walk away? Okay. But you have a hell of a lot of hoops to jump through. But to be honest…seriously, would you rather pay some fees, take a quick class or two, and pay for however much a procedures costs? Or lose up to a third of your income for the next 18 years minimum?

    Anyway, just my two cents.

  • Ryan Clark

    what’s this “wants to procreate” stuff? That is faulty logic, no one chooses to have a baby, it’s a biological process that either happens after sex or it doesn’t. The choice is to have sex or not, what happens next is the consequence, not the choice. You think getting pregnant is a choice? Tell that to all the couples who are trying in vain to become pregnant.