Precinct 333

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Father's Rights/Mother's Rights/Baby's Best Interests

Cathy Young raises some really interesting points about adoption situations like the one I've discussed recently. While it seems like she ould agree with me on the current one (it is judicial child abuse), she does raise a father's rights argument that I have set aside due to the heinous nature of the case.

Biological paternity isn't everything; but it isn't nothing, either. Where is the sympathy for fathers who lose their children through no fault of theirs? Would we be more sympathetic if a woman's baby were taken away at the hospital and placed for adoption without her knowledge because the birth father signed the adoption papers?

The father in such a case faces a strong presumption of guilt. It is readily assumed that if the mother doesn't want him involved, he's either abusive or terminally irresponsible. In society's eyes, when a man doesn't want to marry his child's mother, he must be a cad; when a woman doesn't want to marry the father, he must be a creep.

People can believe that a man would wage a lengthy legal battle out of spite at his ex-girlfriend; yet many won't allow that a woman could want to deny her ex-boyfriend his child for equally base reasons. We stigmatize and prosecute men who refuse to support their children, but not women who willfully conspire to keep a father away from his child.

It's particularly bizarre to place the burden on the man to find out if the woman is pregnant, considering that she's the one with direct knowledge of her condition. Indeed, if a man took such steps after the woman had told him she wanted no further contact, he could be considered a stalker.

In the end, our society sends men quite a mixed message. If your partner gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby, you're liable for 18 years of child support, whether or not you want to be a father. If she doesn't want to be a mother, she can give your child to strangers and there isn't much you can do. Then we complain that men don't take parenthood seriously enough.

So we give women too much control in these situations? What are the proper rights of the father? And how do we protect them without doing harm to the child?


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