Stolen Paternity

by Jason Stotts

This is one of those stories that makes you feel like you’re reading fiction: not just any fiction, but fiction by an author who is very clever and original.  At least, I wish it were fiction.  For the most part it’s a rather common story: boy meets girl, boy and girl have sex, girl gets knocked up, boy and girl break up, boy pays child support.  The twist?  The man, in this case Joe Pressil from Texas, did not impregnate the girl, Anetria Pressil.  He didn’t originally think he did either and so made Anetria do a paternity test on the twins that were born.  The test confirms that the twins are his.  The twins are, in fact, his.  The twist?  Joe did not, in fact, impregnate Anetria.  Confused?  Apparently, Anetria saved the used condoms from when they were together and convinced an infertility clinic to impregnate her with the sperm.  This was successful and she gave birth to twins, all without the knowledge or consent of Joe.  She then convinced him they were his kids (and again they are, in fact, his kids) and when he wouldn’t take her back, got the court to force him to pay child support. (Houston Press)

It’s so crazy it has to be true.

This raises a lot of questions for me, like: should men always be legally obligated to pay for their genetic offspring? Should there be times when men are released from paternal responsibility?

I think that it depends on the context.  There are at least three cases heres: 1. the case of the man who consented to sex and took no precaution against pregnancy, 2. the case of the man who consented to sex, but who took precaution against pregnancy, and 3. the man who did not consent to sex or to pregnancy.  In the first case, I think that a man actively consents to having children with a woman if he has sex with her and does not use any form of birth control.  This man should be obligated to be responsible for any offspring from that liaison, since he worked to actively impregnate the woman, even if impregnation was not his explicit end.  In the second case, I think the situation is more variable.  The man actively took precautions against pregnancy and, yet, pregnancy still occurred.  Thus, the man cannot be held wholly responsible, since he took positive action to prevent the end that arose.  Nevertheless, he did engage in actions that cause pregnancy and he knew the risks of so doing.  I think this man should usually be held responsible for his offspring.  However, I think that there should be a way for this man to opt out of this.  I think that in order for the man to be properly held responsible, he must be informed of the pregnancy and be given the choice to help support the child or not.  His choice must be binding and must occur at a point at which abortion is still a viable option.  If so, then the woman then has a chance to keep the baby or abort it as she choices and she will know in advance whether she can rely on the man for support.  In cases where the man is not informed until too late due only to ignorance on the part of the woman or the man being unavailable to give consent, then the man should be held responsible.  In the third and last case, I think it is obvious that the man should not be held responsible.

The principle here is that in cases where the man did not actively consent to pregnancy (used protection or did not consent at all), he should be given a choice of whether he wants to support the child.  In cases where he did consent to the child, then he is responsible for it until it is an adult.

A separate question is what we do in a case like this, where a woman is so corrupt that she would connive to impregnate herself with a man’s child just to tie herself to him, even if only financially.  I think that this person should be tried for fraud and theft.  Further, I think the man should have the option of raising the children and if he does not wish to do so, then they should be taken custody of by the state.  Either way, this woman is a criminal and unfit to be a parent.

7 Responses to “Stolen Paternity”


  1. SteveD

    What about subcase 1a–man does not use birth control because he has been assured by her that she is doing so… and it turns out she is lying or even just forgot?

    I personally do not think a man should be obligated to support a child any more than a woman is. As things sit right now she has all the power She can unilaterally make a decision _after_ (not just before) the fact to keep the child, and that decision that obligates him. That would still be true under your suggestion.

    Imagine the outcry if someone decided that only the _man_ should be able to decide whether to abort the baby or not, and that the woman should just suck it up (case 2) because failure of contraception was a risk she’d have to accept, and she should be held responsible for it?

    Why is our system set up that ONLY the man has no recourse after any conception, but a woman can make any decision? Somehow the man is a pig for not wanting to raise an unintended child, but the woman is not? This attitude not only exists in current law, but many otherwise rational people seem to hold that that is what the law SHOULD be, and while your suggestions are better than the status quo, I still see entirely too much of it here.

  2. SteveD

    My proofreader was only pretending to do his job, and I have no one to blame but myself:

    Second paragraph, “and that decision that obligates him” should be “and that decision then obligates HIM”.

  3. JasonStotts

    Steve,

    I think my position is very reasonable. One should not treat sex and procreation so lightly that one is having multiple abortions simply as a form of birth control. I agree with you that our culture is quick to shackle the man to his progeny, but I think it is obvious that he is partly responsible and in some cases should be held accountable.

