Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Abortion <> Child Support

The Weekly Feminist Reader, over at Feministing, reminds me, once again, how difficult I think discussions about men's roles in pregnancy and childbirth can be. The bulk of the comments are about a post on MRAs from Shakespearessister. The conversation was more specifically about whether or not men ought to have the ability to "opt out" of parenthood/fatherhood.

It's a conversation that I don't know if I've ever seen go well (and yet, here I am, putting my foot in the water, too). I think that one of the biggest problems with the conversation is that it conflates two very different issues. Despite the best attempts by some commenters, abortion is not comparable to opting out. Abortion is about the right to personal autonomy regarding the use of one's body as an incubator for an unwanted fetus. Opting out is about the desire not to be held financially responsible for your offspring.

There are a lot of problems with conflating the two things. The arguments in support or against them simply aren't the same, and, I think, men's rights groups shoot themselves in the foot when they try to pretend that they are. The suggestion that your right to control your wallet is the same as a woman's right to control her body is... well... it's sort of offensive. It treats a woman's body like a piece of property, and I think that women are rightly annoyed and disturbed by that kind of reasoning.

So, what I propose to do in this post is talk about child support as child support- not as an issue somehow comparable to abortion. The question here is simple: should a parent have a right to opt out of child support?

Honestly, I think it'd be great if we had a system that would allow for people who don't want to be parents to not have to bear any of the unwanted burdens associated with childcare. Right now, if neither parent wants the child, they have options that let them avoid those burdens, but if the child is born and either parent decides to keep it, we run into the problem of child support payments.

The problem is that children have needs and the needs of those children must be taken into consideration. Having and caring for children isn't cheap- there are doctor visits, and food, and clothes, and supplies for school, babysitters or childcare, etc. I don't think it's reasonable to expect most single parents have the resources to care for a child just lying around. I suspect that most single parents need all the help they can get. Hell, most coupled parents need help from time to time.

As it stands, I don't see any way to abolish child support that doesn't do more harm than good, and I don't blame feminists for not jumping on the issue with full force. Why should they? Child support is something that goes to the child, not the parent, and either parent can collect it. I don't think that child support is unfair, given the purpose and the beneficiary. I don't doubt that some people can point out cases of abuse wherein the money didn't go where it should have, but if those cases are punished, and they represent a tiny minority of the problems with the system (people not paying representing a much bigger problem), I'm not going to get too down on people over it.

Now, personally, I think it'd be great if there was a social net for single parents who were raising a child alone. If there were circumstances where either parent had made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with being a parent, all rights and obligations could be severed and some kind of public fund would help defer the costs of childcare.

I think that there are several very real advantages to a system like this. The first advantage is that it allows people who don't want to be parents to opt out of that, with the stipulation being that, by giving up all of the burdens of being a parent, they also give up on all of the rights, as well. For the people who feel frustrated by being compelled to pay child support for a child they neither wanted nor want anything to do with, that's a very real benefit.

Another benefit is that, by spreading the burden out over a larger number of people, we can (theoretically, at least) better provide for those children. Child support barely scratches the surface when it comes to the actual costs of raising children. A public fund that would help pay for the cost of raising children, or that would, for example, provide some of the things children require, the needs of a child might better be met. According to USDA research, an average full child support payment for a middle income household in 1996 only covered about 33% of the estimated expenditure on that child. Ideally, we want each parent to contribute half of the cost of raising the child, since they contributed equally to the creation of the child- but the custodial parent caries the bulk of the burden.

And that's assuming that the payments are actually made. In many cases, the non-custodial parent does not make the payments, or pays less than the full ammount, which only increases the burden on the custodial parent.

A system where child support was paid for through public funding might actually let us increase the standard of living for those children living in single parent homes.

Of course, I recognize that such a system would be ripe for abuse, and that drives some people up the wall. The notion that someone would exploit such a system- and, I have no doubts that some people might- is enough to reduce support for such a plan. The other side of that is that there are plenty of people who think that such a system would further negate men's involvement in their children's lives, by creating a system where there were no consequences to fathering many children.

Which leads me to a bit of criticism with regards to the feministing thread. As much as I can understand where the frustration comes from, I don't think that all of the responses are helpful or fair. The only real justification that I see for child support (and I really don't see how any other is needed) is that the welfare of the child must be taken into consideration, and, barring support for an alternative plan, the burden has to be shared by the people who created the child. But, there are a number of comments in that thread that ammount to "Well, men need to face consequences for sex."

