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March 13, 2006

Salon on that pseudo-Roe story

Rebecca Traister has an article in Salon about Matt Dubay, the 25-year-old computer technician who's shamelessly vying for pro-choice cred in his bid for deadbeat dads' rights.

Traister asks whether someone who really cared about choice would be launching what is universally acknowledged to be a nuisance suit to publicize men's alleged "right to choose" when real abortion rights are under coordinated attack. I don't have a lot of patience for this kinds of argument. If it's ever okay to launch a nuisance suit on behalf of child deserters, now's probably as good a time as any. Generally, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about how those who merely claim to be on my side might reflect on me. I think people like Amy Sullivan and Kos waste a lot of energy agonizing about how other pro-choicers reflect on the progressive movement. Obviously Dubay isn't doing pro-choicers any favors by taking a stance that is widely believed to be irresponsible and selfish, given that this is exactly the taint that real pro-choice activists are constantly trying to avoid. On the other hand, I don't want Sullivan and Kos telling me to shut up because I'm responsible for how people perceive Democrats at large. So, I can't very well complain that Dubay is stabbing the pro-choicers in the back by putting his personal struggle above the movement's public image.

On the other hand, I can spot opportunism when I see it. Dubay and the National Center for Men are trivializing abortion rights for the sake of their little publicity stunt.

According to the article, the National Center for Men had been waiting for an appropriate plaintiff for this lawsuit for ten years. And yet Dubay's case is weak, even by the deadbeat dad lobby's standards. If he's the best test case they could find in a decade, it kind of makes you wonder if there are as many sperm-snatching snatches out there as the men's rights activists would have you believe.

Dubay doesn't even claim that his girlfriend knowingly deceived him about her fertility. According to the article, she believed that she couldn't get pregnant because of a medical condition and Dubay believed her. As it turned out, they were both wrong. His girlfriend subsequently decided that she wanted to have the baby. Dubay's only defense was that he said he never wanted children. He isn't alleging that his girlfriend wanted a child and connived to get one against his wishes. He's just whining about the fact that she "changed her mind", as he acknowledged to be her right. (By "her right", he seems to mean simply her right not to be dragged to the clinic under armed guard.)

If Dubay took a woman's right to choose seriously he wouldn't be so blase about a man's right to threaten a woman with destitution if she doesn't get an abortion. The decision to give birth is deeply personal one, but so is the decision to have an abortion. Being financially compelled to get an abortion that you don't want because you are afraid of being left destitute is as much a violation of personal integrity as being forced to give birth.

Dubay argues that Roe gave women the right to consequence-free sex and that society should offer no less to men. At best, he's deeply confused about the principle at stake here. One of the benefits of reproductive rights is that those of us who are pro-choice can enjoy sex without the fear of forced birth. However, Roe was never about the right to consequence-free sex, per se. I take it as a given that consequence-free sex is a good thing. However that doesn't mean that the state has a compelling interest in working to absolve people from the consequences of their behavior, including their sexual behavior when those choices affect non-consenting third parties. On the contrary, we have a compelling social interest in forcing people to accept responsibilities they would otherwise shirk.

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>Even without abortion rights, women can still choose to give the child up for adoption, relieving herself of parental responsibilities which she feels she's not up to. Men shouldn't be able to do the same thing?

I think this was an important word from thump. This is what I was grasping for, when I kept saying, "well, it's good to support your child, but..." It bugged me to sound nebulous, but this is the very crux of the matter: the single mother can give the child up for adoption, without being ripped apart as a "deadbeat mom." As it should be. But a man can't. And this seems to me to have nothing to do with the "it's different for women" argument, that does apply regarding the question of carrying the baby to term. This seems a case that should be no different for either gender, except that we all just feel that the kid should be with its single mom and not with its single dad, out of custom.

shamelessly vying for pro-choice cred in his bid for deadbeat dads' rights.

