Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Favor of Legal Paternal Surrender

Legal paternal surrender (LPS) is the idea that men who unintentionally become fathers should be allowed to walk away from their paternal duties to the (unborn) child (i.e. child support), which would mirror women's right to walk away from their maternal duties via abortions. LPS would provide men with a legal equivalent to an abortion, which would give them the same sovereignty over their futures as parents (or as non-parents) that women have. This, I believe, would be more equal than our current system.

Now, because this topic is touchy and easily misunderstood, I would like to briefly clarify what LPS is not. LPS is not "spousal consent", wherein the mother can only abort if the father approves. Nor is it "forced abortion", wherein the mother is required to abort if the father demands it. LPS has nothing to do with the mother's right to abort; it simply says that men should have the right to refuse parenthood and walk away, as women already can. This means no child support, no duties whatsoever.

To reiterate: I am not arguing that the father should have the power to force a woman to abort her fetus or to keep it: I am arguing that the father should have the legally-protected right to completely sever ties to his future children, just as women can sever their future ties via abortion. It is still her body and her choice, but it's also his future, and I think he should have that choice, not her.

Her body and future, her choice. His future, his choice.

Legal paternal surrender is also a necessary freedom in cases where men are raped by women, just as abortion is a necessary freedom in cases where women are raped by men. Unfortunately, in our current system, male victims of female rapists are required to pay child support to their rapists, even when the male victims are under age, and this is unacceptable.

S.F. v. Alabama ex rel. T.M.
> Woman has sex with an unconscious man, gets pregnant, and wins child support.

1996 Case of Underage Boy being Raped
> 15-year-old boy is raped and is then require to support the resulting child. 

State of Louisiana v. Frisard
> Blowjob with a condom, woman inseminates herself, sues and wins child support. 

Hermesmann v. Seyer
> 13-year-old boy pays child support after being raped by is 17-year-old babysitter.

Legal paternal surrender has been discussed in many different ways and by a wide variety of people, so I encourage you to supplement this essay with some of the discussions linked below. Instead of reiterating these arguments, I will spend the rest of this essay responding to some common objections to LPS, which most of these discussions never mention.

An article which explores the history and arguments surrounding LPS

A detailed overview of some of the arguments on both sides of this isses

An analysis by a professor of philosophy and gender studies

A brief but well-written "ramble" on the issue

A dense, philosophical essay on parental rights and choosing parenthood

1. LPS would let men have sex all they want with no consequences, leaving pregnant women in their wake! How is that fair?

1a. This is actually a very reasonable concern, and it is a good objection to LPS as it has been presented. I agree that this needs to be addressed before LPS becomes the law. Indeed, I have become increasingly disappointed in many of the arguments in favor of LPS because they never answer this objection, and by that token, they end up arguing for a system in which women have to do all the work involved in getting an abortion, while men would simply have to sign a form and that's it, which is totally unfair to women.

So, in order to make LPS as fair as possible for men and women, I would like to propose some caveats to the process that men would have to go through, with the goal of mirroring the difficulties that the mother would have to go through for an abortion. The caveats I propose are as follows:

> The father could only sign the paperwork at an abortion clinic (if one even exists near him).
> The father would have to jump through the same hoops as the mother would have to (waiting periods, multiple visits, maybe an unnecessary probe of some kind, etc.)
> The father would have to pay a fee equal to the theoretical cost of an abortion at that stage of pregnancy, just as the mother would have to.
> The father would have to complete this process in the same timeframe as the mother would have to complete the abortion process: up to 24 weeks, and this timeframe would begin when the father learned about the pregnancy or, if the mother kept her pregnancy secret, when he learned about the child.

These are some heavy caveats, but I think they make the process as fair as it can possibly be, and I'm confident that most men would accept these caveats if it afforded them the right to choose parenthood. I would even go so far as to guess that most men would even agree to a few good kicks in the balls to balance out whatever physical procedure a woman would have to endure, again, if it allowed them to choose not to be parents.

I think this would be a fair situation (or at least, as fair as we can possibly make it), and I wonder if feminists might even support this because it gives men a "horse in the race", so to speak, regarding abortion laws and restrictions: it forces men to jump through the same hoops as women, so maybe, just maybe, they'd be a little more motivated to remove those hoops.

2. The child has the right to the financial resources it needs: the child's right to basic necessities outweighs any of the father's rights.

2a. This assumes that all single mothers are struggling and that they need child support payments to provide their children with basic necessities, which is simply not true: mothers who don't need the money still receive child support from fathers, so in those situations, there is no conflict between the child's rights and the father's rights: the father's money is being taken for the convenience of the child and the mother.

Besides, if financial support from a second party was always required, then it would be mandatory for every single parent to receive money from others to help raise their child.

