Last week, it was announced that a new form of male birth control will begin human trials next year. This is very good news, as many men find condoms to be uncomfortable or burdensome, many women don’t like the side effects of hormonal contraceptives, and the pull-out method continues to be a very unreliable way to avoid a pregnancy. It is a relief to consider that my partner (and every heterosexual male I know) may soon have this option available to him, which is less invasive and more reversible than a vasectomy.

Access to birth control is an issue I care deeply about. Men seriously need more options to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps one of the reasons I care so much is because I live in Los Angeles, a city teeming with gold diggers who can weaponize a pregnancy faster than they can list the names of the Kardashian sisters. More likely though, I simply empathize with the fear of unplanned pregnancy.

As a woman, unplanned pregnancy seriously scares the shit out of me. There are numerous reasons for this, and you can find any feminist blog to tell you why my right to contraception and my right to an abortion are so essential to my quality of life. I am tremendously grateful for 1972’s Eisenstadt v. Baird for ruling in favor of my right to possess contraception and 1973’s Roe v. Wade for establishing my right to have an abortion. I am profoundly lucky to live in a time where an unwanted pregnancy does not have to change my life irreversibly.

But I am reminded that men don’t have that right.

In the past, there was, among some, a sentiment that men have the orgasms, and women have the babies. In a time when a woman inevitably had to carry and bear a child whether or not she wanted to, it made sense to demand that the father also be responsible and provide for his child. However, the groundbreaking court cases that won women the right to prevent or terminate a pregnancy also brought us a bit of a predicament; a woman can choose not to be a parent, but if she chooses to become a parent, the father has no legal say in whether or not he becomes one also.

It doesn’t matter if he only met her for a one night stand or didn’t know about the pregnancy. Or if he offered to pay for the abortion, or has no right to his child at all. Even a non-traditional sperm donor found himself responsible for a kid he had signed away all right to. The state, even without the cooperation of the mother, will compel a man to provide financial support for his child or potentially send him to jail. All other parenting metrics aside, he’s a father.

I’m not sure we’re done progressing if we’ve stopped at women choose to be parents, men sign checkbooks.

As a feminist, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the gender role expectations in this whole thing. If we’re going to stop assuming women are the nurturers, we may want to consider the idea that men aren’t necessarily the providers.

Now, men have absolutely no right to determine what a woman does with her body. Her right to have an abortion—or not—is solidly her decision and hers alone, for it is her body that bears the consequences of either option. However, in the interest of self-ownership, men have a stake: the reward for their work (their pay) being taken to support a child they did not want.

Simply put, there ought to be some way to choose not to be a father. Paternity disestablishment helps if you’re wrongly identified as the father of a child, but not if you are the parent and don’t wish to be. There have been suggestions to have a window of time available for fathers to “decline” parenthood. Political philosopher Elizabeth Brake published a detailed defense of a man’s right to choose.

I’m not sure if we need to look at sperm donor legislation or adoption procedures for our standards reference or exactly what stipulations need to be in place, but I am willing to hear ideas and am happy to support good ones. In the meantime, there’s not enough conversation about this and how we can solve the problem of unwanted fatherhood. I’m happy to see more options for male contraception, and I hope men realize that women who fear unwanted pregnancy can be terrific allies on the topic.

Ultimately, forced fatherhood has no place in a free society. I am profoundly grateful that I will never be forced to be a parent against my will; it’s time to make sure that everybody can say the same.

  • Great article!

    • Avens O’Brien

      Thank you!

  • DavidByron

    First of all stop calling yourself a feminist — that’s offensive language.

    Most of the MRAs I’ve seen only concern themselves with child support on this issue. While being forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars is certainly a big deal it’s not the only aspect of forced parenthood. If the moral principle is that people shouldn’t be forced into parenthood then a biological father needs to have the right to have his biological child forcibly removed from the biological mother and placed anonymously for adoption. Once the baby is born all talk of the female privilege of “my body” should cease. She should not have the right to force another adult into parenthood — even if the financial duties are removed. If she wants a baby she needs to find a man who will let her use his sperm that way, or adopt. Similarly if a man wants a child he’d either have to find a woman who’d have the baby for him, or adopt.

