Sherry F. Colb has a great break-down of the sperm theft trial I mentioned earlier in which Sharon Irons received sperm from Richard O. Phillips via oral sex which she then used to inseminate herself and conceive a child. Phillips sued for emotional distress and to be free of paternity obligations, but he was nonetheless ordered to pay $800 a month in child support. Ms. Colb writes that there must be some point at which "a man's lack of actual responsibility for the creation of a child must absolve him of financial responsibility as well."

Men, in other words, can seemingly be conscripted into fatherhood against their will and then forced to take care of the child whom they never agreed to have.

Some say, in response, that the man, in effect, agreed to have the child when he had sex with a woman and thus risked such an outcome. On this view, a man who engages in sexual intercourse assumes the risk of becoming a father. If he wants to avoid paternity, he must abstain from sex or undergo sterilization. Because pregnancy as well as its termination have such physically intimate consequences for a woman, the man -- physically separate from these experiences -- loses control over paternity once he consents to having intercourse.

This argument, of course, is in some tension with the notion that a woman does not consent to maternity when she engages in intercourse. Such tension is surely not lost on disgruntled fathers.

But even if one accepts that intercourse equals consent to paternity, what happens when a man does not consent to intercourse? Does he still bear the risk of becoming a father? The case of Phillips and Irons - as described in Phillips's complaint - tests our intuitions about that very question.

The bolding is mine; if society acknowledged that a woman does consent to maternity when she has sex (as I believe to be the case) then the issue of abortion would necessarily be considered in a different light.



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