That kind of argument strikes me as being sort of weird. One of the things that we've often talked about around the feminist blogosphere is that pregnancy is not a punishment. We shouldn't be using children as a means of punishing people for having sex, either. If we could find a way to reasonably provide for the child without forcing either parent (who doesn't want children) to bear the burden, we should consider it. The notion that child support should be used as a means of creating consequences for men is a bit problematic to me.

Consider this:
Women do not have the right to have sex without coping with the consequences--that's impossible for us. One of the ways we cope is abortion. But MRAs want men to be able to have sex without coping with the consequences. Nope. We don't get to skip off, and neither do they.


Another major benefit of a system like this would be the providing of care in the cases where one parent is absent due to death. As it stands, the death of one parent can be a serious financial burden on a family, and, if life insurance isn't something that the family could reasonable afford, or if the family spent a lot of money or racked up a lot of bills paying for medical care prior to the death, it could substantially reduce the quality of a child's life.

The problem I have is that, ultimately, I want everyone to be able to have sex that is as free of consequences as possible. I sort of think that most of us would like that. The only people I want to have children are, well, people who want to have children. I want people who just want to have sex for recreational purposes to find partners who want the same, and to be able to have safe, healthy, fun sex, without unwanted pregnancy or disease.

So, yeah, I do, in fact, want men and women to be able to have consequence free sex. And it's true, the way things are right now, that rarely, if ever, happens. I don't, however, think that we should be doing things to reinforce that, or that reinforce the idea that children should be used as a means of punishing people for poor choices, which is how some of the comments read to me.

The fact that women, as the party that becomes pregnant, can never fully escape the risk of consequences is no more a justification for forcing men to pay child support than it is a justification for suggesting that women must act as walking incubators for children if men want them. The biological aspects of creation are beyond our control, but that doesn't excuse or justify treating either party unfairly.

Right now, I think that child support coming from the non-custodial biological parent is necessary, because I think that the needs of the child have to be taken into consideration, and there's simply not support for any alternative right now. That doesn't, though, mean that we shouldn't consider the possibility of a system wherein the needs of the child are met in some other way. The current system is better than no system- but that doesn't make a great system, or beyond improvement.

Right now it's sort of a "least bad" situation. It's certainly not a particularly good one, given that almost nobody is happy with it: the custodial parents still bear a substantially large piece of the financial burden, children still aren't getting the money that's required for their care, non-custodial parents don't always pay or pay less than they're supposed to, and some non-custodial parents resent being forced to pay for a child that they never wanted and made clear that they never wanted.

Of course, I've got a vested interest in this conversation, as someone who is considering donating sperm to a woman so that she can have a child with her partner. Since our state does not recognize same-sex adoptions or marriages, I could be help legally responsible for child support, even though none of us involved want me to be held responsible. Is this a normal situation? Of course not- it's a tiny fraction of all child support cases- but it's still a concern for me.

18 comments:

Doug S. said...

Regarding sperm donation, I think I've read that most state laws are such that as long as you go through a licensed medical professional, legally, you won't be the father.

As for everything else, I think that I basically agree to what you said.

EG said...

I believe that I was the person who wrote the comment that you've excerpted there, so I do want to explain it. MRAs always bring up this issue in connection to abortion--I know you know that. And one of the themes not-so-subtly underlying their whining is about how women can "get out" of the consequences of sex but men can't. (Hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, apparently.) So that comment was supposed to be a direct response to that kind of mentality--which one often sees in pro-forced-birthers too--that somehow women are "getting out" of the consequences of sex. It's an attitude that is truly dismissive to the burden of unwanted pregnancy and the experience of abortion, and I loathe it.

That said, I can see how the attitude that you're unhappy with is reflected in that comment. I can only say that I wrote it in the context of MRAs comparing having an abortion to walking away and washing your hands of the kid--I have always admired your level-headedness, and if I had more of it, I would have (and should have) said "abortion has nothing to do with child support, so I won't discuss them in the same framework." I wish I had.