2b. In cases where a single mother is struggling to provide basic necessities for her child, I think the state should assist her as a form of welfare, The funny thing is, the state has already shown that it is willing to pay 100% of what a child needs (Google "safe haven laws"), so why not simply tell the state go halfway for single parents who need financial assistance? Why does the state take money from the father (who, unlike the mother, never had the option to detach himself from the child) when the state was willing to pay for everything? Does the state's desire to save money really allow it to take what they need from non-consenting men?

And no, it's not a form of tax: it's targeting specific men for decisions they did not make.

2c. As long as we're taking men's money "for the good of the child", why don't we just take some of Bill Gates' money? That's a lot more practical, both for the man, and for the child, and Bill Gates is just as responsible for the mother's decision to keep the child as their fathers were, so why not take the child support from Bill Gates?

3. It's about biology! That just sucks for men, but at the end of the day, it's her body and her choice. Abortions do not derive from a right to opt out of parenthood, but a right of sovereignty over one's body.

3a. Yes, her body, her choice, but it's also his future, her choice. If a woman decides to keep the baby, that's her choice, and it should be her responsibility.

Consequently, I also think that if a mother gives birth and chooses to give the baby up for adoption, but the father wants to keep it, then that's his choice, and the mother should have no further obligation to the child or the father: not even child support payments. In our current system, a mother may choose to give away her new baby, but if the father keeps that baby, she may become liable for child support, not because of her choices, but because of the father's choice, and that's not fair either: let people take responsibility for their own choices, not for other's choices.

As you can see, my argument for LPS is also an argument against legally-required child support in situations where there was no prior agreement to raise the child in question. I'm not arguing against child support in its entirety, just when the mother or father never agreed to become a parent. This stands in contrast with situations where both parents have already committed to raising a child: you can't just change your mind once you already have a child established in your care, but if you never agreed in the first place, then you shouldn't be held responsible for it.

3b. Suppose I invented an artifical uterus that could carry a child to term. If you became pregnant but did not want to undergo pregnancy, you could instantly and painlessly transplant the embryo into the artificial uterus. Essentially, I'm asking you to imagine a world in which a person's body was no longer a necessary factor in human reproduction.

If this technology existed, would these same opponents of LPS be okay with a complete ban on abortions because it's no longer "her body", so she no longer gets a choice? Would they really be okay with requiring women to become financially responsible for a child just because a condom broke? I doubt it.

This objection to LPS also implies that the only valid reason to get an abortion is because you don't want to be pregnant and give birth. However, the most common reasons why women get abortions have nothing to do with their bodies. Usually, women get abortions because they don't want to be responsible for a child. E.g. "I can't afford a baby" or "I just don't want another child." If these reasons are valid for women who don't want to be parents, then why aren't they valid for men?

Survey of reasons for getting an abortion: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html

4. If you're not ready to be a father, then wear a condom or don't have sex!

4a. This same argument was directed at women before Roe V. Wade: "if women don't want to get pregnant, they should just keep their legs closed". Feminists rightly called this "slut shaming", but those same feminists are oddly silent when it's men who are being slut shamed in the exact same way.


In our current system, consent to sex does not equal consent to parenthood, but only for women. And while it's true that biology curtails men's choice to have or not have biological children, it should not curtail their right to refuse involvement with those biological children.

ADDITION: 4/22/2015

I recently found one more article which touches on a similar point, and I think it's worth repeating here: if you give people a financial incentive to become single mothers (even through lying about contraception, which is not punished as a crime), surprise, you're going to get more single mothers.

"The Trust for the Study of Adolescence recently proved scores of teenage girls in Britain are deliberately becoming young mothers as a career move because, with the state and the father contributing, it offers more guaranteed security than a job.

Even 13-year-old girls admitted this, which might explain why Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, at an annual government cost of nearly £63million.

Perhaps the law-makers need to think about radical action to break the cycle. Maybe men could be allowed to have a financial abortion from a child to which they didn’t pre-consent. In a specified time — say, legal abortion guidelines — men could be allowed to formally relinquish all monetary obligations, rights and responsibilities if duped into fatherhood. The woman still wants to proceed? Fine, that’s her choice. But not on his salary.

Controversial? Yes. But overnight we would see fewer acts of conception by deception. And that can only be a good thing — for men and for society."



  1. I think you're focusing your arguments too narrowly on "gender feminists" to address their positions. Of course, you know that I'm not a gender feminist at all, yet I still disagree with the idea that men should be able to unilaterally sever all responsibility for a child they fathered.

    I'm all for laws which allow for decisions and judgments to be made on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a man and woman agree for the father to abdicate his parental rights without being responsible for child support, or only if the mother becomes unable to support the child alone, then that's acceptable. If we want to establish income brackets which determine the amount of support a father should pay instead of taking a set percentage of his salary or a set dollar amount, that's fair. I think your proposals to have men sign forms at an abortion clinic or have to pay the equivalent of an abortion to rid himself of the responsibility of child support are good to underscore your point, but not practical in reality. What man wouldn't pay a few thousand dollars to get out of having to support a child for 18 years if they didn't want the responsibility? It's like an opt-out clause.

