Thursday, March 09, 2006

Shoe On Other Foot

I wondered when someone was finally going to do this, or if someone already had. But that day has come!

The National Center for Men has prepared a lawsuit -- nicknamed Roe v. Wade for Men -- to be filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Michigan on behalf of a 25-year-old computer programmer ordered to pay child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter.

The suit addresses the issue of male reproductive rights, contending that lack of such rights violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

The gist of the argument: If a pregnant woman can choose among abortion, adoption or raising a child, a man involved in an unintended pregnancy should have the choice of declining the financial responsibilities of fatherhood. The activists involved hope to spark discussion even if they lose.


Dubay says he has been ordered to pay $500 a month in child support for a girl born last year to his ex-girlfriend. He contends that the woman knew he didn't want to have a child with her and assured him repeatedly that -- because of a physical condition -- she could not get pregnant.

Dubay is braced for the lawsuit to fail.

"What I expect to hear [from the court] is that the way things are is not really fair, but that's the way it is," he said in a telephone interview. "Just to create awareness would be enough, to at least get a debate started."

The predictable feminist response?

Jennifer Brown of the women's rights advocacy group Legal Momentum objected to the men's center comparing Dubay's lawsuit to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing a woman's right to have an abortion.

"Roe is based on an extreme intrusion by the government -- literally to force a woman to continue a pregnancy she doesn't want," Brown said. "There's nothing equivalent for men. They have the same ability as women to use contraception, to get sterilized."

As Below the Beltway says, isn't this Roe to it's logical conclusion? If women can be protected from having to bear a child, doesn't the 14th Amendment extend the same or similar protections to men? I have several points:

1: It's My Body? This is the most popular argument by pro-choice women about their abortion rights, but if it is totally theirs as the argument goes, why does their choice (since it's theirs alone) allow them to compel men to pay child suppot no matter what their choice may be? Does this not write inequality into law when it comes to abortion rights?

2: Degrees of Magnitude Many may argue that having to pay child support is nowhere near the burden that bearing and raising a child is. That I can agree with, but whereas women are offered a choice about the first burden men are offered no choice about the second one. And it's not even a lack of choice, but it's actually criminal for men to neglect these responsibilities. They are locked up in some cases, names published in the newspaper as deadbeat dads in government-paid legal notices, and have their wages garnished. Companies that don't comply with the policy also are subject to government action and penalties. Women are subject to none of that should they decide to abdicate this supposed "responsibility to children" forced on men if they choose to either have an abortion or give the child up for adoption after birth. Sure, bearing a child is harder than paying child support, but you've got one case where women possess all the choice and men possess none and are subject to legal sanction if they don't live up to their responsibilities. Again, this is inherently unequal before the law and violates the 14th Amendment.

3: Inherent Difference Again, one of the probable arguments to be mounted against this would be the simple "You can't know what it's like to be pregnant" argument against the men forced to pay child support. This is what Princezz likes to call the "Feminist Trump Card." However, if one is to believe this in a legal sense and apply it in this case, it clearly calls for a different set of laws for women than it does for men. How is this equality? How is it even Feminism if it declares women must be treated differently than men, where they can be defended/protected in some Victorian way from these responsibilities and burdens when men are forced to bear them?

All of this clearly shows that men are subject to burdens, responsibilities, and obligations beyond their realm of choice, and that women are defended from similar ones (though much more severe) by being offered a choice, or choices. I think, like Don Surber, that this argument is a morally despicable one overall, but I do believe this is taking Roe to its logical conclusion. If you really believe there's a right to privacy in the constitution that allows absolute control over one's reproductive rights, why does this right only apply to women and not to men? Roe sets the stage that burdens about ones life and reproduction should be ultimate up to the individual, but as it is currently in jurisprudence, this protection is only extended to women, whereas it is not to men and deviation from it is brutally enforced. If you believe in equal treatment before the law, there's clearly a substantial constitutional problem.

Update: Looking around for more stuff I found this! I had no idea such a philosophy existed.