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Should men be allowed to "opt out" of parenthood?

(1000 Posts)
Jemimapuddleduckpancake Thu 20-Jun-19 09:08:55

My friend has a child who was ultimately the result of a very casual, friends with benefits type situation. The father was immediately sure that he didn't want a baby and told her from the very beginning. He wasn't around and didn't help out for the first couple of years, but has now decided that he wants to have access to the child and start to build a relationship now he is older.

My friend doesn't trust him, doesn't like him, and is deeply hurt over all the things she has had to go through alone because of his previous lack of involvement and support. But she's worried that she is totally unable to prevent him from ever having access, and feels that he has put her in a horrible and stressful situation.

Which led us to think about this.

When a woman falls pregnant from a one night stand or casual-sex type scenario, she can choose whether to keep the baby, or go through an abortion or out the baby up for adoption. Thus ultimately "opting out" of parenthood.

A man in the same situation has no such right to opt out of parenthood. He has to accept the woman's decision and his life will be impacted by the woman's decision.

My friend believes that she was unrealistic during pregnancy. She firmly believed that the dad would "come round", that he'd see the baby and suddenly fall in love and want to be involved. But of course this didn't happen.

So we started to discuss, what if there was the option for a man to "opt out" of parenthood? It would, of course, have to be done very early on - before the baby was 1 month old, for example. Her idea is that this could be done by signing a legal document stating that he has no desire to be a part of the child's life in any way, will not ever be able to seek any type of access, and will not pay money. This move would have to be irreversible in order to be taken seriously. (Perhaps there could be some terms and conditions like the situation can be reversed but only with the mother's permission).

Now, i know a lot of women on Mumsnet like to say that if a man doesn't want a child then he shouldn't have sex or should use contraception. But I believe in total equality between the sexes and feel that this is unfair. Two people choose to have sex, two people choose whether or not to use contraception, but only one person can decide whether or not they will keep a child if an accident does happen.

I know so many people whose lives are made miserable by constantly battling men for money for their child, or by trying to encourage contact between their child and a man who just isn't interested.

Don't get me wrong - I think this is awful. But wouldn't it save the mother and the child both significant stress and heartache if they can live their lives without these battles? Surely knowing where you stand from the very start will stop all the disappointment and the emotional rollercoaster and stress that so many people experience.

And is it fair for a women to force a child (or the responsibilities that come from having a child, like maintainance) onto a man who knows immediately that he doesn't want a child?

My friend says that with hindsight, she just don't see how this current situation benefits anyone. Men can easily belittle women by claiming that they were "tricked" into having a baby. If there was this "opt out" system, they wouldn't be able to argue this!

The mother also wouldn't have to worry about a deadbeat dad who hasn't done anything for her/her child suddenly popping up deciding they now want to be in the child's life.

My friend says that looking back, although it seems harsh, knowing that this "opt out" system existed would his would actually have helped her. She'd have been much more prepared for single parenthood, much more prepared for being financially responsible for the baby by herself. She'd have been able to prepare better and not have the crushing blows and disappointment and feelings of rejection that come from his behaviour. She'd also not have to now worry about granting a man who is (now) a virtual stranger access to her child.

She thinks that if a man doesn't sign this before baby is month old, then he can't sign it at all, and will be fully responsible for the child in terms is maintainance and anything else, which should then be more strictly implemented (harsher punishments for not paying, for example).

(I thought maybe it would be better if the deadline for opting out was before baby's birth, but she says she still believes that some men will see their child at the birth and fall in love and therefore be given the chance to be involved.)

Of course there would have to be some regulations like if a women can prove that a baby was discussed or planned then the man can't opt out, for example.

What do the rest of you think? I'm really curious about this. On the one hand yes, if you don't want a baby then use contraception. But on the other hand, accidents happen and I can't help but agree with my friend that men should be allowed to opt out just as women can.

At first I thought this was a crazy idea but the more I think about it, the more I think it could help. The UK could issue MUCH stricter punishments to men who don't pay (because if they haven't opted out then they have no right at all, and no excuses, like they make now). It would in many ways protect the mother and child too.

Thoughts, anyone?

(Please don't kill me, I'm just curious to hear ideas from all sides, I'm not fully persuaded! Not that what I think really matters - and it won't happen anyway. But would it be better or worse for people if it did?)

Deadringer Thu 20-Jun-19 09:14:38

Yes, he can keep his dick in his pants.

herculepoirot2 Thu 20-Jun-19 09:15:50

Of course. It’s called not impregnating people. HTH.

SpacedOutDog Thu 20-Jun-19 09:16:17

Yes, they should be able to.
Too often we hear the tired old ' well he shouldn't have had sex then' but the reality is, they BOTH had sex, knowing the potential consequences.
The mother has the option to get rid, he doesn't.
If the woman really, really didn't want a baby, she would do everything to prevent it. There's enough contraception choices freely available.

53rdWay Thu 20-Jun-19 09:16:28

men should be allowed to opt out just as women can

But you’re not comparing the same thing. You’re saying “women can choose not to continue a pregnancy,
therefore men should be able to choose not to fulfil their obligations towards a child that’s already been born.”

Not interested in arguing for the rights of deadbeat dads to be even more deadbeat, whether or not it’s dressed up as equality. Nope.

Jemimapuddleduckpancake Thu 20-Jun-19 09:17:35

Haha the first two comments were entirely unhelpful and not the kind of interesting debate I had been hoping for! 😂

But SpacedOutDog, yes this is what I am starting to think too!

