Monday, May 28, 2012

In Defense of Dead Beat Dads—Well, Some

Sister Y once made an astute point that I would like to expand on:

Imagine you are a young man of about 19 who’s in a relationship with a young woman.  The two of you consummate the relationship but something accidentally occurs, you know, the usual.  A few weeks later, the girl calls you and announces that she’s pregnant.  At this point, her options are abortion, adoption, and parenthood.

Suppose you wanted to opt for abortion.  Say you’re a college student who only works part-time and wants to be able to get through school with flying colors.  You can’t afford to give a child the good life that they’re entitled to, and besides, you have a bright future that will certainly be hampered if you quit school to get a full time job.  Add this fuel to the fire: suppose you’re a member of the child-free community.  You never want to have children because they test your patience and you consider them a nuisance.  Or you just value your free time.  Let’s up the ante: suppose you’re an antinatalist like University of Cape Town philosophy professor David Benetar.  You don’t want to have children at all because you don’t want them to suffer, grow old and frail, and die.  On top of that, don’t want them to burn in hell for choosing the wrong religion or denomination, for being gay/lesbian, or whatever else places one in danger of hellfire.  
I know what you’re thinking: “then get your tubes tied!”  Well doctors often refuse to perform vasectomies on younger men unless they already have children.   And the procedure is not 100% effective.  On the flip side, you, the young man may want children later on in life.

Anyway, you, the young man, opt for abortion.  The girlfriend says no, she wants to keep the baby.  Fine; it’s not fair that the mother has 100% control of this choice, but that’s life.  But at the very least, you can’t honestly be expected to pay child support, can you?

Why should you have to drop out of school or be saddled with something you clearly stated you didn’t want?  Why should you be branded a deadbeat dad for not wanting to pay for something you didn’t ask for?  I say, cut the girlfriend lose.  You can re-enter the picture once the child is an adult.  Plenty of children have single mothers and turn out just fine.

Granted, there are other types of deadbeat dads.  There are dads who choose to get married, deliberately sire children, and then abruptly walk away.   I’m in no way shape or form defending that type of behavior.  It’s entirely different from the former scenario.  The latter involves breaking serious and sacred promises.  The former contains no promises at all and is a question of autonomy.  So while I’m not willing to excuse all deadbeat dads, I’m willing to write in defense of at least some.