On the other hand...I do get sick of the way many antifeminist men seem to think any consideration for others with regard to sex is a violation of their basic rights. Yes, you have to make sure the person you're having sex with is of age. Yes, you have to make sure the person you're having sex with wants to be having sex with you at that moment. Yes, birth control is your responsibility too. Yes, STDs are your responsibility too. No, your attraction to somebody does not justify catcalling her, grabbing her ass, or hassling her after she's made it clear that she wants you to go away. Yes, if you make a child, you are responsible for its well-being. No, you don't get any say over whether or not a woman has an abortion. No, whining and asking someone over and over and over again after she's already said no if you can just please fuck her is not acceptable behavior. Yes, having sex with someone and then refusing to return her calls is assholish behavior. The idea that so many antifeminist men seem to have that their sexual urges trump all over considerations and responsibilities just takes my breath away, and makes my blood pressure rise, and MRA arguments against child support seem redolent with this kind of privilege.

Also...I think I really do believe that if a person is not prepared to take responsibility for some of the very common consequences of sex, that person is not mature enough to be having sex. I believe that in terms of emotional consequences and in terms of physical consequences. If either a man or a woman can't handle the often intense emotions that sex generates, he or she shouldn't have sex. If a man or a woman can't cope with the possibility of unwanted pregnancy, can't cope at all, then he or she probably shouldn't be having heterosexual sex, because as it stands now, that's not an uncommon consequence. But only men, really, have the freedom to act sort of surprised by that.

In my own defense, I also said that I wouldn't care about child support if we lived in a country in which every child was guaranteed an acceptable standard of living by the government. I'd be happy to pay higher taxes to make this happen. But damn, we can't even get the government to cover health insurance for poor kids, so...child support it is, as you say.

One question about your idea. You say "The first advantage is that it allows people who don't want to be parents to opt out of that, with the stipulation being that, by giving up all of the burdens of being a parent, they also give up on all of the rights, as well."

I wonder...is it really fair to allow a parent to opt out of all burdens and rights? And what I mean by that is, fair to the child? I suppose we do something similar with sperm and egg donations. But so many adopted children go in search of their birth mothers, and consider that search to be of vital importance. Is it fair to a kid to say to her "Your father has absolutely no right or duty to you, so don't try and find him"? Because if a kid did want to track down that father when she was still a minor, and involves him in her life (perhaps he's had a change of heart)...what does that mean for child support? It seems unnecessarily cruel to say to a kid "You can't even try to contact your father until you're 18 because of legal/monetary considerations." What do you think?

Nique said...

I completely agree with eg. It is not realistic to suggest that parents should be able to opt out of parenting, because they aren't the only people whose wants and needs matter on the issue. The needs of the child must also be considered and it isn't fair to tell a child that they can have no access to their biological parents. (Which is something you should consider before donating sperm. You and the mothers might not want you to be involved in the child's life but what will that child want?)

It's also really irresponsible to suggest we should be living in a world where people would be allowed to have consequence-free sex. Sex DOES have consequences, that's just a fact. Of course we can minimize the possibility of those consequences but they will never disappear altogether. So why shouldn't both men and women have to deal with that fact? Would it really be a better world if we could do whatever we wanted without having to consider the ramifications of our actions?

Roy said...

MRAs always bring up this issue in connection to abortion--I know you know that.

Absolutely. I've lost track of the number of times I've said "Abortion and child support are two different issues, and it doesn't make sense to compare them" or some variation thereof.

...So that comment was supposed to be a direct response to that kind of mentality--which one often sees in pro-forced-birthers too--that somehow women are "getting out" of the consequences of sex.

I can understand that, and I think you're right, that attitude- that women are "getting out of" something... well, it's ridiculous.

Also...I think I really do believe that if a person is not prepared to take responsibility for some of the very common consequences of sex, that person is not mature enough to be having sex. I believe that in terms of emotional consequences and in terms of physical consequences. If either a man or a woman can't handle the often intense emotions that sex generates, he or she shouldn't have sex. If a man or a woman can't cope with the possibility of unwanted pregnancy, can't cope at all, then he or she probably shouldn't be having heterosexual sex, because as it stands now, that's not an uncommon consequence. But only men, really, have the freedom to act sort of surprised by that.

I don't disagree. I think that my main point of contention would be that I don't think that not wanting to have children or anything to do with them means that someone isn't prepared.

