Reproductive Rights Are for Men Too

In response to Robyn E. Blumner’s column, Reproductive Rights Are for Men Too, in the St. Petersburg Times of Jan 11, 2004 (http://www.sptimes.com/2004/01/11/Columns/Reproductive_rights_a.shtml) I sent the following letter to the editor, as yet unpublished.

Robyn E. Blumner in her column, Reproductive Rights Are for Men Too (Jan 11, 2004) mentioned the case of David Oakley who was ordered by the Supreme Court in Wisconsin not to have any more children while he was on probation for non-payment of child support. The vote was 4-3, but one judge in the majority stated that he supported the order only because the defendant intentionally refused to pay child support and that, if the defendant had been unable to pay child support, i.e. indigent, he would have joined the dissent and permitted the defendant to have more children.

The dissenting judges in the Oakley case correctly in my view argued that the majority’s ruling ‘wrongly supports an economic test for would-be parents,’ adding, ‘The right to have a child has never been rationed on the basis of wealth. The majority has essentially authorized a judicially imposed ‘credit check’ on the right to bear and beget children.’

This credit check was imposed in the Oakley and the other case cited in the article, that of Sean Talty in Ohio, only on the man. Women can have children even if they cannot afford them – our welfare system, such as it is, is supposed to provide for those children who need additional financial support.

The Wisconsin and Ohio courts view poor men as having lesser ‘reproductive rights’ than poor women, even when the right asserted does not conflict with or affect a woman’s right. In fact, Sean Talty’s reproductive interests coincided with those of his current girlfriend, who was the mother of two of his children. She was not pleased with the verdict and complained: ‘It took me 10 years to get two and I would like to have more.’

Men, like women, want to have children and have them survive to adulthood and lead productive lives and if possible in turn have children. Many children start their lives from disadvantaged homes. This should not be a legal disqualification to their mothers or fathers having them.

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