Yeah, the "deadbeat" who's sperm was carefully nurtured in some highly actualized feminist's mouth until she could self-impregnate in yet another kids-for-cash scheme; remember her?

Didn't think so. Or the millions of womyn with billions of curb-kicked daddy's property, courtesy of feminist legislation, how about them?

Deadbeats, them. Deadbeats.

Well, then fuck off already, because until this screed of yours magically evolves into a fair and open analysis of the full universe of statist conveniences available to womyn vis a vis kids for cash, it's just same-old self-victimizing hurting-twat opportunism.

Until then it's just another yawner of a bullshit feminist screed led by grrrls without a shred of integrity.

Friendly advice: If you're going to participate in feminist discourse, learn to spell words like "woman" and "girl."

Feminist discourse? As in seeking truth and decency and fairness for all? Oh, that's rich.

Provided it had a shred of integrity (and provided you even knew what the feet on the ground looked like -- yes, "womyn and grrrl" because some of us have been around that block more than a few times) I tend to think it'd have started out with a reasonably comprehensive view of the topic.

Am I wrong? Are we solution-hunting here or just clutching our smarting vaginas? See, the ground rules mean something.

I'll answer that for you: It did not. Nothing about this is comprehensive or genuinely honest. You're not interested in solutions, in equality. You lead with the usual rhetoric because you intended to be misunderstood. You had to; the reality of the genderism resulting from a half century of legislated bias is too much for you to absorb...

Evaluating the validity of child support based on the honesty of the mother is exactly as cheap as supporting abortion rights only in the case of rape or incest.

We can all yap about fairness all we want, but child support has nothing to do with fairness. It's about the state wanting an extra wallet in case the mom can't support herself. That's why the odds for winning this case aren't great, although I'm glad to see someone trying.

There's absolutely no assumption in law about the benefits of a father. A woman can have a child without ever notifying the father, thus unilaterally depriving her child of this supposedly critical support. No one cares. She is under absolutely no obligation to tell the father if she chooses to raise the child herself or put the child up for adoption--although at least in the latter case, the father may have some protections (ironically, used most often when the birth mother changes her mind). If the father discovers that he has a child and files for custody or even access, the courts will consider the "best interests of the child" and we all know they will value stability over equity, meaning the mother will almost always get full custody. The longer she keeps the father out of the loop, the better her odds are of getting full custody. And after it's all over, she can then sue him for child support (as revenge, if nothing else).

Society only cares about the father when the mother wants money. There isn't a single requirement built into the system to assure a child has a father, because from a societal perspective, a child is the mother's property unless she shows up with her hand out.

So if the kid's rights to a dad are all that important, then let's see some laws put in place to require a woman to identify one and mandate both support and custody in all cases, not just those where the mother deigns to tell the father. Until then, these bleats about a child's right to a father are so much garbage. Stop pretending this is about anything other than the state's desire to dun someone else for a mother's incompetence.

Someone mentioned welfare above. Welfare is provided on the assumption that a woman had a child with the expectation that the father would provide, and then that expectation fell through. It's a polite fiction, of course, but nonetheless, that's the assumption.

If we give men the ability to "opt out", then a woman who continues her pregnancy does so in the knowledge that she's on her own. It changes the underlying assumptions of welfare. So society either denies such a woman welfare (from birth, anyway) or we revert to welfare as we knew it before reform. Ideally, something in between.


The case being discussed here is a reproductive freedom issue, not a child support issue. The plaintiff and his lawyers have publicly acknowledged that he has no chance of winning and will have to continue paying support. But they wish to start a debate.

Here's a scenario:

A couple agree that they do not want to have children. They mutually decide on a method of birth control. They also mutually decide that she will have an abortion if it fails. She gets pregnant anyway. One of the parties changes their mind and wants to have the baby. The other says "No way. We agreed not to have children".

Should one party be able to force the obligations of motherhood/fatherhood on the other party against her/his wishes?

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