    • If the moral principle is that people shouldn’t be forced into
      parenthood then a biological father needs to have the right to have his
      biological child forcibly removed from the biological mother and placed
      anonymously for adoption.

      Huh? You’re joking, right? What’s the difference between placing the kid up for adoption and the father revoking rights to the child and letting the biological mother raise it?

      • C.Hendon

        I think he’s saying that the moral aspect means the child will always know x is the father, and her choice would necessitate his emotional anguish. Why her anguish of having to give up a child she carried for 9 months is just part of the game but he shouldn’t have to likewise assume that risk at conception makes no sense; especially since saying she must place it up for adoption can be quickly nullified by making her eligible to adopt her own child. (Lets just say the default is that happens instantaneously?)

        There’s a simpler way to effect the result: not allow anyone to be added to the birth certificate without consent. It could be protested that, unlike an arranged adoption, the mother can still tell the child, “really, this is your “father”…,” but even a judicial gag order (which I don’t support) would be less abhorent than forced removal.

        There’s not some magical unlimited supply of fit, willing parents. If you have a woman choosing to carry a baby to term, it’s more than likely she wants it. It’s stretching demands on equality to the point of incredulity to say that mere moral anguish must be extinguished by playing roulette with whether that otherwise would have one parent who wants him/her gets 0,1, or 2.

        • Mr. E

          Not to mention that giving Fathers an out might have a greater impact on (A) Women having more abortions if they know they can’t fall back on the man for support and (B) Women being more choosy about who they climb in bed with.

          After all, it’s usally the Women who smugly point out to men that they should keep it in their pants if they’re not ready to be Fathers. That advice cuts both ways.

          • Bobati

            you’d think that men not having an out would make men more choosy about who they climb in bed with.

          • Mr. E

            It is only recently that men have not had an out. Historically they could hot-foot it out of town. So, with respect to “evolution”, there hasn’t been enough time yet for it to formulate a new behavior. Plus there is the enormously strong urge a man feels for pussy which is factored against such choosiness.

    • Avens O’Brien

      “First of all stop calling yourself a feminist — that’s offensive language.”

      No. I am sorry you’re offended though.

      “If the moral principle is that people shouldn’t be forced into parenthood then a biological father needs to have the right to have his biological child forcibly removed from the biological mother and placed anonymously for adoption.”

      Why? That makes no sense. If a woman wishes to keep a baby, that choice should not legally affect the father, unless he seeks legal rights to his child. If a woman wishes to give a child up for adoption, but the man wishes to keep the child, he should also have that right (and the mother be able to sign away her rights/responsibilities).

      “She should not have the right to force another adult into parenthood — even if the financial duties are removed.”

      All parental rights and responsibilities removed. Which means he has *no* say in *who* raises his genetic material or how.

      If your issue is with one’s genetic material out there in the world against their will, you’ve got a different point to make.

      • smh

        Just as an interesting aside…
        “If a woman wishes to give a child up for adoption, but the man wishes to keep the child, he should also have that right”

        I’ve read about such a case. The dad got the kid that the mom wanted to put up for adoption and made the mom pay child support. It does happen both ways.

        • Mr. E

          Not often enough. And there should be penalties for women who DON’T tell the Father they are pregnant.

          • smh

            So there should be penalties for any sort of lying that goes on in relationships. How about punishment for men who don’t tell women they already have children and are married? So silly. How about you pay extra taxes for all that micromanaging the government will have to do?

          • Mr. E

            The difference is that if the State discovers that a man has a child, regardless of whether he knew about it or not, the State will *FORCE* the man to pay for that child or else be put into jail for being a deadbeat dad.

            Remind me please, will the State do that to YOU if you find out he has children?

            If he doesn’t tell you he’s married– I would be a bit more on your side on that one. Not sure, would have to think about it.