    ~Jason

  4. SteveD

    Would you be willing to enforce, by law, that bit about multiple abortions? If not, then it’s not parallel to enforcing, by law, the man’s paternity.

    A woman who gets pregnant, not intending to have that happen, can opt for an abortion. Sure, such is going to cost money and inconvenience but it pales next to having to bring the pregnancy to term and raise the child, and _having_ the alternative is a good thing. A man who gets a woman pregnant, not intending to have it happen, has no recourse whatsoever. If she decides that she wants the baby, HE is now obligated. This is neither just nor fair. (I suppose to make it “fair” one could opt to ban abortions for birth control, but I’d rather make it just and allow the man to give up parental rights (visitation, etc.) _before_ the birth–that parallels abortion, which by definition must happen before birth–and not be obligated to pay support.)

  5. Kyle Haight

    There is a biological asymmetry here. The choice to abort lies with the woman because the woman’s body is the one that carries the child to term. “My body, my choice.” The question is how much responsibility the woman’s choice not to abort can place on the man, and the answer to that should vary based on how much responsibility the man had for getting the woman pregnant. Did the man not use birth control? Did he try to use birth control and have it fail? Was he deceived into not using birth control? Was there theft of his sperm? Etc.

    Under current law the man always assumes full responsibility for his genetic offspring regardless of his actions. If we were to push the pendulum to the other side we’d wind up with a rule that the man is never legally responsible for anything more than the cost of an abortion — if the woman chooses to carry the pregnancy to term that’s her choice and her responsibility, right? If we don’t think that’s fair (and I don’t think it is), why is current law any better?

  6. Grant

    Short of raping a woman or some explicit contract, no man should ever be held legally responsible – to any degree – for any children his sperm creates. Period. If you support a woman’s right to abortion, you must necessarily support the normative legal principle that no man should ever be forced to pay child support.

    Seemingly, the only way out of that contradiction would be to advocate that the man has a legal right to prevent the woman from having an abortion should he choose, but that is circular and not really an escape from it. Since a woman cannot become pregnant without the consent of some particular man to impregnate her, if that fact alone entitles him to control over the pregnancy, then “a woman’s right to choose” becomes a meaningless phrase, the whole situation devolves into a battle of wills (and lawyers), and any decision the government reaches is necessarily non-objective and arbitrary.

    The proper, objective legal principle should be this: both men and women are free to impregnate/be imprenated (or even just risk it), but should it occur only women are free to decide what to do with that pregnancy.

  7. c andrew

    The feminist motto of “My body, my choice” is correct but incomplete. My body, my choice, my responsibility.

    It is no more just to force a man to carry financial responsibility for 18 years than it is just to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term.

    Participating in the act of sex is not a declaration of responsibility for any possible outcome; only that outcome to which one has consented.

    I find it ironic that some feminists insist that engaging in sex obligates the man to financial bondage at the discretion of the woman, but that those same feminists vehemently reject the Social Conservative position that engaging in sex obligates the woman to carry her pregnancy to term at the discretion of the father or society or the State.

    Here are two equivalently unjust statements.

    We had sex, I’m pregnant, now you must pay child support for the duration of the child’s minority.

    We had sex, you’re pregnant, now you must marry me for the duration of the child’s minority.

    Of the two, which one represents the present legal doctrine in the United States?

    Legal authority must be balanced with legal responsibility or else there is injustice. In the two statement scenarios above, the speaker exerts all the legal authority and imposes the legal responsibility on the other without consent. How is this just?

    The idea that a woman, by controlling her own body, can obligate another individual to the support of the functions of that body by deception or without prior consent or contract is manifestly unjust.

    In principle, it is the same mentality that breeds this kind of behavior.

    And I quote:

    “Somebody needs to pay for alllllllllllll my children! And my and Gary, and all our suffering and our pain! Somebody needs to be held accountable! Somebody needs to pay!”

    Now if her fiancee was unjustly incarcerated – that is he has been imprisoned because of some victim-less crime rather than violating someone’s rights – and they had been making it without assistance prior that event, then she has a point And those in the government responsible should be held accountable. But the overall tenor of her plaint does not reflect that. She very clearly says that someone else needs to carry the burden of her decisions. And her history to date does not support such a charitable reading of the origin of her problems.

    Angel Adams wants to obligate the taxpayers to fund the outcome of behaviors under her sole legal control. A woman who wants a man to fund the outcome of behaviors under her sole legal control without informed prior consent or contract is of the same moral status as Angel Adams.