"Choice For Men" (C4M), also known as "male abortion"
"Choice For Men" (C4M) - overview
"Choice For Men" (C4M or "male abortion") - more details
Commentary on the C4M FAQ
The politics of "Choice For Men" in the UK
An aiming point for the future "Beyond C4M"
Reproductive trends for never-together men & women
"Scenario 1" - what should the law be in this case?
Related topic - Advances in male contraception - overview
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"Choice For Men" (C4M or "male abortion") - more details

See: Commentary on the C4M FAQ (Commentary on Frequently Asked Questions About "Choice for Men")

What is "Choice For Men"?

Choice For Men (C4M) is a proposal to change the law to allow a man to make a legally effective, binding, statement to a woman who is newly pregnant with a foetus conceived by him: "I won't support our child if it is born". What is she then to do? Her options are:

  • have an abortion, or
  • have the child, and become a deserted lone mother.

Obviously this proposal would put pressure on some pregnant women to have abortions, and would also result in more deserted lone mothers where they don't have abortions. This would be a dreadful dilemma for many pregnant women - who may not have realised just how casually the man considered the relationship to be. This proposal is a charter for men to be able to have casual sex and then walk away, abandoning the mother and child, or causing another abortion to take place. Whether people are pro-abortion or anti-abortion, no one wants to pressure pregnant women into having abortions, as this proposal would do.

The real answers are for men and women either not to have sex, or to take precautions beforehand so that pregnant women don't have to choose between an abortion and being abandoned. Both the mother and father should want all children, and there must be no way for fathers just to walk away.

How can you find out about this proposal?
Have a look at: Frequently Asked Questions about "Choice for Men" (C4M).
There is a Commentary on the C4M FAQ.

It says: "Women could also still put the child up for adoption or raise it as a single parent. Nor would it prevent women from having abortions".Is this what many people want?

C4M has themes of pressured-abortion or child-abandonment & mother-desertion. The woman would probably have this perception. When it grows up, the child may have this perception. Lobby groups, the media, and politicians will see this (if C4M ever gets their attention). This perception is so close to reality that subtle arguments won't change it. Proponents need an image consultant!

What is the full definition of C4M?

There is massive ambiguity. For example, it could mean that men should have the power & choice to do one or more of:

  1. Cause the woman to have an abortion.
  2. Have an abortion themselves.
  3. Ensure that there is no abortion.
  4. Give the child away for adoption soon after birth.
  5. Avoid any emotional consequences from having a blood-child.
  6. Avoid any financial consequences from having a blood-child.
  7. Etc.

In fact what C4M proponents appear mainly to seek is 6: "avoid any financial consequences from having a blood-child". (Some here may actually be more interested in some form of equality than avoiding financial consequences, but probably C4M would lose some supporters if, for example, it focused on banning abortion rather than avoiding financial consequences for men. It certainly wouldn't achieve the FAQ's objectives).

Proponents use a concept that sounds like something right-minded people should aspire to. C4M proponents casually use words & terms like "same powers and choices" & "equality of choice" & "justice and morality" that in different circumstances might cause us to say "yes, we want that, of course!" These can seductively blind people here to the real implications of what they are saying. Challenging those statements isn't "literalmindedness"; it shows how unrealistic they are once there is the massive asymmetry of a pregnant woman and non-pregnant man. "Same" & "equality" have no useful meaning any more, just a collection of meanings (like 1 - 6 above) to be selected from.

In the real world, it is obvious that these terms are inaccurate because they are inapplicable, and in fact are not even close to the truth. But some people here appear to use such words to hide reality. A problem is that instead of seeking objectives (such as "to be able to have consensual sex without the risk of financial consequences") people seek mechanisms (such as "powers & choices"). In an asymmetrical situation, similar objectives may be achieved, but by different mechanisms.

The scope of C4M

The question "What is the scope of C4M?" has been posed on Usenet. There was no useful response, let alone a consensus. Why?

Because a clear statement about what C4M is would damage the cause! C4M isn't a specific proposal - see Frequently Asked Questions about "Choice for Men" (C4M); it is a slogan, or rallying call. As long as it doesn't have a clear scope, lots of people can believe their objectives are catered for by C4M. But any clear statement (such as "Only apply when men are lied to about birth control", or "Only apply when boys are statutorially raped") would suddenly exclude people who thought they were being catered for by C4M. "Oh, horror - I thought it would apply if a contraceptive failed! Do you mean it doesn't?"

So why not make it cater for all these cases? First, because they can become incompatible, and second, because the wider its scope, the less likely it would be to get legislated.

There have been 4 or more rather different objectives for C4M posed on the topic over perhaps a year. They clearly overlap, some people will want more than 1 of them, and many articles are not clearly categorised. But these objectives have different consequences if the Political, Economic, Societal, and Technological environments change significantly - in some cases they become incompatible with one-another. Here is an attempt to identify what different people are trying to achieve with C4M:

  1. To enable men to avoid being tricked or trapped into parenthood.
  2. To enable men to have post-sex / post-conception options equivalent to women's options.
  3. To achieve certain changes in people's behaviour, for the benefit of society rather than necessarily for individual men & women.
  4. To enable men to have sex without risk of any of the consequences of becoming a father.

