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Fine, Would-Be Deadbeat Dads. Here’s A Suggestion For You.

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, June 13, 2013 18:45 EDT
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You will get none of this if you get a “paper abortion”.

For fuck’s sake, I can’t believe the NY Times gave space to the tedious argument that because women have been graciously granted their right to reproductive autonomy (actually, it’s not even remotely gracious), it’s time to deal with the largely imaginary plague of “forced fatherhood”, i.e. women getting pregnant and carrying pregnancies to term against the father’s wishes, and then suing him for child support. This happens occasionally, though compared to men trying to force women to get pregnant against their wills, it’s so rare that it’s comparable to shark attacks in its frequency. My main problem with floating the argument that men should be able to get what “men’s rights” activists (scare quotes because it’s a phrase akin to “white pride” in its purpose and paranoia) call a “paper abortion” is that it’s actually a stalking horse for what they really want, which is to be able to terminate child support but maintain their rights as a father to have a role in their children’s lives. Focusing on “paper abortions” is a way to soften up an audience to the demands of men who want to foist all the responsibilities of child-rearing onto their exes while still getting to float in periodically to be the big hero who takes the kids to Disneyland once in awhile. If you actually go to “father’s rights” forums and websites, you’ll find lots of paranoia about sperm-stealing, but the men who are on the forum almost all are divorced and are bitter about writing child support checks while not getting the sexual and house-cleaning benefits of having a wife.

But you know what? I’m sick of this argument, so I propose that feminists go ahead and embrace this “paper abortion” bullshit, even though, unlike real abortion, it’s not about bodily autonomy. I believe men should be able to terminate the responsibilities of fatherhood if they meet the following conditions:

  • He has to sign away all rights before the baby is born.  He does not get his name on the birth certificate. The child’s father will be registered as “unknown”. If someone else—say his ex’s new husband—wishes to adopt and coparent the child, he cannot interfere.
  • The only exception to this is if the mother did not alert the father to the pregnancy beforehand. He should be able to provide witnesses to testify that he hadn’t seen her in at least six months prior to the birth.
  • He never contacts the child. As far as his child knows, he’s a ghost. No visits, no toys, no pictures, nothing. He should also not be allowed to contact the mother. If he reaches out to the mother, she has full rights to sue him for child support, using that as evidence that he actually does want a relationship with his ex and his biological child.
  • This is for life. If you contact the child on her 18th birthday, you owe 18 years of back child support. If you contact the child when she’s 30, same thing: All 18 years of child support, with interest.
  • If the court determines you were abusive to your ex, all the above is invalidated and you will pay child support with no visitation rights if the judge so determines.
  • While we’re at it, let’s say children who don’t have child support get a special stipend from the government, much like the Social Security payments they’d get if you were dead.

You cannot get this if you have met the child, if you willingly let your name be put on the birth certificate, or you tried to visit the child. All those actions will be taken as evidence that you want the benefits of fatherhood without the responsibilities, and if you do that, you get slapped with a child support order.

I suspect 2-3 men will take this offer a year if it becomes law. Maybe even a dozen! I think I can live with that! It’s certainly worth taking this hypothetical out of the arsenal of “men’s rights” activists who are just floating this hypothetical to establish their real argument, which is that child support is a ripoff and they shouldn’t have to pay it to their ex-wives and the kids they deliberately brought into this world.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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