There is a quote from Karen DeCrow, which you can find below.

The courts have properly determined that a man should neither be able to force a woman to have an abortion nor to prevent her from having one, should she so choose. Justice therefore dictates that if a woman makes a unilateral decision to bring pregnancy to term, and the biological father does not, and cannot, share in this decision, he should not be liable for 21 years of support. Or, put another way, autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice.1

Is it possible to derive the unilateral right to abortion, as described in the quote, and the duty for men to pay child support from the same reasoning?

If so, how exactly? And if it's not possible, what are adjustments to either the right to abortion or the duty of child support that unify the underlying ethical reasoning?

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    Why do people vote down without leaving a comment? ...Maybe this can be determined in another question :) – mike Feb 25 '17 at 15:30
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    Just to complete the circle of potential contradictions, the third complicating factor is visitation and custody. Child support presumes money substitutes for active contribution, which presumes unwillingness to provide actual presence and involvement in the child's life. In states where abortion restrictions have been struck down, the alienated parties have moved to ensure rapists obligated to child support can sue for visitation, which is just cruel and unusual punishment for the woman. – user9166 Feb 25 '17 at 15:43
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    The overall binding factor here is the limitation of potential damage to the child. A child that exists is easier to damage than one that does not. Being deprived of resources is damaging, but being deprived of the choice of whether to have a relationship with the parents and extended family is potentially a greater deprivation. The apparent contradiction is that all parties are valued less than a child, but more than a fetus. – user9166 Feb 25 '17 at 15:50
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    These are interesting remarks. The quote is actually pretty absurd, because it leaves out the rights of the child. It propagates a possessive perspective on this matter. – mike Feb 25 '17 at 15:58
  • The traditional way of splitting the difference was to say that a fetus is not a child, but a dependent part of woman's body of which she should have full control. In that case man's responsibility to the child does not come into existence before the child birth. Once the child is born both parents bear responsibility for its care. This reasoning has been challenged lately, however, especially for late stages of pregnancy. – Conifold Feb 25 '17 at 22:03

The duty of the father is not towards the mother, but towards the child. The father clearly participated in the decision to create the child. And since the natural consequence of creating the child is a birth (unless there is an accident or illness), the father should pay.

There are many anti-abortion ("pro-life") groups, those groups in particular would say that since a child shouldn't ever be aborted, that initial decision of the father is the only one that he could make.


This exact argument was taken up by Sally Sheldon of Kent Law School, U. of Kent, Canterbury in her 2003 article "Unwilling Fathers and Abortion: Terminating Men's Child Support Obligations?", which states that:

the currently accepted grounding of child support liability (in voluntary creation of need) provides little scope for refuting the men's groups' argument [that the unilateral choice to carry a child exempts the man from child support obligations]. The paper then moves on to argue that voluntary creation of need is, however, inadequate as a basis for child support liability, and that the current analysis offers compelling grounds for preferring a collective model of support obligations.

She writes:

The analysis above has shown that, for those who are not happy to rely on a conservative vision of sex (where consenting to sex also inevitably entails consenting to procreation), the received justification for private child support obligations must fail. p. 17

In conclusion, she finds that "the state has a duty to meet children's basic needs and that this should be done at a generous level." She justifies this claim by identifying unfair treatment of women, both in paying them less and in expecting them to take care of children when men don't. She finishes:

I hope that the analysis of this paper sheds new light on the state’s current abdication of what is arguably its most important duty: to meet the basic needs of all its citizens. p. 20


(I guess I omitted the actual answer below. The answer is 'none'. This is about the intimacy presumed of motherhood, which requires a relationship and the interchangeability presumed of fatherhood, which requires a duty.)

This is a continuation of the historical trend of holding men more responsible at a legal level, and women more responsible at a personal level. Abortion is not even the point. Even when abortion was illegal, an unmarried woman who had a child did not necessarily become its legal guardian or mother-in-fact.

Many women's children were raised by their extended families, fostered out to a family friend who already had children, or was put up for adoption. Compensation could be sought by whomever ended up with the child via paternity suit, but only if the father had means.

In many places today a similar option is presented to the mother three times. She can leave the child with an agency through the hospital by arranging this prior to birth. Safe Haven laws intended to reduce child abuse allow her to leave a very young child with a trusted provider anonymously, sometimes up to a year later. And if she considers herself unfit, she can relinquish the child into the foster-care system, which can sometimes then place it with a relative. This is all great -- a self-consciously inept parent is a horrible thing.

But there is no corresponding path for a fiscally inept father. (Most of the men jailed for avoiding child-support are honestly not capable of complying. They may even have income, but they do not have the ability to properly manage it. And they may have gone off and started another family that they can just barely support.)

So this gap in the equality of responsibility is not new. And it remains relevant whether or not you consider abortion an option. If a mother can voluntarily relinquish her parental rights, then so should a father be able to.

She need not have any obligation to this child, but his is established.

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