The obvious response to the headline from that opinion post in USA Today is that fathers are already held financially accountable. However, there’s a deeper point worth noting in this horrible mess of a column. Let’s start with the shot…
Almost every day, I help facilitate the termination of anywhere between two and five marriages. As an attorney who practices family law, ending marriages makes up the bulk of my work.
…Still, the more cases I take on, the more I notice patterns emerging. Chief among these, many of the people I assist are mothers trying to fix the damage wrought by an absent, neglectful or abusive man. In each case, my job requires me to ask about the father’s role — or more often, whether he has one at all.
Eventually, the answers start to run together. Sure, he pays his support, but his children never see him. Or he’s an addict. Or he’s in jail. Or he’s with his new girlfriend. Or maybe they don’t know where he is.
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When viewed against this backdrop, it is little wonder some people use words like “trapped” and “forced” to describe the consequences of banning abortion. Taken alone, laws like Georgia’s and Alabama’s, for example, put women in the precarious position of bringing a child into the world without any reliable support system.
So obviously, there are plenty of garbage human beings out there and, yes, any guy who willingly abandons his kids, refuses to participate in raising them, is pumping out kids by various baby mamas or is letting the state handle the mess is a terrible person. It’s so easy to give you a similar list of women behaving badly, that I’m not even going to bother, because I want to skip directly to the chaser from the author that explains how to fix the situation.
WE MUST DEMAND MORE. CHANGING SOCIAL NORMS IS A START.
“IT WOULD BE GREAT IF SOCIETY COULD RALLY AROUND THE SIX OR SEVEN KEY BRIDGES ON THE PATH TO FATHERHOOD,” WROTE DAVID BROOKS. “FOR EXAMPLE, FIND SOMEONE YOU LOVE BEFORE YOU HAVE INTERCOURSE. OR, MAKE SURE YOU WANT TO SPEND YEARS WITH THIS PARTNER BEFORE YOU GET OFF THE PILL. OR, CREATE A COUPLE’S BUDGET TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN AFFORD THIS.” (WE COULD EVEN MARK THE OCCASION BY WEARING LITTLE GOLD RINGS, MAKING PUBLIC VOWS AND HAVING A BIG, FORMAL PARTY. JUST A THOUGHT.)
YET PERHAPS A CHANGE IN THE LAW IS ALSO WARRANTED — ONE WHICH STRONGLY DETERS MEN FROM IRRESPONSIBLE SEX. CRIMINALIZING ADULTERY IS A GOOD PLACE TO START, AS IS PUNISHING MEN WHO SHIRK THEIR FATHERLY DUTIES.
POPULAR PARENTING BLOGGER GABRIELLE BLAIR HAD SOME INTERESTING IDEAS IN A TWITTER THREAD THAT WENT VIRAL, INCLUDING CASTRATING MEN WHO CAUSE UNWANTED PREGNANCIES. “FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO CONSIDER ABORTION TO BE MURDER,” SHE TWEETED, “WOULDN’T YOU BE ON BOARD WITH HAVING A HANDFUL OF MEN CASTRATED, IF IT PREVENTED 500,000 MURDERS EACH YEAR?”
SHE MEANT IT AS HYPERBOLE (I THINK), BUT HER POINT IS WELL-TAKEN. IF WE ARE INDEED FACING A CRISIS OF MASS MURDER IN OUR COUNTRY, ISN’T IT ABOUT TIME WE ENSURED EVERYONE IS PULLING THEIR WEIGHT TO STOP IT? IF WE BAN ABORTION UNDER PENALTY OF LAW AND EXPECT WOMEN TO EMBRACE THE EXTRAORDINARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF PREGNANCY AND MOTHERHOOD, CAN WE NOT DEMAND THE SAME OF OUR MEN?
What’s fascinating about this is that we already had social norms formed over a long period of time that did an excellent job of handling this issue and we, as a society, systematically annihilated them. Want to name some of them?
Stigmatizing divorce. Fathers regularly getting custody of children after divorces. Stigmatizing having kids out of wedlock. Women dressing modestly. Women not going home with a guy unless they intend to have sex. Virginity being the prized rule instead of the odd exception. Saving sex until marriage.
The sexual history of this country over the last 60 years or so has largely centered around tearing down any and all barriers to casual sex while shielding women from all responsibility for their actions.
Going back to one of the most egregious #metoo cases (Aziz Ansari), we’re now in a place where a woman can just meet a man, go back to his apartment alone, immediately get naked, give him oral sex and then ACT as if he’s a horrible person for pursuing sex. Where would he have ever gotten the idea that they might be having sex? Was it when she got naked? Maybe when she was going down on him despite barely knowing him? If you even suggest that maybe she has any kind of responsibility for leading him on in that situation, it’s considered shocking.
This column from USA Today is so typical in that we’ve ripped out all of these societal safeguards, it creates enormous problems and we’re ready to do anything to fix them….except dealing with the real problem. Instead, we’re always looking for the easiest way out that doesn’t force us to admit we blew it.