by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Barry Loberfeld’s saucy rant, combining diverse elements of philosophical argumentation counter seasoned with a tart touch of law and a few grains of biology is both unconvincing and pointless.
Back to the basics.
Individuals own their own bodies. Women and men both should be able to control their bodies and the products of those same bodies. This is not the world we live in today, however. It is also not the world our culture claims by tradition. But it is the future and the philosophical and moral viewpoint that the Freedom Movement is, at least formally, dedicated to affirm. Arguing about the gross injustice that exists today, a mixed market of draconian statism and bad social policy dragged here from history, is a waste of time.
The real question is, what would Freedom look like enacted in this area?
Let us first consider the easiest case, and the one instance where I agree fully with Mr. Loberfeld.
Men should not be become fathers against their will any more than women should become mothers in the same case. But in actual fact very few men pay support for children conceived in such instances. Few men help pay the transaction costs of abortion. Virtually no men pay even a fraction of the costs related to contraception. Note that this is a pragmatic clarification aimed at the present status quo.
The status quo is wrong – but not for the reasons opined by Mr. Loberman. The fact is that along with the very marginal financial support mandated in law men who are bioDads get tremendous power. Many women have been prohibited by courts from relocating if the bioDad objected. Women in this situation do not infrequently find themselves confronted, years later, with demands that the bioDad, unknown to the child, be allowed an active role in the child’s raising. Often these men have had no contact and paid not a cent of support. This is allowed by the courts, distorting the lives these women have chosen to lead. Women have been forced to pay off bioDads to simply get them to go away. Again, a pragmatic clarification of the status quo.
Men should not be fathers against their will. Neither should they be able to force this relationship on a woman and child simply because of biology.
But the ranges of cases are much greater than this one posed by Mr. Loberfeld. Remember the provision that the pregnancy happen with consent? The unappetizing fact is that many women presently on welfare became pregnant before the age of consent and were impregnated by men much older. Therefore there was no informed consent. But still the courts recognize fatherhood without the consent of the woman. Rapists have also asserted, and been granted, rights of fatherhood.
If the individual has the inherent right to bodily sovereignty then no court should be able to grant to any man fatherhood without the consent of the woman. Marriage has always been a contractual relationship that assumed that children would make the husband a father. That there are grave problems with marriage law is unarguable. But I will not take up that point here.
In the case of non-consensual impregnation not only should there be no fatherhood there should be recognition of liability by the bioDad. Liability should be not to the child, but to the woman. Unchosen motherhood is a diminution of choice. It should be an actionable torte.
In a free, world where responsible individuals acted responsibly and could act upon their inherent rights, women would insist that the costs and potential liabilities related to consensual intercourse and contraception be shared. They would have the power to do so. Relationships are a market open to all of the pressures of any market.
Women would be able to write any marriage contract they wanted, without the interference of the State. Men and women could sign, or not sign, and be held to the contract in the same way we each have to pay for anything else we want. Most unmarried men are actually subsidized in this regard. Women bear the costs of gynecological visits, contraceptives, abortions, and the overwhelming share of the costs of raising children, both monetary and non-monetary.
The irrationality of law has disregarded the biological reality that men and women are very different. It ignores the fact that there is a market in relationships, assigning a ‘one price standard’ to marriage that is clearly not in keeping with a free market. And also egregiously, they have limited women’s rights to negotiate for a benefit from selling sexual access and the right to parent a child. Therefore instead of a range of sexual options, a long gradient from companionate marriage to prostitution, we have only marriage completely in the ‘white,’ legal, market, and only prostitution in the, ‘black,’ illegal, market. Payment for sex and other contractual transactions are unenforceable by State fiat. In adoption we see women forced to give up babies for just their expenses. By controlling children the State has effectively made all mothers slaves on a governmental plantation. All of these are violations of a woman’s right to control of her body and life.
In ignoring the biological realities the State and culture has tried to assign equal values to very unequal things. But the mechanisms of markets tell us the relative values of these things. Sperm is so cheap you have to make home deliveries and pay for the privilege of giving it away. An ovum, ready to be fertilized, costs thousands of dollars. A newly born and healthy baby can cost a couple adopting on the free market from $20,000 to $100,000.
Ideas are the foundation of freedom. Within the context of thought we see and know and begin to act on the rights that are inherent in each of us. It is time that women were manumitted from the bondage that has shackled a thousand generations. And it is time that the Freedom Movement understood what those rights really are.
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is the president of The Women’s Institute for Individual and Political Justice, based in Santa Barbara. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Benevolent Individualism. If you are interested in further information contact the Institute contact us either through the contact page at WIIPJ.org or through our newsletter, FreedomFems, Home Page