Feature: Civil Rights for All

I'm proud to announce the second feature article posted to The Men's Activism News Network (really the first since my major public announcement). Ronald Burke has written an excellent essay on the topic of male reproductive rights, focusing on the Constitutional issue of equal protection. Click "Read More..." below to read the entire essay. And feel free to send me any essays you've written for future features!

Civil Rights for All: Choice for Men

By: Ronald D. Burke


I am not, to the best of my knowledge, on any list of deadbeat Dads,
nor am I in any immediate danger of becoming an unwilling Parent. My
interest in this subject is from the perspective of an American
citizen who is actively concerned with the issue of civil rights. It
is my most sincere desire to live in an America that has rights for
people, all people, instead of just certain classes of people.

Problem: Choice for Men

When the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women have a fundamental
right to control their reproduction, men became a separate and
inferior class-A class denied the right to choose. In 1992, the
Supreme Court reaffirmed the Roe v Wade decision. The opinion of the
court was "The ability of women to participate equally in the
economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their
ability to control their reproductive lives"(ACLU). The problem
is that the ability of men to participate equally in the economic and
social life of the nation has been hindered by their inability to
control their reproductive lives. Currently, the law dictates that a
woman is free to choose an abortion, and the father has no right to
intervene. If, on the other hand, the woman chooses not to have an
abortion, then the father is obligated to eighteen to twenty one
years of child support with no choice in the matter.

In 1963, President Kennedy presented a stirring public speech on the
state of civil rights in Alabama. In that speech he said, "It
ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the
privileges of being American without regard to his race or his
color"(Kennedy). The same American privilege ought to exist
without regard to sex. Equality, by definition, can never be
achieved unless it is for everybody. Choice for Men is about giving
all men and women the same rights and responsibilities.


The thirteenth amendment to the Constitution provides that
involuntary servitude shall not exist within the United States
(United States, "Constitution"). In 1909, the NAACP was
founded to achieve equal rights for all Americans. In June 1963,
President Kennedy committed the presidency to the cause of equal
rights, and he referred to racial discrimination as a "moral
crisis" (Rubin). In a public speech regarding the subject,
President Kennedy said, "This nation was founded by men of many
nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all
men are created equal and the rights of every man are diminished when
the rights of one man are threatened" (Kennedy). The 1973 Roe v
Wade decision gave women the rights to control their parental
responsibilities, but men have been excluded from this right.
Throughout our history, equality has been evasive, often due to poor
word choice. How much better would it have been if President Kennedy
had said "people" instead of "men," or if the
supreme court had said "people" instead of "women"?
It is well worth noting the wisdom and foresight the founders of the
NAACP had when they sought equality for all Americans.


In 1991, a Kansas State Court ruled that a seventeen-year-old
babysitter was guilty of statutory rape when she had sex with the
thirteen-year-old boy she was caring for. The absurd thing is that
the Kansas Courts also ruled that the thirteen-year-old rape victim
was required to pay child support for the baby that resulted from his
rape. The appeals court affirmed the decision of the lower court and
ordered the young boy to pay the portion of the child support that
the lower court had forgiven (State of Kansas). The baby sitter
could have chosen an abortion, but the victim of rape has no choice
if he is a male. This is not an isolated case; in fact, this ruling
has become a precedent for many similar cases.

In Indiana, a man agreed to help a female coworker have a baby.
They had a written agreement that he would not be liable for any
support, but the courts ruled that fathers must support any child
that a mother chooses to give birth to-fathers have no choice
(Lambert). According to the Friends of Choice for Men, government
figures indicate that each year 500,000 unwed fathers are ordered to
pay child support. It is mind boggling to realize that at the
equivalent rate of nearly one per minute, men are forced-without
choice-into two decades of financial responsibility because of a
woman's constitutional right to choose ("Keep Your Pants On").

Causes: Class Structure

America has had a long history of talking about equal rights,
unfortunately equal rights have usually been for a particular group
instead of being for all people. When the Supreme Court handed down
the Roe v Wade decision, they created a separate right for a separate
class-women. With knowledge of the entire world history of class
struggle, America's highest court still creates classes of people
with separate rights.

Separate Rights

The current U.S. abortion laws represent a despicable example of
separate and unequal rights. In a futile plea for justice in a North
Carolina Court, an attorney points out that women have the right to
choose either to be or not to be a parent. Men have the right to be
a parent (State of North Carolina).