    In my opinion, both a man and woman need to be aware of the consequences of having sex before engaging in sexual relations, including the possibility of a pregnancy resulting and the legal rights which a woman has if a pregnancy does occur. A man needs to know that a woman has complete control over the pregnancy and if it will be terminated or brought to term. A woman should not be forced to be entirely responsible for the financial burden of raising the child should she choose to give birth. Yes, there are options for women, like adoption or dropping the baby at a safe haven location. However, that choice is again up to the woman. The government also does provide assistance to single mothers if they qualify (and many do). This should not absolve the father of responsibility.

    The bottom line is that if a man doesn't know a woman well enough to feel confident in how things might play out in this scenario, then he shouldn't have sex with her. Actions have consequences. Having sex has inherent risks.

    I also obviously find it absurd that a man who was raped would be required to provide support for a child that results. Of course, there's have to be a police report filed within a certain time frame after the rape to legitimize it, otherwise men could just claim to have been raped in order to get out of paying support.

    1. Broadly-speaking, I think your argument could be applied to other situations where you would not agree with the consequences. I think you’re arguing that the current laws are fair because it’s possible to for both men and women to not become parents, but I think you are missing the fact that it’s much easier for women to avoid becoming parents than men, which is unfair, and which could be made fair by a simple legal provision.

      “What man wouldn't pay a few thousand dollars to get out of having to support a child for 18 years if they didn't want the responsibility?”

      > Very few, but it’s the same story with women (who actually HAVE that option, mind you): what woman wouldn’t get an abortion if it gets them out of having to support a child for 18 years if they didn’t want the responsibility? Women have that freedom, while men, for lack of a simple legal provision, do not, and I think this simple legal provision should be created so that men and women have more equal rights to choose parenthood (understanding, of course, that they will never be identical because of biology, but the closer the better)

      “…both a man and woman need to be aware of the consequences of having sex before engaging in sexual relations, including the possibility of a pregnancy resulting and the legal rights which a woman has if a pregnancy does occur.”

      > You are correct to recommend caution given that, in our current system, the mother can force the father to become financially responsible for the child. However, just because the mother has that right, that doesn’t mean this is how things should be. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change the system, it just means that fathers need to be careful in the meantime. Yes, men can protect themselves from this unwanted consequence of sex, but that doesn’t mean that the laws which create this consequence are fair.

      Here’s an analogy, and I think this is the kind of argument you are making: in the USA in 1960, if black people didn’t want to get arrested, then they shouldn’t drink from the white water fountains. “Simple, right? What’s the problem? Just don’t drink from the white water fountain. You need to understand that there are risks and consequences.” – “But the law is unfair!” – “Too bad, either deal with reality or don’t.”

      Another analogous situation would be women and abortion before abortion was a legal option. Again, I think this is the kind of argument you are making: “If you don’t want to risk becoming a mother, then don’t have sex: it’s just obvious: actions have risks and consequences.” Remember, this is before abortion was an option, but neither you nor I would take this to mean that abortion should have remained illegal.

      “Actions have consequences. Having sex has inherent risks.”

      > Yes, actions to have consequences, and sex has risks, but in our current legal system, women can escape those consequences completely, and men cannot: not because of biology, but because the law simply doesn’t allow it for men. That is unfair, and that is why I think LPS, as I have outlined it, is a good idea. With LPS, sex would still have risks and consequences, but those consequences would be more equal for men and women. That is what I want.

    2. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/02/statutory-rape-victim-child-support/14953965/

      -- Here is a good circumstance where a police report does not need to be filed.

      The Statutory Rape is known to have occurred while the boy was under the age of consent, which regardless of his willingness to participate is a crime for an adult to commit.

      This 15 year old boy was taken advantage of (no matter how much he enjoyed it at the time) by a 20 year old woman who hid the resulting child for years before bringing it to his attention - through the legal system.

      This here is a prime example of what LPS should be used for. You cannot use the argument that if he didn't want to take the risk he shouldn't have had sex, as that is the entire concept behind statutory rape laws; those that society considers children are not cognitive enough to make such a profound decision and fully assess the consequences of their actions.

  2. Wow! LPS please!! Sounds great to me! Pop!! Shit! Every feminist, corrupt family law judge, lawyer, politician, CPS, CS agency, and every selfish woman just popped the dream bubble (LPS) ... that I was having, all holding a giant needle at the same time!!
    Sorry for sarcasm! I agree with LPS. But the powers that be, just can't let the plan for the breakdown of the family, be impeded in any way! Not when it's been running like a well oiled slave generating, money making, "in the best interest of the child" guise, evil machine!
    But!! You got my support!!