Hold men accountable! Two lessons from history
Neither of these ideas is very innovative... or good.
This is a quick update from my Roe v. Wade article last week. First off, I appreciate everyone’s responses, encouragement, and counterpoints. This story is still developing, and I realized that my opinions on a few points are inevitably going to evolve as the story does.
One such point which is how this will play out practically in the states. So far, I’ve only heard friend-of-a-friend stories, so please take this with a grain of salt. I’ve heard whisperings from the states that passed trigger laws (laws that would ban most abortions should Roe be overturned) that it’s unclear what healthcare workers are supposed to do if a patient comes in with a life-threatening condition or severe fetal abnormalities. Since the states have given such little legal guidance, and licensing boards haven’t had time to catch up, providers don’t know if they are risking losing their license or criminal prosecution by giving an abortion to a patient.
If any of you know someone who is actually experiencing this, please let me know. I would like to talk to them if they are willing.
I’ve been glued to the internet since this all happened (because I hate myself), and I noticed a common question in the dialogue: For the states that adopted a pro-life stance, how were they going to hold men accountable? (Don’t even get me started on vasectomies.) After all, women bear the brunt of childbearing, and if the father of their child is uncommitted or vanishes, they will bear the brunt of raising the child too.
I saw two possible solutions that—to some people—might seem effective and innovative. Let’s pick them apart…
#1 Bring Back Debtor’s Prisons
Exciting news: We already have them! They’re called “prisons”!
That’s right! In the year 2022, if you get behind on your child support, we don’t ship you off to the colonies to perform seven years of hard labor or lock you away in a prison to work off your debt! (What do you think this is: an Opera? An epic French novel where you clear your name and exact revenge on your enemies?! This is Kafka’s world!) We just send you to rot behind bars and hope you learn your lesson. Also, your child support bills might continue accruing while you’re behind bars… and you’ll only make $0.20 an hour doing prison jobs…
And don’t forget about interest payments.
It's also worth mentioning that 70% of child support debt is owed by parents (mostly dads) who make less than $10,000 per year.1 And no, I did not miss a zero. The national child support debt has increased 10x over the last 30 years to over $115 billion, more than a quarter of which is interest. Some states will allow you to reduce the amount you owe while you’re incarcerated, and you can get welfare assistance, but that can come back to bite you later if the state expects you to pay that assistance back. Also, the debt is permanent and generally can’t be discharged through bankruptcy.
Further, this impedes his ability to get a high-paying—or any—job after his release thereby increasing his chances of going back to prison. The state can go on to garnish wages, intercept tax returns, suspend your driver’s license, and freeze your bank account. Worst of all, this is only the insult to the injury of being separated from your children and missing out on their lives. This punishes their children astronomically more than it does their fathers.
We’ve been “holding men accountable” through debtor’s prison for decades. It hasn’t worked.
#2 Sterilize Repeat Offenders
This is a surprisingly popular solution. I’ve heard people say we should give all teenage boys vasectomies and even subject people who keep having children, but don’t provide for them, to forced sterilization. If you hold this view, you are in great company!
You hold fine company with many completely normal, non-controversial, universally-beloved people like:
Dr. Wallace Warren Cross4
Sir Francis Galton5
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes6
And many more! 7
I hope it doesn’t require much to explain this, but historically, this has ALWAYS ended badly. Usually, the people receiving this treatment are poor minorities: Jewish, Black, brown, immigrants, the disabled, etc. Additionally, many indigent people have been sterilized without their knowledge throughout United States history, and it has resulted in many tragic stories.8
And just in case you still think, “But that was then! This is now! We can do it right this time!” I like your enthusiasm, Thanos, but I need you to chill. There’s no way to structure this so that it’s fair and doesn’t violate anyone’s freedoms—we all have biases. And as always, if history has taught us anything, power shifts. You might advocate for something now that later puts you at a disadvantage.
I don’t know what the answer is, but debtor’s prisons; increasing the penalties for missed child support; and the state deciding who can and can’t have children ain’t it. Let’s not repeat human history’s ever-increasing list of terrible mistakes.
While you’re at it, I’d highly recommend reading “The Boy Crisis” by Warren Farrell, Ph.D., and John Gray Ph.D. If you consider yourself a feminist, this is a must-read. Much of contemporary feminism has degraded the roles men play and have gotten away from its roots of healing and equalizing relationships between men and women. This book has great resources, discussions, and insights into the struggles boys and young men face in a world that deprives them of meaning, purpose, and fatherhood.
Additionally, this article by The Marshall Project about incarceration and child support and this story from a local NPR station in Florida about problems faced by parents stuck in an endless cycle of child support debt are eye-opening.
I’ll be paywalling some of my posts soon! I’m planning on doing a series on witch hunts throughout history and as portrayed in art. Subscribe now for updates!
And get 20% off through this link.
This statistic was lifted from the book “The Boy Crisis” by Warren Farrell, Ph.D., and John Gray Ph.D. Original Citation: Elaine Sorensen, Liliana Sousa, and Simone G Schaner, “Assessing Child Support Arrears in Nine Large States and The Nation.”
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Sterilization in Nazi Germany." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/sterilization-in-nazi-germany-1779677.
News, A. B. C. 2020. “China Conducting Mass Sterilization on Muslim Minorities That Could Amount to Genocide: Report.” ABC News. June 29, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/china-conducting-mass-sterilization-muslim-minorities-amount-genocide/story?id=71519132.
Leason, Jennifer. 2021. “Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Indigenous Women: Strengths to Build Upon.” Canadian Family Physician 67 (7): 525–27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8279667.
Longley, Robert. "What Is Eugenics? Definition and History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-eugenics-4776080.
Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)
Head, Tom. "Forced Sterilization in the United States." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/forced-sterilization-in-united-states-721308.
Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "The U.S. Government's Role in Sterilizing Women of Color." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/u-s-governments-role-sterilizing-women-of-color-2834600.