In my own defense, I also said that I wouldn't care about child support if we lived in a country in which every child was guaranteed an acceptable standard of living by the government. I'd be happy to pay higher taxes to make this happen. But damn, we can't even get the government to cover health insurance for poor kids, so...child support it is, as you say.

I honestly didn't notice that post, but I'm glad you pointed out that you mentioned it. I think that's a totally fair position to have (I'm sure it's a coincidence that it largely mirrors my own!).

I wonder...is it really fair to allow a parent to opt out of all burdens and rights? And what I mean by that is, fair to the child? I suppose we do something similar with sperm and egg donations. But so many adopted children go in search of their birth mothers, and consider that search to be of vital importance. Is it fair to a kid to say to her "Your father has absolutely no right or duty to you, so don't try and find him"?

Honestly, I don't know. As you point out, that already happens in the case of donations- many people who donate sperm or eggs have non-disclosure clauses that prevent the child from finding out who the bio-parent is, don't they?

It's not that I can't understand the desire of a child to know his/her biological parents. The question is whether that desire should carry more weight than the parent's desire not to be involved, and, given the premium I place on personal autonomy, I don't think that it does. I think it sucks for the child, but I don't think that it'd be fair to compel the parent to be a part of that child's life if that person didn't want to be.

Because if a kid did want to track down that father when she was still a minor, and involves him in her life (perhaps he's had a change of heart)...what does that mean for child support?

If we're working within my mythical system? I'd guess that the non-custodial would have to start paying child support starting from that point on, I guess.

It seems unnecessarily cruel to say to a kid "You can't even try to contact your father until you're 18 because of legal/monetary considerations." What do you think?

But it's not because of legal/monetary concerns- it'd be because that parent wanted nothing to do with the child. Oh, wait... do you mean that in cases where the non-cus might have changed his/her mind?

It is not realistic to suggest that parents should be able to opt out of parenting, because they aren't the only people whose wants and needs matter on the issue.

I have to say, I disagree. The reality is that people do this all the time, right now. There are tons of kids who don't have relationships with their biological parents- sometimes it's because one of them is dead, but sometimes it's just because the non-custodial parent wants nothing to do with the kid or the custodial parent doesn't want the kid to have anything to do with the non-custodial. Or both.

A check coming from the non-custodial parent doesn't do anything but meet the financial needs of a child, and, even then, it doesn't always do it very well. If all a non-custodial is doing is cutting a check, what wants and needs is that person meeting that couldn't be met as well in other ways?

If a parent really doesn't want anything to do with a child, there's not much you can do about that. And do you really want to? It's not like someone who doesn't want to be involved in a kid's life is going to be particularly enthusiastic about it.

We can argue that in an ideal world parents would always want to have a relationship with their children, and every child would be wanted by both, but that's not reality, and forcing someone to pay child support doesn't change that.

When we talk about these things, we have to weigh the rights and responsibilities of the parents against the rights of the child. We have a social interest in ensuring that children are provided for, and that takes money. It's sad, but the fact of the matter is that there's less of a compelling interest in forcing people to actually be parents to their children. You can't compel people to be fathers or mothers to their children.

And, really, I don't think that you need to be the biological parent of a child to have a healthy relationship with the child, anyway. If I did, I wouldn't be helping a same-sex couple to have children. I think that children can grow up healthy and happy without ever having a parental relationship with their biological parents.

I also don't think that a child's desire to have a personal relationship with the biological parents should outweight those adults' desires not to be involved.

It's also really irresponsible to suggest we should be living in a world where people would be allowed to have consequence-free sex. Sex DOES have consequences, that's just a fact. Of course we can minimize the possibility of those consequences but they will never disappear altogether.

Of course they won't. I'm not suggeesting that they will. What I'm suggesting is that we ought to be trying to minimize them as much as possible. If we could find a way to make sure that the only people who ever had children were the people who really wanted them, and there was a safe, easy, effective way of making sure that people never contracted STDs, don't you think that would be a good thing?

No, we'll never get there- but I don't buy the argument that eliminating as many consequences as we reasonably can is a bad thing or that it's irresponsible to suggest that it would be good if we could.

So why shouldn't both men and women have to deal with that fact?

