A Father’s Choice

From the National Center for Men:

‘….Women now have the freedom and security to enjoy lovemaking without the fear of forced procreation….But men are routinely forced to give up control, forced to be financially responsible for choices only women are permitted to make, forced to relinquish reproductive choice as the price of intimacy.’

Above is an excerpt from the National Center for Men’s press release regarding their lawsuit, so-called ‘Roe vs. Wade…for Men‘ – not to be confused with the Hair Club for Men. This little gem alone is worth a rant or three, but here’s where my daddy hackles rise:

‘We will argue that, at a time of reproductive freedom for women, fatherhood must be more than a matter of DNA: A man must choose to be a father in the same way that a woman chooses to be a mother.’

Despite what Maury Povich would have us believe, fatherhood has precious little to do with genetics. As far as spotlights go, DNA’s is narrow and short-lived. An instant of chemical collaboration, a passing of notes in class, and the 15 milliseconds of fame is over.

And though my experience as a father is thus far limited, let me say that the contribution of DNA is the least challenging part of fatherhood.

The National Center for Men proposes that fatherhood is also about choice. Well and good. What, then, is our choice? The choice to ‘enjoy lovemaking without the fear of forced procreation’?

Where to start?

By its very nature, sex is enjoyable regardless of its outcome. Is anyone complaining? Enjoyment is not a choice – it simply…is. But I understand their point – how can one fully enjoy the act of lovemaking if conception is a very real possibility?

The answer must be self-evident, because people do it all the time. When it comes to sex, conception is always a possibility; that is its purpose. Even our most effective birth-control methods allow for a small percentage of ‘error’. Life is persistent, and we choose to ignore that. In this sense, a father’s choice begins and ends with his decision to have sex. Anything else is wishful thinking.

Which brings us to ‘fear’. To this, all men can relate. Children are intimidating, and more so when they’re your own. Even – especially – before they’re born, we fear. Our practical side fears for financial security, our paternal side for competence, and our selfish side for everything else. But fear, properly placed, is more often a strength than a weakness. Fear urges prudence and patience; fear demands discretion and foresight. Those without fear move without caution, and without thinking.

‘Forced procreation’? If only sperm were so easily intimidated.

Yes, fatherhood is a choice. It is a choice of accountability and maturity. It is a choice of love. I chose to change my son’s diapers, and to rush home during lunch for a snuggle. I chose to work, so that my wife and son could be together. I choose to take my son to the park, to bathe him, tickle him, feed him, sing with him, read books, tell stories, discipline, laugh, brush his teeth, pick his nose, and hug him when he’s sad.

We don’t choose our responsibilities, but we can choose to ignore them.

5 Responses

  1. cb
    cb at | | Reply

    First, let me state unequivocally that I agree with everything you said, and that in no way is it ever right for a father to abdicate his responsibility.

    That said, I think the point of the lawsuit is to point out that denying the father equal rights in the decision-making processes regarding his child is just as wrong as the father abdicating his responsibilities with respect to his child.

    From a legal (NOT a moral) standpoint, why should a father have a required financial responsibility for the child, if he has absolutely no say in regard to letting the child be born (i.e. the right to deny abortion), or any of the other decisions in which he is denied having any part?

    If taken to its logical conclusion, the lawsuit will point out the completely untenable position in which men now find themselves with respect to responsibility and authority in the lives of their children.

  2. Jon
    Jon at | | Reply

    I am not trying to start an argument, and I do agree with most of what you have said. However, I try to see both sides of things like this and it seems to me that it’s not about ignoring fatherhood…but about fairness really.

    Such as:

    Woman and man have sex, she becomes pregnant, woman doesn’t want child, man does, woman is able to choose for that man, she has abortion, man is not a father and wants to be.

    Woman and man have sex, she becomes pregnant, woman wants child, man does not, woman is able to choose for that man, she has the child, man is now a father and doesn’t want to be.

    The problem is all the choice is on the mother. Sure, men made the choice to have sex, and if that results in a child, planned or not, then that’s the “chance” they took. But so did the woman. She made the choice to have sex as well. If that results in a child, planned or not, that was her “choice”. But then the woman gets a second chance, a second choice. To either have this child or not, to become a mother or not. Men don’t get this. We are told by the woman whether a father we will be or not.

    The point they are trying to make I think is that there needs to be some equality put into this issue. I’m not saying that fathers should be able to “opt” out, but instead there needs to be more options for men in these situations. I mean, I can’t imagine how I’d feel right now if when my wife had told me she was pregnant she had said, sorry, I’m not ready to be a mother, i’m having an abortion. I’d have been crushed, I’ve always wanted a child, I was excited to be a father, and she could have taken that away from me, made the choice for me. I wouldn’t have my Little Bug right now, and there would have been nothing I could do.

    So, after that long rant, to me it’s not about ignoring fatherhood…but more about perserving it.

    At least that’s my take. Whether I agree with the inital argument or not.

    – Jon
    – Daddy Detective

  3. grace
    grace at | | Reply

    I think I understand the intent of your argument, but after reading the link to the site this is not the intent of the lawsuit. It is being brought by a young man who’s angry about having to pay child support for a child that he would have aborted, given the choice. Or, at least that’s the way it reads to me.

    As far as the issue of fairness goes….don’t take this wrong…but……wah wah wah. Life is NOT fair and, as Jared points out, anytime anyone has sex, unless, I guess, your’re like 80, your risking procreation. Even though my fallopian tubes are seared and double-knot tied, hey….it COULD happen. I’d have to trust in God’s bountiful sense of humor if it did and not go screaming to my gynecologist about how unfair this was. Or, I guess I could sue him for the expense of raising said child, though I’m pretty sure I probably signed a waiver before he performed the operation. ANYWAY….

    I don’t mean to argue either….I mainly wanted to comment Jared on a great post and let him know that I fully intend to make sure my 18yr.old son reads it!!!


  4. B
    B at | | Reply

    Here’s a blog article about being man, it’s awesome.

    My thoughts on the above post and comments: Sex, whether we like it or not, is a way to procreate, so having a child should always be in the back of the mind when one is having a sexual relationship. Sex, while absolutely wonderful, is how we have children and that’s something that men AND women need to think about BEFORE they have that adventure. Just my two cents. ~B :)

  5. Sara
    Sara at | | Reply

    Um, when you’re not the one who is pregnant, you don’t get to decide the fate of the pregnancy. (Even when you are the one who is pregnant, you don’t necessarily get to decide.) Men and women do not have identical roles in procreation. They can, and I believe have a moral obligation to, share in the responsibility of childrearing, but women don’t have the right to abortion because they get to decide whether or not they have kids. They get to decide whether they’ll continue be pregnant – as long as they have access to an abortion – but if the developing child weren’t attached to the woman’s uterus, this problem would be completely different.

    The problem here (according to the case) is not that women can choose to abort a pregnancy, but that genetics dictate who should be responsible for the rearing of a child. If there were better support for single parents, I can see making that connection looser, but as it is, we’ve chosen this system for supporting our kids. It’s the child support system that needs to be fixed – and it does need fixing, not to be abandoned – not the “problem” of women making decisions about their bodies.

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