Today in the United States and much of the western world, men have absolutely no reproductive rights. We as men have no legal say in whether a woman has a child that we helped create, nor do we have a say in whether or not we as men are legally responsible for that child. These decisions rest solely on the woman and the government.
So, what exactly are reproductive rights? The World Health Organization defines Human Reproductive Rights as “rest[ing] on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion, and violence.” Based on this definition, legally these rights only apply to women.
If a pregnancy occurs, the woman alone has the right to decide if she has that baby, which is exactly how it should be. She and she alone should decide whether or not to carry to term or have an abortion, no one else. It is her body after all, and everyone should have the right to decide what happens to their body. This was established in the famous case of Roe V. Wade in 1973 which made abortion a legal right for women.
Now, let’s say the woman has the baby but doesn’t want to be legally responsible for it. Does she have a choice? Yes she does. She can absolve herself of all responsibility by leaving the baby with a designated entity so the child becomes a ward of the state. This is made possible by “Safe Haven” laws which decriminalize the abandonment of an unharmed infant to a “designated private person(s)”. In some states these are also called “Baby Moses” laws. Of course she could also put the child up for adoption, which is another option to give up legal responsibility if she so chooses.
This is all wonderful for women, as they have the ability not only to choose whether they carry a pregnancy to term but they can also choose to opt out of being legally responsible for a child they decide to birth. Do men have the option to do any of these things? No. If we have absolutely no interest or intention of being a father but a woman has our baby, we are automatically legally responsible for that child. We cannot choose to “opt out” of that responsibility. Instead, we are automatically required to pay child support or face possible jail time.
There have been a few cases where men have attempted to fight this injustice. In a famous case dubbed “The Roe V. Wade for men”, Dubay V. Wells, the man, Dubay, attempted to fight paying child support in a court case that lasted ten years on the grounds that he should have just as much of a right to legally become a parent or not as a woman has a right to have an abortion. Guess what? He lost. The court ruled that he would have to pay child support, as it was his “responsibility” to do so. If you want more information on this case, simply search “Dubay V. Wells” and be prepared to get a little angry. In another, somewhat extreme example in the case of San Luis Obispo v. Nathaniel J., a 15 year old boy who had sex with a 34 year old woman was found to be legally responsible to pay child support, even though he was underage and technically a victim of statutory rape.
These are all examples of a flawed system, gender bias, and technically, coercion. I think we can all agree that men and women’s reproductive rights are in no way equal. There is certainly a better way and hopefully we will have just as much of a right to decide whether we want to be a parent as a woman in the near future, but right now we don’t.
Before you get too angry and decide to go around calling women all kinds of names and get pissed off at feminism, let’s take a step back. Women are not evil, and they’re not out to get us. Society as a whole has created this situation and we all need to relax, and accept our objective reality, however unfair it is. Yes, we should work to change any injustice as soon as possible, but there are things we can do right now to protect ourselves.
What is the best course of action then? Do everything in your power to not cause an accidental pregnancy. Use birth control, talk to your sexual partner(s), support improvements and advances in male birth control, keep reading through this blog, and help other men and women understand the need for this knowledge to work towards true equality when it comes to reproductive rights.