Thursday, March 13, 2014

And finally, another father's rights rant...

I wasn't going to blog again today, but I want to opine about yet another controversial news article.  In New Jersey, a judge ruled that mothers can ban fathers from the delivery room as they give birth.  This ruling makes New Jersey the first state that allows pregnant women to bar the fathers of their babies from the delivery room.  I posted the article on Facebook with my comment that I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  Three friends immediately commented that they thought the ruling was just fine.

Let me make one thing clear.  I do agree that pregnant women should be able to make decisions about things that affect their own bodies.  I think a pregnant woman should have the right to have an abortion if she wants one, even if she's married.  I do feel strongly that a woman in labor should have the right to shoo anyone she doesn't want in the delivery room.  Giving birth is stressful and I agree that mothers have certain rights over fathers in that situation.  However, this case is not just about kicking dads out of delivery rooms.

According to the article, this ruling also includes the mother's right to refrain from notifying the putative father that the child is about to be born.  I do have a problem with that part of the ruling because generally fathers are expected to financially support their offspring.  When I clarified this point, a couple of my friends still thought I was out to lunch.  

If you read this blog, I'm sure you know why I feel the way I do about this.  It's because my husband was denied rights to his kids, but was expected to support them financially.  Bill's situation is not really pertinent to this issue, except that it got me to think about father's rights in the first place.  Had I not witnessed what happened to Bill, I probably never would have thought about this.  Indeed, I probably would be in the camp that thinks mother's rights should trump all.

But because I am now sensitive to the men's perspective on this, I have read about women who have had their babies adopted without the father's consent.  I have read about women who have ended relationships with men, only to unexpectedly pop back into their lives years later with a child and a demand for retroactive child support.  I have heard about women who have resorted to trickery to force a man to father a child or fathers paying support for kids that aren't even theirs.  Granted, these cases aren't the norm, but they happen often enough to make the news.  And while I agree that both parents should financially support their children, I also think that in cases that don't involve a woman going by herself to a sperm bank, two people make babies and both should have rights.

One friend made the comment that when men can get pregnant, they could have more rights pertaining to baby making.  But the fact is, a woman who is not in a relationship can visit a sperm bank and have a baby without a man in her life.  A man who wants to be a parent without a woman in his life has to either adopt or hire a surrogate.  Some might say a man gets off easy because he can't bear children… but if you're a man who actually wants to be a parent, you're at a distinct disadvantage.  And if the mom doesn't tell you she's having your baby, you could be in for an unpleasant shock down the road.
 
Naturally, there are exceptions that should be considered.  For instance, a woman who got pregnant because she was raped or molested or a woman whose baby was fathered by a proven abuser should be able to find sanctuary within the legal system.  In those cases, yes, it makes sense not to tell dad he's going to be a father.  But I would hope in those situations, a biological father who became such because he committed a crime would not have custody rights.  Sadly, I don't think this is necessarily the case today.  I have heard about rapists having rights to kids conceived in rape.  On the other hand, we'd need to be careful about that, too, since there are women out there who would falsely accuse a man of rape.  I would hope they would be few and far between, but they do exist.

I think that if we are going to expect men to have responsibilities toward their children, they should at least have the right to know that they are going to be fathers.  And personally, while I agree that both men AND women should be a lot more careful about with whom they share their DNA, I also think that a woman who wants child support should have to involve the father and ask for the support when the child is still a child.  The father being asked to support a child should have a prayer of actually being involved and knowing his offspring.  Rights and responsibilities should go both ways.

Anyone who claims to be a feminist should agree that it doesn't mean women's rights should automatically trump men's rights.  What we should be looking for is fairness and equality as much as possible.  And really, women who are mothers of sons or are thinking about being someone's second or subsequent wife should think about how they would feel if a man they cared about was caught in a situation where he was asked to have legal responsibilities toward a child but then wasn't afforded any rights.

I know a lot of women think that all men are scum and deserve less say than mothers do when it comes to children.  I just don't happen to be one of those women.  I think that dads should have some say.  Fortunately, the vast majority of mothers don't mind telling the person who impregnated them that they are going to be dads.  And probably a good majority of women having babies aren't going to be upset if the father is on hand for the birth.  This case was specifically directed toward putative fathers, or biological fathers not married to the mother.