          • smh

            If you marry a person the state will use your income (part of household income) to calculate child support for your SPOUSE’S children. Do actually know anything about this topic?

          • Mr. E

            Who said it was a spouse?

            If a woman doesn’t tell a man that he is a father and the state finds out, the state will force the man to pay for the child. The state may not be able to determine that information on any given day, but once the truth comes out, then the woman could bear a penalty for failing to disclose the information.

            As far as throwing the women in jail? Why not. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose. See what it’s like in there.

            And if you had any interest in the CHILD in the first place, you wouldn’t have been withholding the information from the father. That’s just kind of a c*** thing to do.

          • smh

            How about not having sex with sneaky people? Or try to be the kind of person that someone wouldn’t want to hide their children from. It’s called taking personal responsibility for yourself and your poor decisions. Stop asking the government to clean up after you.

            Pathetic how desperate you are to get the government to punish women for you.

          • Mr. E

            Really? Interesting comment coming from a person who has the power to use the government to punish ME.

            I always find it entertaining when people with the ability to OPT OUT at ANY TIME feel like lecturing about responsibility to people with NO CHOICES at all.

          • smh

            People of both genders lie in relationships. Duh. It’s a part of life. It’s really silly to expect the government to intervene.

            Explain how the government is supposed to determine if a woman is deliberately withholding info about the father of her child or she genuinely doesn’t know. Are we going to throw these women in jail? Is that really a good use of taxpayer $$$? And is it really in the best interest of the child. Get real.

    • Mr. E

      Very good points.

  • Tag

    Wish more women saw it your way.

    • Avens O’Brien

      Share this article or these points and maybe they’ll start to. 😉

  • C.Hendon

    Liberty and license are not the same thing, and this article would do well to look up what “forced” means. Forced Motherhood or Forced Fatherhood can only result from rape, and except for cases of female perpetrated rape (which some recent articles have discussed), there is no case in which there is no “legal say” resulting in “forced fatherhood”. Instead there is front-loaded risk assumption of irrevocable say. If you have intercourse, you assume the risk that you may be transferring this decision for 6 months to your partner.

    Male birth control is great because it will allow for more equal empowerment by increasing or decreasing the odds, but even once it’s more widely available, just like with female birth control, increased odds aren’t foolproof, and with neither variety selected can it be said that consensual sex results in “forced” fatherhood.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t legal issues. What about when inebriation calls consent into question? What about the whole idea that child support should be proportional to income? After all, why are you entitled to a given share of your father’s income if your parents aren’t married, yet if they are married you get whatever level he deigns to use?

    Further, I agree with the author that we shouldn’t insist on archaic notions like mother = nurturer and father = provider, but children still need both nurturing and provision for their development. The whole idea of some legal opt-out of one of the parties to a conception of any provisionary responsibility doesn’t equalize responsibility, it simply ~denies~ responsibility. If it takes two incomes to provide for a child — and at average or below incomes, by most definitions, it will — that denial really means the following: after I change my mind and evade “forced fatherhood”, John Q. Chump Taxpayer can pick up my tab.

    Now THAT is forced fatherhood – you’re forcing fatherhood on taxpayers!

    Here’s the beginning (and only the beginning) of a simple solution: standardize child support to actually afford basic provisioning indexed to the poverty level, and make sure any so-called “opt out” period for paternity only excuses child support when the mother earns double that income. In essence, the mother would be indemnifying the guy, contingent on her capacity to do so.

    • Avens O’Brien

      “Now THAT is forced fatherhood – you’re forcing fatherhood on taxpayers!”

      I need to respond to the rest of your commentary, but I’m a bit busy right now and wish to properly address each point.

      But as a libertarian, I have not suggested any public/taxpayer based solution for providing for children.

  • Great article, Avens! I penned something with a similar goal in mind a year or two ago: http://freevirginia.blogspot.com/2013/08/and-what-is-consistent-libertarian.html

    • Avens O’Brien

      I love this! I’m going to share it on FB… thank you!