They don't?
The consequences are undeniably different. It's a sad fact of biology that, if someone gets pregnant, it's the woman. The consequences to a man are undeniably different than they are to a woman, but that doesn't mean that there aren't consequences. The consequences will never be the same, though. I don't, however, think that's a good reason to continue with a child support system that is so clearly not meeting the needs of the children, because, again, the only justification I see for child support is that we have vested interest in ensuring that children are cared for, and that takes money.

I don't think it's fair or right to use child support as a means of creating ramifications or consequences for having sex.

chem_fem said...

I've now just had time to check your blog, and this well written piece much better explains your opinion than the comment on the feministing thread, so it is easier to reply.

Firstly as I wrote on the feministing site, your reply to me put a lot more interpretation on what I wrote than was actually there. Fair enough, we all do that from time to time but I do want to stress that while I wrote sex=babies, I also pointed out that this was mostly preventable and in no way suggested it shouldn't be so.

I'd love sex to be consequenceless and just fun but it isn't, and it has become obvious to me over the years that even if my partners are thoughtful, liberal and responsible that they still don't understand that there is still a risk of pregnancy to my body. It worries me that even the most feminist partners that I've had are still reletively blase about it.....

Until science comes up with a safe entirely flawless form of contraception for both sexes, this will still be a problem and I don't think it is entirely unreasonable to not expect abortion to be a given in the event of contraception failure.

As and when sex is baby-proof then I'll relax and the child support issue can be completely over hauled, but until then the best you can hope for is that men will understand the consequences better, understand abortion (while I'm totally prochoice) is not just that straight forward for everyone and understand that prevention is something that should be shared equally.

I'm not wanting to demonise men, it's very easy to take things forgranted when they happen to other people, but I'm yet to meet any man that fully shares my sense of fear of impending accidental parenthood before the event. It's easy to feel frustrated afterwards.

Have I made my position clearer?

Anonymous said...

chem_fem: I'm not up to jumping into the larger fray here (and I'm still working out how I feel about this issue), but I did want to tell you that my boyfriend actually a greater fear of my accidental pregnancy than I do (and I'm certainly not looking to get pregnant myself!). Not trying to negate your experiences, which I'm quite sure are the norm, just wanted you to know it's not universal across all men.

Roy said...

Until science comes up with a safe entirely flawless form of contraception for both sexes, this will still be a problem and I don't think it is entirely unreasonable to not expect abortion to be a given in the event of contraception failure.

I agree with this completely. I think that one of the biggest problems surrounding sex is the lack of open communication and frank discussions about "Hey, if a pregnancy occurs, how do we feel about that?" Neither person should assume to know how the other feels, and, ideally, there would be an open conversation about the potential consequences. I'm certainly not trying to suggest that I think that every unexpected pregnancy should be aborted by default.

As and when sex is baby-proof then I'll relax and the child support issue can be completely over hauled, but until then the best you can hope for is that men will understand the consequences better, understand abortion (while I'm totally prochoice) is not just that straight forward for everyone and understand that prevention is something that should be shared equally.

The problem is that it seems to me that, in the meantime, you're treating abortion and child support like they're related issues, and they're really not. I don't expect you, or any other woman or feminist, to jump on board and be active in overhauling the child support system. Hell, I'm not interested in doing the work to overhaul the system- but I don't think it's fair to treat them like the same issue or to use the biological inequities of childbirth as a reason for maintaining the current child support system.

In other words: I certainly agree that the things you're descibing are very real, very serious problems, but they're not problems that are solved by compelling people to pay child support, and I don't really think that they're the same issue.

Nique said...

Uh-oh. I disagree with a lot of what you're saying Roy (though I don't disagree with all of it). I can see this turning into another endless debate so I'll refrain from a point by point rebuttal but I will say this: I'm surprised to see you, who is so shocked by people who claim to hate children, putting the rights of parents ahead of the rights of children.

Roy said...

I'm surprised to see you, who is so shocked by people who claim to hate children, putting the rights of parents ahead of the rights of children.

I'm not completely sure what you mean. What I'd like to see is the rights of both parents and children honored. In this particular case, the argument, as I understand it, is about whether we have a state interest in compelling a person who doesn't want to interact with another person to do so. It's not that I don't understand a child's desire to know his/her biological parents, it's that I don't see why that desire should trump the parent's rights.

I'm just not convinced that children have a right to a relationship with their biological parents. I think that our right to privacy and personal autonomy trump another person's- even our biological child's- desire to have us in their lives.

