Father Reproductive Rights

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Paternity on Friday, July 26, 2013.

The Supreme Court’s recent DOMA decision – about the fairness in treating homosexual marriages equally under the law – got me thinking: do Fathers have equal reproductive rights?

If a woman conceives a child with a man, and she does not want to raise the child, she really doesn’t have to. And, there is nothing a man can do about it, even if he really wanted to be a father. The choice is the woman’s alone.

Women have access to contraception, abortion services, foster care services and adoptive parents. If a woman wanted not to be a mother after becoming pregnant, she can choose not be a mother at any time she wants. Even over the strong objections of the father.

This is true even after the birth of the child. Many Florida cities have a Safe Haven for Newborns program allowing mothers to leave a newborn at certain hospitals and fire stations with no questions asked.

But if a woman has a child – either accidentally or without the father’s knowledge – and the father never wanted a child, he is out of luck. Sure, he can suggest an abortion, but if the mother wants to raise the child, he will be stuck with years of child support payments.

Do men now have less reproductive autonomy than women? Should men have more control over when and how they become parents, as women do?

The New York Times recently ran an editorial about this issue:

“if women’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a fetus, then men’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a resulting child.” At most, according to Brake, men should be responsible for helping with the medical expenses and other costs of a pregnancy for which they are partly responsible.

If a woman decides to give birth to a child without getting the biological father’s consent to raise a child with her, should he be forced into legal paternity?

Not allowing reproductive rights for fathers, and forcing child custody, could lead to disestablishment cases which are not in the best interest of the child. Biological fathers may also be use violence or threats when child support orders are enforced against them, or maybe abandon the child.

There is some wiggle room. In Florida we have a disestablishment of paternity statute which men can use after they break up with the mother. However, it generally requires newly discovered evidence that the father is not the biological father of the child.

When men and women have an unplanned pregnancy, men find that the law is stacked up against them. This unequal treatment under the law may be a matter that needs to be corrected. Is it time for men’s reproductive rights?