The other day my friends and I were watching this show about adoption and in this particular episode, this couple, who’ve been dating for a year, accidentally get pregnant. The woman, who already has a child, wants to keep the baby, but also understands that her boyfriend has said explicitly over and over again, even before she got pregnant, that he never wanted children. And would inevitably resent a child if he were to ever have one. The woman ended up giving the child up for adoption, reluctantly at first and then in the follow up, she’d made peace with her decision.
The whole thing was upsetting to watch because it was clear that the woman wanted to keep the baby but only if the man wanted to keep the child as well. But it also made me consider the lack of rights most men have when it comes to parenthood. Are there so many absentee fathers because men who never wanted to be fathers just couldn’t and still can’t see themselves being responsible and present for their children? Conventionally, we’re told if a woman gets pregnant that it’s completely her choice whether she decides to have the child or not. Ultimately it is but, as a man, what role or say do you think men should have in all of this?
Dear Forced Fatherhood,
Damn. This wasn’t exactly a soup question. I’m going to answer this the best I can. But, before I begin, I will also say that there are people who study, read, and write about this particular issue much more often than I do, and I’d seek out their opinions as well after reading mine.
Anyway, the question of pregnancy rights is one where the right, socially accepted answer—that women have complete say over whether a child will or will not be born—has some inherent “wrongness” to it. Both men and women have to collaborate to create a baby, so, logically, a man should have equal say on whether to keep it.
But, in this case, that particular wrong of a man not having any say is better than any alternative solution. Yes it’s “unfair” that men don’t have any say on the decision to keep a baby, especially since he will be legally obligated to provide for that child for the next 18 years. But this unfairness is for the greater good.
If you allow men to have legal say over whether a woman can keep a baby, you’re restricting her rights and infringing on her body. And, if you don’t hold men legally responsible for children they helped create, it would ultimately hurt the baby.
Basically, the “wrongness” of men having no say in that process is less wrong than what would happen if men did.
Also, I wouldn’t blame the prevalence of absentee fathers on this issue. Yes, people — men and women — need to make smarter sexual choices. But while some men do get “trapped,” most men who selfishly skirt their responsibilities do it because they’re selfish and irresponsible. The pregnancy rights laws and some “lying-A$$ woman” didn’t jam them up. Their own penises did.
The best solution to all of this is to be in a relationship where both parties are on the same page about children, and both parties respect and consider each other’s opinions. Even then, the woman still has the final say. Yes, its unfair, but there’s a small device that goes a very long way to prevent that unfairness from ever happening: Condoms.