Saturday, July 7, 2012
New York Times op-ed: Responsibility Begins at Conception, by Tax Prof Shari Motro (Richmond):
[N]ew technology invites us to change the way we think about the relationship between unmarried lovers who conceive. Both partners had a role in the conception; it’s only fair that they should both take responsibility for its economic consequences.
Former spouses are often required to pay alimony; former cohabiting partners may have to pay palimony; why not ask men who conceive with a woman to whom they are not married to pay “preglimony”? Alternatively, we might simply encourage preglimony through the tax code, by allowing pregnancy-support payments to be deductible (which is how alimony is treated). [Preglimony, 63 Stan. L. Rev. 647 (2011).]
The most frequent objection I hear to this idea is that it will give men a say over abortion. A woman’s right to choose is sometimes eclipsed by an abusive partner who pressures her into terminating or continuing a pregnancy against her will, and preglimony could exacerbate this dynamic. But the existence of bullies shouldn’t dictate the rules that govern all of society. In the name of protecting the most vulnerable, it sets the bar too low for the mainstream, casting lovers as strangers and pregnancy as only a woman’s problem.
It’s also possible that preglimony could deter a different form of abuse by making men who pressure their partners into unprotected sex, on the assumption that the woman will terminate an unwanted pregnancy, financially liable for the potential result.
At the end of the day, preglimony stands to benefit men too, especially those who want to help but are turned away. How many well-intentioned men have been dismissed with “I don’t want your money” or “You’ve done enough damage; now stay away from my daughter”? Preglimony names and in that way honors the man’s role in caring for his pregnant lover. A man and a woman who conceive are intimately connected. They are not spouses, and they may not even continue to be lovers, but they are not strangers either.
(Hat Tip: Michael Livingston.)
Update: Wall Street Journal: Shotguns Without Weddings: A New York Times Plan for Encouraging Illegitimate Births, by James Taranto