  • JdL

    It’s great to read a woman making these points! Usually the sexes take a “party line” stand. I’ve long felt it unfair that laws in America let women who are so inclined say, “My body, my choice. Your money.” This, and unfair divorce and child support laws that often make no allowance for a father’s inability to pay and simply jail him if he’s behind, whatever the reason, contribute to many young men staying the heck AWAY from young women. That’s a shame.

    • Mr. E

      It IS a shame. There are many wonderful women out there– and many wonderful men. But Feminism is the great divider.

    • Bobati

      who are these men staying away from women? because all i see is men desperate to sleep with as many women as possible. I wish men were hesitant to sleep with women because of this, but it does not seem to be the case :(. Instead they are hesitant to enter relationships….something they actually have a choice over.

  • Teresa Rothaar

    Parenting is about *way* more than money. While it’s possible to use state thuggery to extract money from an unwilling birthparent, it is impossible to force them into *parenthood* itself. This is why I feel the kid is better off if an unwilling parent, of either gender, is allowed to sign away their rights and walk away.

    As an aside, when looking at how many pregnancies in this country are unwanted, it’s no wonder our society is in the shape its in. Children who grow up knowing one or both of their parents never wanted them end up damaged adults. (I count a situation where the birthfather can’t stand the kid and the birthmother had the kid *only* because she thought she could make money off of it as one where neither parent wants the kid…wanting child support money is not the same thing as wanting the kid.)

    I am heartened by the fact that many Millennials are choosing to do what my husband and I did: never have children. Ever. Perhaps the result of a couple of generations of what I just described is a generation of young people determined to break this ugly cycle. They are refusing to repeat the negative behaviors of their birthparents.

    • Mr. E

      “it is impossible to force them into *parenthood* itself.”

      No, it’s only impossible to force WOMEN into parenthood. Men get that all the time.

  • andre coltrin

    What about the “child’s” choice ? When does that person get a voice in the matter. It seams to me that once the “child” has been created by two consenting adults they the co-creators have given up the “right” to make a whole lot of other choices. They both now have a responsibility not a choice. They used their choice already. Just my thoughts…..

    • iArgue

      “[…]created by two consenting adults they the co-creators have given up the “right””
      You can consent to sex without consenting to parenthood.

    • Bobati

      I would never chose to be born to two parents who resent me for ruining their lives.

  • EVAN

    PLEASE SIGN AND PASS ALONG, PROTECT MEN IN REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS. IT CAN BE ANONYMOUS….THANK YOU.

    http://www.petition2congress.com/17470/equal-rights-child-support-men-unwedno-consent-birth/

  • Mr. E

    “Men seriously need more options to prevent unwanted pregnancy.”

    Well, you know– just saying– they COULD benefit from the same one we give WOMEN– ABORTION.

    (Now let’s sit back and see how equitably-minded those Feminists really are…)

  • Mr. E

    “In a time when a woman inevitably had to carry and bear a child whether or not she wanted to, it made sense to demand that the father also be responsible and provide for his child. However, the groundbreaking court cases that won women the right to prevent or terminate a pregnancy also brought us a bit of a predicament; a woman can choose not to be a parent, but if she chooses to become a parent, the father has no legal say in whether or not he becomes one also.”

    On this point, we are in absolutely, 100% agreement.

  • Mr. E

    “The state, even without the cooperation of the mother, will compel a man to provide financial support for his child or potentially send him to jail. All other parenting metrics aside, he’s a father.”

    More than that, the State will even compel a man to be responsible for a child that he DIDN’T SIRE, or sired while being RAPED by a Woman. There are plenty of examples of BOTH of these cases documented.

    But women get to have abortions, or leave their babies in a “Safe Place” — WOMEN get multiple opportunities to OPT OUT of their responsibilities, while MEN ALWAYS have to be responsible.

  • Wyatt

    When a woman wants to opt out of being a parent it’s liberation, when a man wants to opt out of being a parent they’re met with exclamations of, “you should have kept it in your pants”. The double standards in this country are unreal.