Even more fortunately, this issue is never going to affect me personally.  Thank God for that.
  

4 comments:

  1. This is a really tough one. Sometimes I think the best solution would be to limit fathers' responsibilities when the parents are not married, and in turn to give the father fewer rights. (Likewise, fathers should not have to pay child support if the children do not see him.) It wouldn't be a perfect solution, but a whole lo of babies exist who would never have been conceived had the fathers been told the truth about the mothers' birth control status. The fathers did participate in the act of conception, but the most reliable non-abstinence forms of birth control are those a female must use, and in that regard a male is at the mercy of a female's honesty or lack thereof. If the most a woman could collect from a man as a result of conceiving a child with him was half the cost of an abortion, some women would be more careful.

    I do think if a woman chose to give a child up, the father should have a right to the child.

    I don't think my solution is perfect, but we have too damned many people getting knocked up whose babies are paying for it. i really think fewer women would get knocked up if there were no financial gain in it for them. I also think women could prevent most non-rape pregnancies if they really wanted to be responsible about it. So could men, but condoms are not the most reliable method of contraception.

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    1. Yeah… but since states get money through child support enforcement, there's always going to be a push for mothers to name the fathers of their babies if they aren't married so the states can go after the dad for support. I do think that in some cases, fathers should be allowed to opt out of financially supporting kids with whom he has no relationship, especially if it's through no fault of his own.

      And don't even get me started on some of the totally rigid laws concerning child support. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Amendment

      One guy was working in Kuwait and got taken hostage. When he was released, he owed $1,425 in back child support that he couldn't pay because he was being held hostage. He got arrested. Another guy was on death row for ten years for a murder he didn't commit. He sued the state of Texas and they responded with a $50,000 bill for child support he couldn't pay while he was falsely incarcerated.

      I do think fathers should support their kids and I think they should be involved in their kids' lives. I just think the whole child support industry needs an overhaul.

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  2. Alexis and Knotty, I am a father. Not your deadbeat type either. I am as much a nurturer and involved parent as my wife. Over the years, thanks to women's lib movements, the roles of men in families has changed. Unfortunately, the rights afforded men haven't moved as fast.

    I enjoyed reading the input from both of you and believe you are on to something. We definitely need an overhaul! :-)

    There are plenty of fathers out there who don't want to be actively involved in their child's life. There are plenty of mothers who don't, or simply aren't, as well. But, when you have a father who wants to be a role model for their child, why would a court or mother stand in the way of allowing that relationship?

    Just for kicks, do a search for info on Fatherless Homes. You will be blown away by the statistics that support the need for an active father. Sound reasoning, using the fatherless homes statistics, tells us that the less the father is involved, the greater the risk, the more the father is involved, the more the child benefits. There are fathers who want time but don't do anything with the time, but that is the definition of a deadbeat dad, so that isn't the kind of father I am referring to.

    Thanks for having a fair perspective on this and thanks for loving your husbands enough to honor them by acknowledging their value to your families (both, to your children and to you).

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    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for the comment. I completely agree that fathers are very important in their children's lives. While I don't dispute that stepparents can often step in and do an admirable job of raising their step kids, I also think that in many cases, the biological parent has a bond that the stepparent will never have or appreciate. Bill was very involved in his kids' lives when they were young. It was devastating for him to lose contact with them when they were young. I'm sure it devastated them, too.

      That being said, yes, there are many parents who just don't care about their children and a lot of them are non-custodial parents. I don't deny that it's a huge problem. I think our laws are more skewed to deal with those types of people instead of the good parents who want to be involved, even if they don't live with their children's other parent anymore. I think that many custodial parents are decent and good and they want the best for their kids. Sadly, there are also a lot of bitter, selfish, mean-spirited parents who use their kids as pawns. And the laws do nothing about that.

      I don't have children myself and if you read this blog, you'll understand why. Anyway, I appreciate your input. Hope you'll visit again!

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