Since the late 1960s, feminists have been saying "My Body, My Choice", talking of "A woman's right to choose". They insist that women have complete control over their own fertility. This would seem like a reasonable demand on the face of it. However, it does not consider the position of fathers. If the woman wants to decide, completely for herself, whether to have a child or not, then she should also take all the responsibility for that child. You can't have your cake and eat it. If she expects the father to contribute to the upkeep of the child, then he must also have some input into the decision making process. If he does not, then he is effectively a slave.
In 1776, a slogan of the American Revolutionaries was 'No Taxation Without Representation'. Yet fathers today find themselves in exactly the same position; they have no say at all in whether or not to have childen, but they can still be obliged to pay after the woman has made her decision. A father can be denied any contact with his own children, while still being obliged to pay for them. Fathers are subject to taxation with out representation. This is an indefensible situation. Women have all the rights and all the choice, while men have all the responsiblity.
Joint responsibility has to involve joint parenting, and joint decision-making. At the moment, a woman can choose to have a child knowing full well that others - the father and/or the State - will support it for her if she so chooses. This will affect her decision. If she had to take responsibility for the child herself, she might calculate differently. If she wants the father's input, then it cannot be completely on her terms. He is a human being too, and a parent, the same as her.
Given the existence of forced fatherhood (where she conveniently 'forgets' to take her pill), and paternity fraud (where she claims that some poor jerk is the father when she knows perfectly well he isn't), the situation is doubly intolerable. Men simply have no reproductive rights at all.
A basic fathers' manifesto should include the following:
- If a pregnancy occurs and the couple separate, the couple should have a joint decision making process about whether or not to go ahead with the pregnancy.
- If the woman wishes to go ahead without the father's support, then she cannot expect his finanical support either. The decision to have the child is her sole decision and thus her sole responsibility.
- We demand offical recognition of the truth about domestic violence and child abuse. The scientific evidence is clear. The mother is as likely as the father to engage in such behaviour, and false accusations are endemic.
- If lawyers encourage divorcing parents to make false allegations, they should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions.
- Joint parenting should be the norm following divorce. Sole custody should be the exception, used only where there is verifiable evidence of violence. The mother's mere say-so does not constitute verifiable evidence.
- In the case of sole custody, there must be no assumption of female custody. The father should be as likely as the mother to win sole custody.
- Child support orders should never be made without routine DNA verification of paternity.
- If a man is deceived into believing a child is his when it is not, the woman should be liable to criminal fraud charges.
- Child support orders should never be made without commensurate joint-parenting orders. The role of the father extends beyond merely being a walking ATM machine for the mother to plunder at will.
- Joint-parenting orders must be enforced by the courts. Mothers should not be able to ignore contact orders at will, safe in the knowledge that the courts will never enforce them. If contact is blocked by the mother for no good reason, she should face contempt of court proceedings, up to and including imprisonment. The children can reside with the father while she is serving her sentence.
- Child support payments must be accountable. The mother should keep receipts and account for where the money has gone to, as is standard practice in the workplace.
- The money can only be used for the benefit of the child, not the mother.
- The mother can be asked to produce evidence, such as goods purchased.
- The amount paid should be based upon the child's actual needs, not the father's income level.
Once we abandon the assumption of maternal custody, as I demand here, we would have to rephrase my points. Instead of talking of the 'mother' and 'father', we would talk of the 'custodial' and 'non-custodial' parents respectively. Remember also that sole custody would be the exception. For now, I need to express it in this way to highlight the shocking mess that is our Family Court system.