G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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At the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto takes on an op-ed written by a professor of law named Shari Motro in the New York Times who argues for “preglimony” – paternal support for pregnant women including and up to their choice to abort. From Motro:
One of the potential ramifications [of technology that allows us to determine paternity] is that men might be called upon to help support their pregnant lovers before birth, even if the pregnancy is ultimately terminated or ends in miscarriage. They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes, to help cover the loss of income that often comes with pregnancy, or to contribute to the cost of an abortion.
Reminds me of a high school friend who was cheating on her boyfriend with another guy. After becoming pregnant the girl lied to both guys about the certainty of their being the father. This was a direct reliance or manipulation of what I’d call Masculine Denial. Both guys had to know the girl was a bit slutty, but they were probably deeply satisfied that, to borrow from Costanza, their boys could swim.
The girl got each to cough up half of the cost of an abortion which meant that she paid nothing out of pocket. While I disagree with how Motro presents the argument in this piece – especially by calling it the gynocentric “preglimony” - I see at least some silver lining for men who would otherwise allow themselves to be duped by women they believed they’d impregnated. But after paternity is proved, the issue takes on a new dimension. Who is responsible for what?
The flip side of choice is responsibility. As both a legal and practical matter, women have “reproductive rights” and men do not. It was reasonable for men to conclude that women’s gain in control implied a reciprocal lifting of men’s responsibility. The sexual revolution has liberated both sexes, but in different ways and, as the Brookings paper notes, with tragic results. In contrast with the shotgun marriage, a reciprocal commitment by both the man and the woman, Motro proposes to place new burdens on men without requiring women to give up anything in return.
The Supreme Court and tons of feminist activists have hammered home the point that pregnant women are solely in control of their womb. They have all of the decision rights, and that implies that they benefit from having choice but also have sole responsibility for anything that occurs in utero.
As every feminist does, Motro argues “it’s good for men too”:
At the end of the day, preglimony stands to benefit men too, especially those who want to help but are turned away. How many well-intentioned men have been dismissed with “I don’t want your money” or “You’ve done enough damage; now stay away from my daughter”? Preglimony names and in that way honors the man’s role in caring for his pregnant lover.
These should be seperate issues. If Motro actually cared about how men are treated through this process she would pen an entirely different article supporting them. But instead their concerns are fodder for a larger one. And we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for the New York Times to allow an op-ed that centers on fathers.
To put this in terms of incentives, men would be encouraged to avoid impregnating women, while women would be encouraged to get pregnant. There are several reasons to think the result would be more out-of-wedlock pregnancies and births, with all the unhappy consequences that would entail for children and society at large.
Certaintly. One pregnancy deterrant (among many others) is the actual pregnancy itself. Some women may want children but avoid it because of the economic and physical costs. In other words, some women would allow themselves to get knocked up and college child support from the fathers if it weren’t for the huge 9 month stop gap. If we incentivize that gap then we neuter a very important deterrant for single motherhood. And I’ll appeal to David Brooks’ recent article in the New York Times to make yet another case for why single motherhood should be avoided.
From there Taranto mentions the book Too Many Women? by Gutentag and Secord. That book, which I’ve written about before, is one of the only full-length treatments of the outcomes from skewed sex ratio societies.