With the prospect of father’s day ahead over the weekend, Laurie Shrage (left) has a piece for the New York Times confronting the issue of ‘forced fatherhood’, and whether (in limited contexts, namely, those in which women can in fact access contraception and abortion services) women’s reproductive autonomy is unfairly greater than that of men. In an instance in which a woman becomes pregnant without the consent of the male partner to the pregnancy (e.g. due to contraceptive accident), she suggests that we have an unfair case of ‘forced fatherhood’. In such cases, a man is required to undertake the significant (at least) financial responsibilities that he has not voluntarily undertaken.
‘just as court-ordered child support does not make sense when a woman goes to a sperm bank and obtains sperm from a donor who has not agreed to father the resulting child, it does not make sense when a woman is impregnated (accidentally or possibly by her choice) from sex with a partner who has not agreed to father a child with her.’
Policies that require biological fathers to take on such financial responsibilities are punitive, she argues, and can be viewed as a way of controlling sexual behaviour (in the way that inability to access abortion punishes women for being sexually active).
Moreover, rejecting this policy that requires the biological fathers to undertake financial responsibilities could open up ways of conceiving fatherhood that move beyond biological relationship (I like this point: as my two siblings and I write our father’s day cards, only one of us will be celebrating our biological father, but he’s a father no more and no less to each of us!).
This raises many interesting questions about what grounds parental responsibilities, and has -unsurprisingly – generated considerable response from the feminist blogosphere.
Here’s my take on the objections that have come up (after the break):
A while ago I complained about a TV series that seemed to be glorifying a bunch of rich white men as the people who made America.
And a short while ago Fem Phil posted about the PBS documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America.
In case anyone missed it on TV, you can watch the whole thing (yup all 3 hours) here or here. (The first link doesn’t contain commercials, as far as I can tell. Apologies if the video doesn’t work everywhere. I tried searching Youtube as well but couldn’t find another version.)
“Despite the title, during the station break a voiceover described the doc’s subject as “women who ‘helped’ shape America.” Women are helpers, yo, just in case this film causes you to forget that for a moment.”
And in classic Twisy fashion, she helpfully suggests,
Here, Voiceover, let me “help” you kiss my entire ass.
(If it’s not obvious, I miss IBTP.)
I haven’t watched the documentary yet, but I’m hoping it’s good. Twisty links to a few articles on it in her post. And Chris Hayes talked about it some on his Feb 9th show–you know, the one where he devoted the WHOLE TWO HOURS to the women’s movement (both local and global, past and present.) The show, while containing a few awkward kumbaya moments, had some of the best dialogue I’ve seen about how to address the women’s movement without slipping into American-centric white middle class feminism. (If you can watch MSNBC shows, you can watch it here by hovering over “recent shows” on the left and finding Feb. 9th.)
There is a hidden political dimension to the debate over children’s right to know. The debate presupposes a bionormative view of the family, which holds that families formed via biological reproduction are the gold standard or Platonic form of the family. The implicit bionormative assumption emerges in the thought experiments above. When we ask about children placed in baby boxes (and subsequently adopted), our intuitions might favor the notion of a right to know. But when we consider families formed by biological reproduction, our intuitions do not line up to support such a right. Rather, we think that the mother who is estranged from her family of origin, or who does not know who or where the father is, has the right, and, indeed, the obligation, to determine what to tell her child about family and ancestry, and what not to tell her. It is a question of the child’s welfare, not the child’s rights. In the case of families that do not meet the bionormative standard, however, we are more likely to favor a child’s right to know. This indicates a tacit priority granted to biological or genetic ties.
More on the Notre Dame lawsuit regarding the federal contraceptive coverage rule from Kathryn Pogin and Bridgette Dunlap at the Huffington Post.
The claim to RFRA’s protections for “persons” would seem to rest on one of two theories: either that the term “person” should be read to include a corporation, or, that the corporation represents as-of-yet unidentified human persons, as when a church sues on behalf of parishioners. Notre Dame’s court submissions exhibit confusion on this point, referring to Notre Dame both as having a “conscience” in the singular (suggesting the former), and as having plural “consciences” (suggesting the latter). . .
Regardless of who the lawsuit envisions as the protected belief-holder(s), we believe the proposition that Notre Dame can hold one unified religious belief is antithetical to the very purpose of a university. Notre Dame’s administration appears to disagree. Should it appeal the dismissal of the lawsuit or refile once the contraceptive coverage rule is finalized, the plaintiff should plead who or what is the person that holds the beliefs alleged. Perhaps more importantly, it should inform the members of the Notre Dame community, and those considering joining it, who can rightly claim “We Are ND.”
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against St. Thomas More Hospital in Colorado. Lori Stodghill, who was pregnant with twins, died from a heart-attack shortly after she had been admitted. Her husband filed a suit in which his lawyers argue that a cesarean-section could have saved the twins, and so ought to have been performed.
Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.
Transforming FAMILY is a ten minute documentary that jumps directly into an ongoing conversation among trans people about parenting. It is a beautiful snapshot of current issues, struggles and strengths of transexual, transgender and gender fluid parents (and parents to be) in North America today.
You can watch the video here. (I don’t know whether vimeo is accessible everywhere though; apologies if it isn’t.)
The words of Savita Halappanavar, who died last month in Ireland. According to the Irish Times, after being told that she was miscarrying, she requested multiple times over the course of three days that her pregnancy be terminated. Her requests were denied. She was told, “This is a Catholic country.” She miscarried. A week later, she died of septicaemia.