Now see how they differ from one another in the way they change as the environment changes:

Objective 1: If abortion ceased to be an option for women, this would be unchanged. C4M-proponents pursuing this objective would still want a means of avoiding parenthood. But high quality male contraceptives would enable many men to achieve this objective, and those men would perhaps stop being interested in C4M. Imagine the consequences if (say) RISUG were widely available:

Objective 2: If abortion ceased to be an option for women, this objective would largely be met without changing the options available for men. Men could say "after conception, women pay the consequences of having a child, and so will men - C4M-mission achieved". There would still be some post-birth issues to be sorted out - there should be shared-care rights for separated men.

Objective 3: Much depends here on what the specific social-engineering objectives are. For example, they may involved reduced spend on benefits/welfare, and/or better home environments to ensure a better educated & emotionally balanced next generation of children. There is little plausible evidence that C4M would achieve these particular objectives, but some people appear have the view that it would. But so would other changes (for example perhaps a combination of automatic shared-care & welfare to work and/or restrictions to divorce). This appears to need a package of changes (different in different nations), because C4M while continuing paying benefits/welfare to lone parents wouldn't achieve it - it would need changes whose limits haven't been identified.

Objective 4: This could be satisfied various ways, for example if men had sufficient control of their own fertility. Obviously it overlaps with some of the others, but there are important differences from "1". For example, there are moves in Europe to enable children to know who their bio-parents are, for emotional reasons & potentially also for health reasons. The existence of children at all, whether or not a man is financially responsible for them, may still be an issue for the man, and C4M as it stands wouldn't satisfy this. It isn't clear what change to C4M would satisfy any such conflict. Perhaps men with this specific objective would be happy if (say) RISUG were widely available.

C4M and feminism

C4M (at least in one version) is based on an assumption that what is best for a man is to have "equivalence" of women's post-conception choices. It is an example of trying to identify what men need according to some feminist / anti-feminist axis. There are no grounds for this, and it is pretty limited approach!

It is invalid to assume that what men really need is based on some equivalence of the current rights of women (in a particular country). In fact, it is even invalid to assume that what women really need is related to the current rights of women. Future needs should be re-thought for both men & women. It is time to look forward - but at least do so for men.

What men want

So start to think about what men really want. Two known wants of many men are:

  1. Control of their own fertility (the ability to separate sex from reproduction).
  2. Rights in the upbringing of their children (even after separation).

C4M plays no part in either of these. C4M is contrary to the medium & long-term interests of men who want good choices. Here is why.

What will the best choice for men be in the future? Convenient control of their own fertility - the ability to directly veto conception. As far as possible it will be outside the influence of lobby groups & future political changes & there will be little risk of new legislation taking the choice away. It will also cause as little as possible bad feeling with partners.

What is needed for the availability of this control? Businesses to believe there will be sufficient market to make it worthwhile to provide such control. Part of this market will be a substitute market - used instead of existing methods. Part will be an additional market - used whether of existing methods are being used. C4M would reduce (eliminate?) the latter, additional market. This would reduce the attractiveness to businesses of these methods and may reduce their priority. Reduced sales would reduce the rate at which they would be evolved, and might detract from special features of the additional market (for example, undetectability, or perhaps insurance packages in case they go wrong).

What is needed instead is for businesses to be confident in the size of the market, and to know that legislation (such as C4M) wouldn't undermine some of the market.

What is needed is a balance among 4 key stakeholders:

  1. Man
  2. Woman
  3. Child
  4. Taxpayer (other)

When a child is born, many people would prefer that the father & mother take responsibility for it, and neither leaves it to the other and/or the taxpayer. Taxpayers do pay something (in fact, quite a lot), but this shouldn't be significantly more in separated families than in intact families, else there are then reasons for getting separated!

The current UK child support system is an imperfect approach to trying to get the father & mother both to contribute to the upbringing of the child to the satisfaction of the taxpayer. It will improve with the reformed scheme. It still won't be satisfactory to all the stakeholders - any one of them may have resentments. The court system that sorts out access needs to be improved. The new CSA formula should have awarded the money to child - but it didn't. It should have had a better shared-care formula - but it didn't. The need is to try to get this right next time.

Politics and nature

Men blame women. Women blame men. But the root cause is the blind consequence of evolution that tries to ensure that children are born to continue the species. There is no point in saying that women don't act like adults. It is quite obvious to most people that when it comes to sex, neither do men! Otherwise why does a man, in full knowledge of the potential consequences, still have unsafe sex and then complain about the consequences afterwards?

Politics and the law are the wrong tools to fight nature. They can simply try to make it tolerable to particular groups. Then another group gains power and transfers the tolerability elsewhere. Technology (preceded by science, of course) is a much better way of fighting nature. Get the technology right, and everyone can behave like children or whatever and get away with it!

The technology is becoming available to ensure the following:

  • This is the last generation when a significant proportion of children born into (quasi-) marriages in "the Western world" have a paternity that would surprise the (quasi-) husband.
  • This is the last generation in "the Western world" when a significant proportion of children born were not wanted, or at least accepted, by both man & woman at time of sex.
Page last updated: 5 July, 2004 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003