And, really, I'm not sure how we'd work out something different, anyway. We should do everything we can to make sure that a child is being cared for, and that the child is in a loving environment, and I'm not sure that the child's, the state's, or the uninterested parent's best interests are being served by compelling someone by force to have a relationship with the child.

I suppose it depends on if the suggestion is that children have a right to know who their parents are, or if the argument is that they have a right to have some kind of personal relationship with that person.

I guess I'm not really sure what right it is that you think children have over their parents in this regard. The right to know who they are? The right to actually spend time with them? Something else entirely? And why should that right trump the parent's rights to privacy and personal autonomy?

Anyway, I really appreciate the input, here. I know it's a pretty charged issue, and, ultimately, I think that most of us agree that the current situation with child support is certainly better than a system that provides no child support.

chem_fem said...

Anonymous, I'm actually encouraged by that if anything, thanks.

I think that what bothers me the most on this issue is the bit about abortion being expected and that women are forcing fatherhood on poor unsuspecting men if they don't have one.

The child support thing is secondary, and I think that both mother and father should be responsible for any children produced even if it is up for adoption. Both so people take the risks of sex and making children seriously - I know that women are just as capable of carelessness. I'm also as concerned as nique about the rights of parents to shrug off parenthood over those of a child to have parents.

I agree the issues are separate, but when you have concerns about both in the same post it is easy to come across as muddling the two.

chem_fem said...

ok, rather than my second paragraph it is easier to say I just disagree with this:

I'm just not convinced that children have a right to a relationship with their biological parents. I think that our right to privacy and personal autonomy trump another person's- even our biological child's- desire to have us in their lives.

....that sums up the opposite to my POV otherwise I agree.

assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

wow, roy. i had no idea you felt this way. this brought up so many questions and issues that i'm unsure of where to start. i'm at work, so i'll just pick one, and maybe expound later tonight. so:

this is not the 60s. consequence-free sex does not exist. while we'd love the option to run out and have crazy swingin' love, it's just not feasible. neither is it the 90s, where safe sex and the tremors and aftermath of the HIV/AIDS scare was felt. i think that now we're breathing a little easier in the knowledge that (some)infected people here are living semi-normal long lives.

that being said, i think that education is the key to all of these 'baby responsibility' woes. we should be putting serious money into teaching people about the essentiality of safe sex and letting others know that recreational sex should only be had when precautions are taken. and by precautions, (besides the obvious condom/lube/dams/etc) i mean the knowledge that if the woman gets pregnant, the parties involved had better be prepared. is abortion or adoption an option? are you financially and emotionally ready for a child? do both of you really want this? i realize you mentioned all this somewhat in your post, but i believe that if we started in the schools and at home with our current children, and our government actually stopped the abstinence-only teaching methods, then your proposed system would be unnecessary. instead of putting all the money into rearing these 'unwanted children,' we could focus on rearing responsible individuals that can have safe, fun sex with level heads. hopefully then, the messiness of child support, deadbeat parents, and the selection of a 'least bad' scenario (which i totally agree with that sentiment, btw) would become obsolete.

EG said...

Roy, I think that when you say

I think that one of the biggest problems surrounding sex is the lack of open communication and frank discussions about "Hey, if a pregnancy occurs, how do we feel about that?" Neither person should assume to know how the other feels, and, ideally, there would be an open conversation about the potential consequences.

That is exactly what I mean when I said that if somebody truly can't handle at all the possibility of unintended pregnancy, they shouldn't be having heterosexual sex. And I think the reverse of this attitude is part of what is so loathesome about MRAs--they seem to be complaining about situations that could have been avoided if they'd treated their partners with a modicum of respect before having sex with them. That's what I mean about wanting to avoid all responsibility. Obviously, a person could have a serious conversation--or several--and then change her mind when push comes to shove, but, and I may be an old sentimental romantic fool here, I think that the effort and emotional commitment to each other necessary to having those conversations would require enough responsibility from each party that the man wouldn't quite feel so self-righteous about skipping off.

I must sigh and say that you're right--we can't require people to be involved in their children's lives. I'll just reserve the right to think that most men who have no qualms about ditching their kids legally, financially, and emotionally are assholes. (I can think of some exceptions--let's say the guy's an alcoholic and knows he won't be able to get clean enough to be a decent father. Then he might be doing the stand-up thing to leave...though not to send child support in current conditions.)