In the years following the civil war, southern states enacted a
series of laws and regulations to perpetuate the superiority of
whites over blacks. These draconian, separate but equal, laws were
vigilantly enforced and were quite harsh, overwhelming, and
unconstitutional. The current legal structure of paternal
responsibilities is being built up in much the same manner; laws are
being passed for the sole purpose of perpetuating a system that flies
in the face of constitutional liberty.

According to current law, when a mother says that a man is the father
of her child, the man is guilty as charged until he is proven
innocent. If the man chooses to go to court, the case is declared a
civil matter, denying the man the right to counsel if he can not
afford it, even though the woman is given free representation by the
state attorneys. After the court rules on paternal responsibility,
the case becomes a criminal action and the man is subject to criminal
prosecution for non-payment (State of North Carolina).

Paternity laws are enforced by their own police forces with special
police powers similar to those of the IRS. The special police force,
Child Support Enforcement Offices, is present in every state of the
nation and is staffed with tax-supported attorneys and enforcement
officers. These special officers are empowered to demand all
personal and financial records from the defendant and any member of
the defendant's household. In addition, these special officers can
require a defendant to make periodic personal appearances before the
court, and require the payment of a cash deposit or performance bond.
Noncompliance can result in imprisonment for contempt (State of
North Carolina).

Effects: Unequal Rights

In much the same way as minority groups have been treated through
much of our less than ideal history, men have become victims of
inequality. Historically, unequal rights have allowed one segment of
the population an unjust domination over another segment. Unequal
rights often result in un-American systems such as slavery, no voting
rights for women, and no choice for men.


The thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution is the
antislavery amendment. It reads, "neither slavery nor
involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United
States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction" (United
States, "Constitution"). The pro-choice people hold that
sex is not a crime, and that it would be involuntary servitude to
force a woman to have an unwanted child. However, in today's-no
Choice for Men-world, men are held in involuntary servitude to the
product of a woman's free choice.


As many as one half million men per year are being subjected to the
Child Support Enforcement Offices. Since they are facing seizure of
assets, garnishment of wages, loss of professional and driving
licenses, unemployment, extradition, and imprisonment, it would be an
understatement to say that national productivity is being diminished.

Solution: Restoration of Equal Rights

According to Lawrence Ehlenberger, a psychiatrist and men's rights
activist, Choice for Men would involve the man being served with
papers when the woman learned she was pregnant. He could relinquish
parenthood, losing all rights to visit the child as well as
obligations to pay child support, or he could accept paternity, and
have all rights and obligations of fatherhood. Either way the
decision would be irrevocable and give men the same freedom of choice
that women enjoy (Sine).

Materials: People

The success of the Civil Rights Movement was due, in no small part,
to the efforts of a few good people. A few good people the caliber
of Rosa Parks, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King,
Jr., could form the vital leadership of Choice for Men. The only
other necessary material is more people. The people in the street,
the outraged indignant protesters, the freedom fighters, the letter
writers, and the people who talk to people are essential ingredients
for success. If not for the efforts of concerned people, America
would be a British colony, slavery would still be legal, and women
would not be allowed to vote or own property.

Procedure: Activism

When it comes to initiating societal changes, the tireless efforts of
activists like Patricia Ireland, the president of NOW, provide an
example of excellence. In a high school textbook Ms. Ireland writes:

Without a constitutional guarantee of women's equality, even
favorable rulings and good laws on women's rights can be ignored,
revoked or overruled. Feminist activists have not given up on
women's equality amendment. We know that to get women into the
Constitution we will have to elect a lot more people who support that
idea. We look to the young women and men who are addressing issues
of equality and Justice in high schools across the country. We are
confident that this "third wave" will soon be ready to
except the baton. (Ireland)

I must admit that I have a high degree of respect and admiration for
Ms. Patricia Ireland. Her dedication to the cause of equal rights
for women is exemplary. Although I cannot say that I always agree
with her, I will always appreciate her dedication. I hope that we
can be on the same side, working towards equal rights for all
people-women and men alike. Choice for Men will need a good activist
like Ms. Ireland.


No sweeping change in public policy can occur without public
awareness. Choice for Men needs the involvement of every concerned
citizen. We need people in every city and town to write letters in
the newspapers, call in to radio talk shows, and discuss the issues
with everyone who will listen. In order for a change to occur, the
general population needs to be made aware of the desperate nature of
the problem.


Enlisting the aid and support of media outlets and political
organizations is another function that virtually every concerned
person can help with. If enough people were to contact the ACLU
regarding their position on the subject of Choice for Men, the ACLU
might consider Choice for Men and equal rights for all people to be a
subject worthy of their attention.

