Does a man have
the right to decide
if he wants to
become a father?
A Swedish party proposes that men
should be able to renounce to
paternity before the 18th week
Before the eighteenth week of pregnancy, men should have the right to renounce to paternity and to all responsibilities related to the child. Such is the proposal made by the Swedish Liberal Party in 2016 around this controversial issue. The biological father wouldn´t have to pay for the maintenance of his son, but once the decision was made, he wouldn´t have the right to meet him again. The proponents of the law argue that it would benefit women, since from the first moment they would know if a man is willing to be a father or not.
The issue is controversial because it raises conflicts of rights:
-The woman's to be autonomous in relation to what happens in her own body.
-The one of a man when deciding whether or not to become a father.
-The one of the child's to know who his father is and eventually to try to meet him and see him regularly, as stated in the Convention of the Children´s Rights adopted by the UN. The issue would not arise if the one that decides to abort is the mother, since that child would never be born. When a sperm bank is used, these rights of the child are also violated, something that does not appear in public debates, perhaps because the decision maker is the woman.
The unwanted pregnancy can be the result of not having used any contraceptive method, of the failure of these methods, or a deception on the part of the woman, who wants to become a mother.
We all know cases like that. A man and a woman see each other two or three times. Maybe they had sex in three opportunities. They don´t see each other for a while and with an advanced pregnancy she tells him that he will be a father because she has a powerful desire to become a mother, and hopes that he will take care of the child. We also know cases in which the father ends up loving the child. But this is not always the case and the outcome of the action does not determine whether it is ethically admissible that the will of the father should not be taken into account, nor does it determine the rights of the child in relation to his father.
Sperm banks have somehow offered an alternative for the woman who wants to become a mother and does not have a potential father for her child. This situation raises other ethical issues such as whether or not a child has the right to have a father or substitute, and if there is no identified father, if the mother has a moral obligation to have one or several substitutes in case she dies before her child can be autonomous.
Through the decriminalization of abortion, the right of women to decide if they want to become mothers is very well established in the public debate. Even when there is no consensus around this freedom, the issue is raised. But we are far away of the possibility of men having a similar right, or a dialogue around the possible modalities for its regulation.
In the film "The Red Pill" feminists deny that men have any right in this regard. For them it is the body of women, and no consideration regarding the child or his father appears among their arguments. On the other hand, in this film the theme appears as a basic right for men.
The question of whether or not a man has the right to decide if he will become a father when he is deceived or when contraceptive methods fail is practically absent from the public debate. A good indication that the disadvantages and sexism to which men are subjected are like those suffered by women during the nineteenth century.