Men seeking right to “judicial abortions”

Fathers say they should not be required to pay support for unwanted children

When women in Denmark won the right to unrestricted abortion in 1973, it was viewed as a victory for equal rights. A women’s right to decide over her own body, her own life and make her own choice regarding whether or not she wanted to be a mother.

Men are wondering why they do not have the same right to choose whether or not they want to be a father. If paternity can be determined, the father is legally bound to pay support until the child turns 18 years old, whether or not the man ever wanted to be a father. Men can also be forced to take a DNA test to determine if they are the father of a child. After all, the reasoning runs, he could have used protection.

As the structure of what defines a family has changed over the years – with many women opting to act as single parents and four out of ten marriages ending in divorce – the stigma of growing up as a child in a single parent home has all but disappeared, and many are wondering why men do not have the same options to opt out of parenthood as women.

A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy can abort, put the child up for adoption or keep the child, sometimes without revealing the name of the father. Men have none of those choices, and some are asking for laws to be changed to give them the right to a ‘judicial abortion’ where they deny paternity of the child, chose not to pay support and give up all rights to the child, similar to being anonymous sperm donor.

According to a TNS Gallup for Berlingske newspaper, 39 percent of Danes polled now agree that a man should be free to choose a ‘judicial abortion’ if the woman chooses to have the child against his will. One in five believe that men should be able to opt out of fatherhood if the pregnancy was an accident and seven out of ten believe that a man should have the right to walk away if the woman somehow tricked him into impregnating her.

READ MORE: Law change gives birth to a 'co-mother'

Karen Sjørup, a sex researcher at Roskilde University, thinks equalising gender responsibilities would be good for both men and women.

“It is clear that many men have been angry about paying the price for 18 years for a one-night mistake,” Sjørup told Berlingske newspaper. “The idea that they could opt out should at least be considered.”

Sjørup said that women would benefit by not being dependent on men who clearly do not want to help them.

Sjørup said that men should not count on laws changing any time soon, however. The state has a vested interest in knowing the identities of both parents and fathers who pay child support reduce the government’s obligation to support the mother and child.

Don’t mess with the boss
Before Thomas Nielsen’s girlfriend became pregnant, he had made it clear that he was not interested in fathering any more children. He already had two that he was supporting financially. When the girlfriend – who had told him that she could not get pregnant – turned up pregnant and decided to keep the baby, Nielsen asked to be left out.

The mother, however, reported him as the father, obligating him to the 1,270 kroner monthly minimum support payment. Since his annual income exceeds 400,000 kroner, he is also obligated to pay as much as three times the minimum amount, even though the woman in question was his boss and earns more money than he does. Nielsen refused to pay voluntarily and asked for a judicial abortion.

READ MORE: Tax bonus for paternal leave dropped from budget

Although his child support payments are automatically deducted form his paycheck – including a 500 kroner monthly fee for his refusal to transfer the money on his own – Nielsen still refuses to acknowledge paternity of his daughter.

“Of course I feel sorry for the girl,” he told Berlingske. “I think it is wrong, deeply unethical and selfish of a woman to have a child with a man she knows is not interested in having a child with her.”

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