Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just My Baby’s Daddy

Ok, I couldn’t resist throwing in a reference to that extremely terrible song.  But lately the issue of  “preglimony” has been in the news, thanks to the musings of one Shari Motro, who argues that in the era of  safe, inexpensive, minimally invasive paternity testing available even in the embryonic stage, men should be obligated to help pay for pregnancy or abortion related expenses.  
She puts it as thus:

Rather than focusing on the relationship between the man and a hypothetical child, the new technology invites us to change the way we think about the relationship between unmarried lovers who conceive. Both partners had a role in the conception; it’s only fair that they should both take responsibility for its economic consequences.

Former spouses are often required to pay alimony; former cohabiting partners may have to pay palimony; why not ask men who conceive with a woman to whom they are not married to pay “preglimony”?

I don’t agree with Ms. Motro on this.  Child support is not supposed to be financial support for the mother, but for “the best interest of the child.”  In the case of pregnancy, there is no child, not yet, not legally.  I can’t think of another case where someone is obligated to pay for another person’s medical expenses, without that person agreeing to it, or having been found liable in some way.  As the partners have no recognized legal relationship to each other, under what legal theory would preglimony be put under?-I see that the author tries to shoehorn it under child support, but it doesn’t fit until there is an actual child.  You can argue that the male helped “contribute” to the woman’s condition, but as long as she consented at the time, how would that obligate him? Could  a woman sue her boyfriend for being a great cook, serving delicious meals, and causing her to get fat?  Should she be able to get him to pay for her diabetes bills after they break up?

I can’t help but wonder if this is another backdoor attack on abortion rights.  After all, once a man is obligated to pay for a pregnancy, he also presumably gets some say in the pregnancy and its ultimate outcome, even if he and the woman are no longer together.  Would he then be able to choose the hospital or birthing center, doctor or midwife, pain medication or no pain medication, all of which, while personal decisions, are also deeply tied to finances as well.  Could it go even further?  Men's rights groups are, predictably, up in arms over this proposal.  Ultimately while I think preglimony is an interesting thought experiment, I don’t feel that it is either fair or practical to implement.


  1. I find this really difficult. It sort of underscores the issues always at play in pregnancy and abortion, from a legal and moral standpoint. Because of course, we want women to take care of themselves during pregnancy, and in our minds maybe there is some middle ground between life and not life - one that we can find emotionally and morally, but that it is difficult to express legally. But you're right, legally, how do you go about creating a middle ground, and would that even make sense or be a good thing in the long run? But because we make this decision, that pregnancy is one person, not two, we have to then make the decision that flows from it: it's a woman's choice.

  2. This is where being pro-life makes an issue easier :> We do think that there is a child already, so "the best interests of the child" does apply. It's why that aspect of the "men's movement" that thinks all men should have the right to opt out of any responsibility, financial or otherwise, if the women don't agree to an abortion gets nothing but contempt from me.

    Then there is the feminist issue that the burdens of creating and caring for a child fall disproportionately on the woman -- there's nothing to be done about the physical/biological aspect, but we can address the stigma, the financial burden, etc. After all, pro-choicers often (and usually but not always erroneously) accuse us of only caring about the baby when it is in utero. But if we truly care about people, all people, and we take our charitable obligations to other people seriously, then we want to support a pregnant woman in whatever way she needs. Hence the creation of homes and charities that help women get medical care, baby supplies, a place to stay, etc. before and after birth. But the men who father these babies also need to take responsibility -- ideally by being a supportive, involved father, but at an absolute minimum by offering financial support to make sure the baby is cared for, in utero and out.

  3. Yeah, I agree on most of that (except for the child at conception part, obviously :-) ). I think it's actually easier to say that pro-lifers don't care about after utero when they are conservative, generally - because then they tend to be against any kind of aid that might help, say, single mothers with kids, or poorer families with kids. I find it hardest when conservatives are pro-life, but like anti-school lunches or anti-SCHIP (children's health care for poor kids).

    I think the entire concept of a "Men's Rights" movement is silly because they are focusing on things that don't make sense to me - in a larger picture of how society may burden men more than women.

  4. "Hardest" to comprehend - I just realized that read strangely :-)

  5. Heh, I understood you. but yeah, there is a real disconnect with those kinds of conservatives*, which is why some Catholics keep talking about how there is more to being pro-life than being against abortion. And, as I have said before, it is the reason why the most orthodox of Catholics are neither Republicans or Democrats. The cafeteria is open to both sides :>

    *But not all -- one of the few good points about Santorum, and one that is not known by many, is that he spent a lot of time in Congress supporting bills that would aid the poor.

  6. That is true about Santorum, up to a point. When push came to shove he voted with his party. I have been avidly following this back and forth between the American nuns and Rome about how much nuns are supposed to care about the poor. Fascinating stuff to me. What's your take?