New Lawsuit: Roe v. Wade for Men

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  • Elsewhere

    Men want 'say' in unplanned pregnancy

    Activists seek right to decline financial responsibility for kids

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Contending that women have more options than they do in the event of an unintended pregnancy, men's rights activists are mounting a long shot legal campaign aimed at giving them the chance to opt out of financial responsibility for raising a child.

    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.

    "There's such a spectrum of choice that women have -- it's her body, her pregnancy and she has the ultimate right to make decisions," said Mel Feit, director of the men's center. "I'm trying to find a way for a man also to have some say over decisions that affect his life profoundly."

    Feit's organization has been trying since the early 1990s to pursue such a lawsuit, and finally found a suitable plaintiff in Matt Dubay of Saginaw, Michigan.

    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."

    State courts have ruled in the past that any inequity experienced by men like Dubay is outweighed by society's interest in ensuring that children get financial support from two parents. Melanie Jacobs, a Michigan State University law professor, said the federal court might rule similarly in Dubay's case.

    "The courts are trying to say it may not be so fair that this gentleman has to support a child he didn't want, but it's less fair to say society has to pay the support," she said.

    Feit, however, says a fatherhood opt-out wouldn't necessarily impose higher costs on society or the mother. A woman who balked at abortion but felt she couldn't afford to raise a child could put the baby up for adoption, he said.

    'This is so politically incorrect'

    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."

    Feit counters that the suit's reference to abortion rights is apt.

    "Roe says a woman can choose to have intimacy and still have control over subsequent consequences," he said. "No one has ever asked a federal court if that means men should have some similar say."

    "The problem is this is so politically incorrect," Feit added. "The public is still dealing with the pre-Roe ethic when it comes to men, that if a man fathers a child, he should accept responsibility."

    Feit doesn't advocate an unlimited fatherhood opt-out; he proposes a brief period in which a man, after learning of an unintended pregnancy, could decline parental responsibilities if the relationship was one in which neither partner had desired a child.

    "If the woman changes her mind and wants the child, she should be responsible," Feit said. "If she can't take care of the child, adoption is a good alternative."

    The president of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, acknowledged that disputes over unintended pregnancies can be complex and bitter.

    "None of these are easy questions," said Gandy, a former prosecutor. "But most courts say it's not about what he did or didn't do or what she did or didn't do. It's about the rights of the child."

    Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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  • serendipity

    I have to begrudgingly agree he has a point. I had an unplanned pregnancy and my bf wanted me to get an abortion. He told me that it wasn't fair that I had the final say in the matter, and that he would face consequences of my decision. I do agree that this is one area women have an 'advantage' if you want to call being a single parent an advantage.

  • Oroborus21

    I would be all for such a suit. The balance of power in this equation is far too slanted in the favour of one party (women).

    It is a strange paradox that a man who helped create the life has no say in the decision of whether to extend it or to end it, but should the woman choose either option against his own wishes, he is bound morally, legally and financially to suffer the consequences of her unilateral choice.

    If there was a law that reduced a man's legal and financial obligations if she desired to bear the child when he desired abortion, or conversely, to be solely responsible for the child if she did not want it but carried it to term on his behalf, it certainly would seem to add more parity to the situation.

    However, for a whole host of reasons that isn't the way our social system or legal system is structured. Life isn't fair and in this area of procreation and birth-rights, women have all the power. We men just have to deal with it and frankly we have our own advantages in others areas so it all seems to even out in the end.


  • Big Tex
    Big Tex

    What I've always thought was unfair was that men have so little say so in the decision. Either way, whether to go ahead with the pregnancy or terminate. I don't think it is fair that it is an entirely one way street.

    I remember reading of a case where a woman performed oral sex on a man, kept his semen, used it to impregnate herself (without his knowledge) and years later sued him for child support. And won.

    That's not right.

  • Frog
    I do agree that this is one area women have an 'advantage''d hardly call it an advantage!

    I disagree entirely with the points above. While guys in this situation do most definitely have my sympathy, I don't believe than any man could truly comprehend what it is like to be faced with the decision to abort or not to abort...while I've never been that situation myself, I've certainly had moments of paranoia where I had to contemplate such a fate. For many women, it is absolutely not an option, and it comes with a huge hangover of lifelong grief, loss and sorrow. While I believe it is absolutely vital for women to still have the choice, I understand that there are more women in this world who could not possibly go through the pain of it. It's all very well & good for a man to speak of the abortion process theoretically, but that's because after the actualy procedure it's over for him, he doesn't have to carry that burden for life.

    As far as I'm concerned, I believe that everytime a man has sex he takes the risk of fatherhood. I likewise agree that the emphasis should be on getting men to take more responsibility for contraception if they are so concerned with having control over their reproductive rights. For a woman who falls pregnant despite taking all possible precautions she absolutely should not be pushed into a corner allowing the male party to be null & void of financial responsibility for that child.

  • serendipity

    There's the other side of the equation: A woman wants to abort but the man wants the child. That's inequitable as well.

    Best to just be celibate until marriage, then there are no worries.

  • Frog
    Best to just be celibate until marriage

    oh of sourse Serendipity, I never thought of that!!? boys should just keep it in their pants lol! twould have to be a cold day in hell...

  • Leolaia

    Maybe I'm dense, but this seems ridiculous to me. Pregnancy is inherently and biologically an unequal situation between the man and woman. Unlike men, women must be the ones to bear the child and carry it to term. Now, if it were possible for the man to bear the child if he wants to take up the responsibility, then sure, he should have equal say, but as long as that is not the case, I think it is misguided to ignore the fact that the mother has to deal with a lot more stuff than the father does. And the real problem I see is in this:

    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.

    We already have such a problem of "deadbeat dads" in this country, and I can't imagine this making the situation any better. I can imagine many women who are morally against abortion decide to have the baby (in an unplanned pregnancy) and then are left high and dry and have no legal recourse for child support...

  • Big Tex
    Big Tex
    Maybe I'm dense, but this seems ridiculous to me

    Okay take the hypothetical situation where a woman tells a man she is taking birth control but in reality isn't with with the idea of getting pregnant. To put it in crass terms, in a business situation, this is a bait-and-switch scenario. Imagine a retail store offering something for sale, then switching to a low end product, or an entirely different product altogether in order to trick the consumer into buying the product. It is illegal to present a misrepresentation in business, why is it okay if a woman misrepresents her intentions to a man? Yes obviously women only are capable of giving birth, but men bashing isn't really addressing the issue. Shouldn't a man be entitled to a modicum of legal rights?

    This is not about dead beat dads (although I agree 100% with you on that score), but rather introducing the idea that a woman should not have 100% say while the man has zero legal protection. Yes in an ideal world we'd all keep it zipped up, but that's subscribing to a Nancy Reagan-type philosphy (just say no) and it's just not practical as we are told constantly regarding AIDS.

    This is about offering legal protectiong for both sides and not just the woman.

  • upside/down

    You gotta love it...

    I never did "get" the whole men vs. women thing...

    Knock yourselves out!


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