Nique said...

Yes Roy, I believe children do have the right to know who their parents are and also have a relationship with those parents even if the parents want nothing to do with the child. In my opinion the desires of the child absolutely trump the rights of adults. You could easily argue that these parents wouldn't be a good influence on the kids anyway, since they're disinterested, but you clearly have no idea how traumatic it is for children to know that their bio-parents want nothing to do with them. That shit will scarr them for life.

I'm taking this very personally because I know a child in this situation: my nephew. It was an unplanned pregnancy but my sister went ahead and had the baby because at age 30 she was in an emotional position to do so. She never placed any obligations on the father but at first he took an interest in the child. This man was sort of a loser and none of us thought he was a great role-model but I always believed it would be beneficial for a multi-racial child to have a relationship with his black father, while growing up in an otherwise lilly-white family. But recently the father has lost interest and has cut off all contact with the boy, financial and otherwise. Now my sister is scraping by (having lost her job) and it's the child who suffers from the loss of child-support. But more importantly, he loses out psychologically because he'll never get to know his dad. When he asks about him he'll have to swallow the fact that daddy doesn't give a shit. It sucks and it's just not fair.

I firmly believe that when those two adults had sex that day they should have been willing to accept the possibility that their lives would be changed forever more. Dead beat-dad should cough up some dough and a couple birthday cards because it's just the right thing to do.

Cara said...

Yes Roy, I believe children do have the right to know who their parents are and also have a relationship with those parents even if the parents want nothing to do with the child. In my opinion the desires of the child absolutely trump the rights of adults. You could easily argue that these parents wouldn't be a good influence on the kids anyway, since they're disinterested, but you clearly have no idea how traumatic it is for children to know that their bio-parents want nothing to do with them.

I agree with you, nique, that knowing your parent wants nothing to do with you is highly traumatic for a child. But I'm not sure what you think Roy is suggesting that would cause that trauma. Do you think that by forcing a parent to be involved, the kid will somehow not know that he or she does not want to be involved? Because the kid will know. If you're a big enough asshole to not want anything to do with your kid, you're not going to be considerate enough towards that kid to try to hide that fact.

Now, I'm not sure that I agree with Roy that the rights of the person to not be involved trumps the rights of the child to have that parent be involved. But I do think that it's a rather moot philisophical point. If the child's rights do trump the parent's, that kid still isn't gaining anything. What is better, to know from the get-go that your dad doesn't want you, or to grow up knowing your dad who regularly makes it known over and over again that he doesn't want you? I guess that you can make an argument for either, but I would personally take the former.

I think (and maybe I'm wrong about this) that all of us are on the same page regarding the fact that both parents should be responsible and take care of their kid in all circumstances. But forcing someone to do that doesn't solve shit. And I think that having a parent who is forced to spend time with you -- and therefore will almost inevitably end up resenting you for it -- is also going to scar you for life.

nique said...

You're absolutely right cara, but I still think at the very least parents have the obligation to support their kids financially, even if they are incapable of doing so emotionally.

I guess I just dream of a hypothetical, idealized world where people could grow the fuck up and take some responsibility for their actions.

Anonymous said...

Yes, if you make a child, you are responsible for its well-being<<<

How does a man make a child?

Anonymous said...

i would like your thoughts on a particular situation that i am faced with.

my ex got pregnant. she was supposedly on bc, but it expired
so we talked about it and decided to have an abortion. she wanted to have it at a private clinic, and did not want me there. so i paid for her to have it done. not easy on a college budget, but it was the best option.

so after the "procedure", she shared her regrets of going through with it, the loss was tough for her. we share different views on what is meant by responsability of a parent. i feel that it is the responsability to only have children once you are emotionally and finacially ready. also, i feel that there should be a husband and a wife as this requires partnership.

latley i have been getting messages from her telling me that she did not go through with the abortion. i do not know what to think. i dont know if this is a way of getting back at me for not wanting to be with her, or if she just could not go through with it and now expects me to be the father to the child.

if the latter is true, i do not think that either of us are ready for parenthood. i fully acknowledge the role i played in conception, but to me this is still difficult because i know that the resulting child would face a very disfunctional life.
i would be interested to hear your thoughts on how this situation may be handled for the benefit of the child, for her, and for me, thanks