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Fatherhood and Child Support: Do Men Have a Right to Choose?

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My primary aim is to call into question an influential notion of paternal responsibility, namely, that fathers owe support to their children due to their causal responsibility for their existence. I argue that men who impregnate women unintentionally, and despite having taken preventative measures, do not owe child support to their children as a matter of justice; their children have no right against them for support. I argue for this on the basis of plausible principles of responsibility which have been used to defend abortion rights. I then consider the morally relevant differences between men and women, arguing that while in some cases these differences may justify differential treatment, their import should not be overstated — in many cases, the burden of child support will be too great to impose justly on fathers. This conclusion is not as undesirable as it may seem: I suggest feminist considerations in favour of revising the notion of paternal responsibility and consider alternative arrangements of child support.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1The University of Calgary

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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