Time Frame

I wish that I could say that this will be an easy fight, but it will
not be. It is a lengthy and time-consuming process to defeat
government bureaucracies and negative public images. It took ninety
years to abolish slavery and one hundred years after that to achieve
Civil Rights for Black Americans. I hope that our fight is not as
lengthy, but it could be.


There is a false public perception that Choice for Men is just a
bunch of Deadbeat Dads who are trying to get out of their child
support obligations. This kind of public image could be difficult to
overcome; we must always point out that the real issue is equality
for all people-women and men alike.

Both the ACLU and the Planned Parenthood Federation are dedicated to
preserving and enhancing women's rights including their right to
choose parenthood. Much to their shame, these organizations have not
supported the same rights for men. These two organizations have
tremendous influence in American politics, and could present a
formidable opposition, but it may be possible to shame them into
supporting equal rights for all people instead of just certain


We should all be diligent in watching the positions and actions of
our lawmakers. Anytime there is a piece of equality legislation in
the works it would be in the best interest of everyone to insure that
it is equality for all people. Any legislation that encourages
equality for one group will actually encourage inequality. I believe
that our great nation would be far better off today if it had been
founded on the principle-All People are Created Equal.

Conclusion: Freedom

According to Planned Parenthood,

The abortion issue is not really about abortion. It is about the
value of women in society. Should women make their own decisions
about family, career, and how to live their lives? Or should
government do that for them? Do women have the option of deciding
when and whether to have children? Or is that a government decision?
("9 Reasons")

The people of Planned Parenthood make it sound as though freedom
only exists if women can choose whether to have children. It is my
belief that Planned Parenthood is half-right. Freedom only exists if
both women and men can choose whether to have children.


Over one hundred and fifty years ago, the first Women's Rights
Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. At that convention
the idea that "All men and women are created equal, and are
endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights?" was
adopted (Rynder). This ideal, although considered radical at the
time, was reasonable then and now. If men and women were equal under
the law, Choice for Men would be unnecessary.


According to Richard Sine, "It is hoped that men's choice would
force men and women to give serious and mutual consideration as to
whether they can make a long-term commitment to a child before they
attempt to raise it." It seems obvious to me that having both
parents willingly committed to their child would be the most
practical way to assure the support of children.


Equality is at the very core of the democratic system of government,
the most effective system of government ever devised. Equal rights,
equal choices, and equal pay, equal responsibility, equal whatever,
presents a far more effective system of government than inequality
ever could.

Works Cited

ACLU. Briefing Paper, Number 15. The Right
to Choose: A Fundamental Liberty
. Winter 1999. 10 June 2000
< e.pdf>.

Ireland, Patricia. "Women's less than
full equality Under the U.S. Constitution." Online Posting.
National Organization for Women. 11 June 2000
< /ireland.html>.

"Keep Your Pants On! (On All Day, On All
Night)." 1994-1995. Online Posting. Friends of Choice for
Men. 10 June 2000 <>.

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. "Radio and
Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights." 11
June 1963. Online Posting. John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library. 11
June 2000 <>.

Lambert, Wade. "Child Support:."
Wall Street Journal 5 January 1994:B8.

"9 Reasons Why Abortions are Legal."
March 1989. Online Posting. Planned Parenthood Federation of
America, Inc. 10 June 2000
< ortion/9reasons.htm>.

Rubin, Sam. "Civil Rights Leaders and the
President." Online Posting. John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library.
11 June 2000
< _documents_index.html>.

Rynder, Constance. "All Men & Women
are created Equal." American History April 1999. 11
June 2000

Sine, Richard. "Revenge of the Deadbeat
Dads." Metro 14-20 November 1996. 5 June 2000

State of Kansas. Supreme Court of Kansas.
Colleen Hermesmann, appellee, Vs. Shane Seyer, a minor, and Dan
and Mary Seyer, his parents, Appellants No. 67,978
. 5 March
1993. The National Center for Men. 10 June 2000
< >.

State of North Carolina. County of Sampson.
Zella C. Shumaker vs. James G. Hamilton, M. D. File Number:
. 9 January 1998. 10 June 2000

United States. "Constitution for the
United States of America." Online Posting.
10 June 2000 <>.

Copyright © 2000 Ronald Duane Burke

Ronald Burke is a 48 year old hippy, farmhand, bus driver, business owner, entrepreneur, and student. After a disabling injury in 1997, he returned to school through the state vocational rehabilitation program. His goals are to sharpen his writing skills and fine tune his business knowledge.

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