VivienneHolt Thu 20-Jun-19 09:18:49

This would be disastrous for women. Every irresponsible twat who didn’t feel interested in his kid would opt out and there would be no prospect of the mother ever being supported. And what if a man changed his mind and decided that a previously wanted baby was no longer wanted?

This is stupid and misogynistic. Women get to terminate pregnancies because it’s wrong to force anyone to bear children they don’t want. The fact that it is not men bearing children (and accepting the consequent physical, emotional, social and financial costs of pregnancy) is NOT a disadvantage to men.

If men don’t want children they can abstain from sex, use condoms or have a vasectomy. That is the point where they get to opt out. Once the baby is conceived they are on the hook for the (far less significant than for a woman) consequences of that.

herculepoirot2 Thu 20-Jun-19 09:18:53

No, love, we just disagree.

Jemimapuddleduckpancake Thu 20-Jun-19 09:19:12

53rdWay, what if the deadline for opting out was during the pregnancy, rather than after the birth?

Jemimapuddleduckpancake Thu 20-Jun-19 09:20:20

Haha okay herculepoirot2 thanks for all the interesting thoughts and viewpoints 👍

herculepoirot2 Thu 20-Jun-19 09:20:25

Plus, this isn’t an interesting debate. It’s an old trope.

Bluestitch Thu 20-Jun-19 09:20:34

No I think that the right of born children to be supported by the people who created them is more important that the right of men to ejaculate without consequence. Enshrining in law the right for men to procreate with abandon is grotesque.

Also, women can't 'opt out.' If they find themselves pregnant they either have to go through an abortion or pregnancy and childbirth. Abortion isn't a reset button and both routes have risks.

Moralitym1n1 Thu 20-Jun-19 09:21:33

So we started to discuss, what if there was the option for a man to "opt out" of parenthood?

There is, it's called abstainung from unprotected penetrative sex with women you don't want to have children with.

Or at the very least, using condoms and disposing of them yourself. Before all the broken condoms stories, condoms are 98% effective if used properly, 98%.

Soon there'll be a reversible gel vasectomy.

Jemimapuddleduckpancake Thu 20-Jun-19 09:22:01

Bluestitch, yeah , you're right about that. Abortion isn't an easy way out like signing a document is, and it would be much more traumatic than signing a document. But both have equal possibility for regrets, I guess.

VivienneHolt Thu 20-Jun-19 09:22:02

No I think that the right of born children to be supported by the people who created them is more important that the right of men to ejaculate without consequence.

Could not agree more

mawof3soontobe Thu 20-Jun-19 09:23:02

I 100% agree that men should be able to opt out just as much as women should be allowed to have abortions unquestioned. The only issue is the child will be aware their father did not want to be active and some people struggle with the rejection but lots of people feel the same with adoption. People find it a horrifying crass decision but realistically I believe men have rights too! Women have far too much of the power when it comes to getting pregnant and continuing it to "trap" a man, so if you think about it an official opt out termination of parental responsibility and rights would prevent such women taking tactics like these. Yes most women are not like this but it is reality for a lot all the same

ReganSomerset Thu 20-Jun-19 09:23:16

Tbh, many men seem to opt out anyway. CMS payments are pitifully small, men who want to opt out already make these and have no contact.

Moralitym1n1 Thu 20-Jun-19 09:23:21

But the real question is should be able to opt out of any responsibility for the semen that they ejaculate from their testicles into a woman's vagina and ultimately womb?

niceupthedanceagain Thu 20-Jun-19 09:23:31

What about the best interests of the child, who has already been born? Tbh that's the only person who counts in this debate.

Jemimapuddleduckpancake Thu 20-Jun-19 09:23:40

And while I do agree with you about children deserving to be supported by two parents, the sad reality is that many father's DONT support them. They don't pay, or they don't see them. They don't help out. They leave the mother to deal with everything alone. So in an ideal world , I would agree with this. But the current system clearly isn't working for anyone?

53rdWay Thu 20-Jun-19 09:24:24

what if the deadline for opting out was during the pregnancy

“Sorry, love, I know you’re 6 months pregnant and all, but I don’t really fancy this whole ‘dad’ thing any more”?

You’re entirely missing the point that parenting is a relationship with the child, not with its mother. We aren’t talking about who gets custody of a Roomba after a breakup.

And no, your ‘friend’ should not be able to prevent her child having a relationship with its dad either.

Bluestitch Thu 20-Jun-19 09:24:32

I don't think an increase in child poverty or women feeling forced to undergo unwanted abortions is really a price worth paying so that men aren't obliged to keep track of where they deposit their sperm.

SpacedOutDog Thu 20-Jun-19 09:24:53

* If they find themselves pregnant they either have to go through an abortion or pregnancy and childbirth*

That is a choice for her. The man doesn't get that choice.
As i say, it takes BOTH of them to have sex.
The way women talk is as though he'd lost his load while she was fast asleep and knew nothing about it.

Moralitym1n1 Thu 20-Jun-19 09:25:01

No I think that the right of born children to be supported by the people who created them is more important that the right of men to ejaculate without consequence.

What I was trying to say but phrased much better.

No-one is "entitled" to consequence free sexual intercourse. No matter how much they think they should be.

Lolalouisa Thu 20-Jun-19 09:25:12

When I got pregnant with DC1, I was 22 and had been with the father for 4 years.
He didn’t want the baby but offered support regardless because we loved each other.
I was so sure I didn’t want an abortion due to my own personal views and because of this choice, I gave him the chance to leave and have nothing to do with the baby with no animosity or argument.
He chose to stick around and is a great dad but we all have choices to make.
I’d made mine and I wanted him to be able to make a choice of his own with no pressure or guilt-tripping.

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