The Violence Against Women and Girls Act correctly describes actions such as withholding contraception from women or forcing women to take contraception as controlling coercive behaviour. It goes farther still by prohibiting men from asking to watch their partner taking oral contraception. Their are no similar protections for men. The imbalance is mirrored in the provision of contraception. The National Health Service lists the following forms of contraception.
Caps or Diaphragms Condoms
Combined Pill Vasectomy
IUD (intrauterine device or coil)
IUD (intrauterine system or hormonal coil)
Natural Family Planing
Progestogen Only Pill
In order to avail of a vasectomy under the NHS typically a man needs to be over 30, have children and his partner will be required to attend the doctor with him and sign off on the surgery. Where a woman visits a doctor to avail of any form of contraception her partner is excluded. There are thousands of women in the UK who’s partners have a vasectomy that are currently on birth control pills or have coils or implants to “keep their period regular”. It is impossible for their partner to know if this is due to a medical condition or they are regularly having sex with a man that has not had a vasectomy.
We must also consider the reality that from the advent of AIDS condoms have been seen primarily as protection from sexually transmitted diseases. This has lead to the societal norm that the point where a relationship is considered serious committed and trusting is when the couple take the step of removing barrier protection and having “unprotected sex”. At this point the man has handed over his reproductive rights and is required to comply with the woman’s decisions.
At the point of conception women are faced with the following choices. The morning after pill, bring the child to term and have it adopted, keep the child and exclude the father while forcing him to pay child support, raising the child with the father. It is clear that for women consent to sex is not consent to parenthood. This is not the case for men.
The man must comply with the woman’s choices.
When the child is born a wristband will be placed on the child in the delivery suite to ensure the child the couple bring home from the hospital is in fact the mothers child. From that point on the mothers partner is financially responsible for that child for the next 16 years. Research shows that approximately 1 in 50 British men are raising a child that is not biologically theirs and approximately half of all men that take paternity tests turn find they are not the biological father.
Regardless of biology the Child Support Agency will consider the mothers partner the father of the child and therefore liable for payments if he was married to the mother at any date between the date of conception and the date of birth, is named on the birth certificate or the children have not been adopted. Judges may also rule that where a man has acted as a father for two or more years he has significantly contributed to the Childs life and he is therefore required to contribute financially.
It is clear that women have reproductive rights and men have reproductive responsibilities.
Their are no easy answers to these problems and it is clear we as a society need to find solutions that respect everyone’s rights. Women in Northern Ireland can currently travel to mainland United Kingdom to access an abortion, soon that trip will be shorter and services will be available in the Republic of Ireland. The growing debate around abortion in Northern Ireland focuses on a “woman’s right to choose” with no regard to the fact the potential child has two potential parents. It will be difficult to create laws that give both parents equal rights and responsibilities as those rights will be different due to the biological realities. However if we are actually interested in equality we must have courage in our convictions and create a fair society.
While no sane person would argue a man should have the ability to force a woman to abort a child or carry it to term, where abortion is legal the father should have the right to abort his legal responsibility during the same time frame a woman can choose to abort a child. Paternity testing should be mandatory, it is ridiculous that half the populations best indicator that they indeed are the father is “he/she has your eyes”. Children should have an absolute right to know who their biological parents are. Social issues aside people need the correct information for health reasons. Precautionary measures against hereditary conditions can only be affective when a person knows their biological ancestry.
Reproductive rights interlink with both Domestic Abuse and the bias within the Family Court system. The fact that men are legally disadvantaged in these three sectors are a major contributing factor in the fact 80% of all suicide victims are male.
If men had to endure childbirth the first change would not be pain management, it would be mandatory maternity testing.