Friday, November 30, 2007

Are Fathers Necessary?

Evidently, not in the UK. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, under consideration in Parliament, will remove existing requirements that IVF clinics consider a child's need for a father, in deciding whether to permit a given client from using IVF treatments.

"Saved in Hope"

Saved in Hope is the title of Benedict's new enclyclical. I haven't read it yet. You can read it here.

Responses to Taken Into Custody

Readers of my National Catholic Register article on the book Taken Into Custody have responded on both sides of the issue. Here is a reader who thought I gave too little attention to the woman's side:
Your statement,"These women want me to throw their husbands out of the house, make him pay child support, while she keeps the kids to herself to raise without interference from him" prompted me to contact you. I have been married for 23 years to an abusive husband and tried desperately to hold my family together. As his temper temper got worse our home became characterized by a climate of fear. Despite the fact that he promised that if I dropped out of college to pay for his graduate school, he has resisted any attempt on my part to return to finish my education. At the women's shelter where I stayed there were stories that would curl your hair of cruelty and degradation. Is it any wonder that mothers would not want men like these to influence their children? My husband has two degrees and a successful business while I have been a housewife. Is it unreasonable to expect support during my transistion to working life? No fault divorce is terrible for kids who are only regarded as spoils to be evenly divided instead of vulnerable dependants who should be protected. I agree that the whole business stinks, but I don't believe you understand what some women have lived with that has driven many to flee a violent tyrant.

I understand very well what goes on. It is just that this story is not the only story out there. Most divorces are initiated by women, and most of them do not involve any form of domestic violence.

This case is not a “no-fault” case. She have a clear case of fault. No-fault rules in many states prohibit the court from taking fault into account in property settlements or custody. It would be more fair to everyone concerned if the court would consider fault. That would provide much better protection for women in situations like this one, as well as protect against abuses by the kind of women I described in my article.
I sincerely hope this woman is not still married to this man.

From the other side of the aisle, a reader sent this note to the editor at the Register:
I am a subscriber to NCR, but just read the article by Jennifer Morse (Taken Into Custody by Divorce, 25 Nov) on-line. Her article pretty much summarizes the feelings I have gathered from men who have been through the divorce process in the last 20 years. In fact I am amazed at the close parallels I experienced in my own divorce (which I did not want). My wife filed for divorce, which completely caught me by surprise. There were no warning signs that anything was wrong; I was extremely happy with my family as they also appeared to be with me, my wife included. Her RELATIVES commented on how she was always so positive about our relationship. We went to a marriage counselor who could find no problems, in spite of my wife's claims, in the marriage. I suddenly found myself accused of mental, physical and emotional abuse against both my wife and children. Whoa! Mental professional experts involved in both sides of the situation felt something was very wrong with my wife's thinking. I lost my house, my lovely children (plus inordinate child support for 3.5 years), and all our friends. She evidently did a real "number" on me with my daughters and our friends behind my back. She lost two-thirds of her income. No one won anything here, and all was lost. I felt I was on a run-away train once the money started being spent to set things in motion legally.
Jennifer wrote an insightful article that strongly shows a feminist but self-defeating side to no-fault divorce.
I would appreciate it if you would forward this on to her with my kindest regards. I have not read the book. I don't need to - I could write it. Abortion, the Pill and no-fault (unilateral) divorce are forces that have torn the fabric of our society apart irreparably. All people should perk up, read the writing on the wall, and listen to the lessons of Church teachings.

I actually hope this reader will pick up Taken Into Custody and read it. He will know he is not alone.
And by the way, one of the reasons I think this book is important enough to review: many people do not realize what they are getting themselves into when they file for divorce. Many decent and well-meaning people have an image that divorce will solve their problems and end the conflict between themselves and their spouse. In extreme cases, such as the first lady who wrote in, that may be true. But for many people, divorce doesn't end the conflict: it just transfers it to a new arena, where there are the equivalent of loaded legal weapons lying around. I want people to have a realistic assessment of the invasions of their personal privacy and autonomy that they may face once they bring the family courts into their lives.
I hope that people who are considering divorce from a low-conflict marriage will realize that it may be much more costly than they think.

Women Exploiting Men

That is all I could think of when I read this story over at Leonard Link.
A lesbian couple is suing their sperm donor for child support, for a child who is now 18 years old. As much as I believe that fathers should be involved in their children's lives, and that fathers should be held accountable to support their children, the facts of this case bother me:
Nassau County Family Court Judge Ellen R. Greenberg has ruled that a married male doctor who allegedly donated sperm more than 18 years ago to a lesbian medical resident at the hospital where he worked who wanted to have a child with her same-sex partner, who is also a doctor, may not deny paternity in a recently filed child support proceeding, even though he claims that he was assured that he would have no support obligations when he agreed to donate the sperm. P.D. v. S.K., Docket No. U-2725-07 (Nassau County, N.Y, Family Court, Nov. 16, 2007) (to be published in NY Law Journal on Nov. 29)....
The mother is identified in court papers as P.D., the alleged father as S.K., and the child, a boy now 18 years old, as K.K.

... S.K. stated that he had agreed to be a sperm donor at P.D.’s request. "He submits that while he was married at the time, he agreed, based upon numerous promises that he would have no rights or benefits in raising the child, nor any financial responsibilities," wrote Judge Greenberg. S.K. provided the sperm to P.D.’s partner, who performed the insemination. The child was born in 1989.

S.K. indicated that he allowed his name to appear as father on the birth certificate, because he "felt it was in K.K.’s best interests that he would have an identity when he grew older." S.K. acknowledged that from K.K.’s birth until 1993 he had contact with the child, but in that year the lesbian couple and child moved to Oregon, and S.K.’s contact dropped off to occasional phone calls and one meeting for a few hours three years ago. S.K. did send gifts, cards and letters to the child on special occasions, signed "Dad" or "Daddy," and also made some monetary contributions to P.D....
Judge Greenberg ... noted that "the child has never known anyone other than the respondent as his father, and that the respondent has sent him money, gifts and cards which are signed either ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy.’ Therefore, the burden shifts to the respondent (the father)..."

"Here, the respondent concedes that he has sent cards, money and gifts over the last fifteen years and that he allowed his name to be listed on the child’s birth certificate as the father because he ‘felt it was in the child’s best interests that he would have an identity.’ Further, the respondent has held himself out as the child’s father. Allowing the respondent to deny paternity after eighteen years where the child has believed the respondent to be his father would have a traumatic effect upon the child and would be contrary to his best interests."...
The court sent the case back to the Support Magistrate for fact finding on child support "based on the mother’s earning capacity, the reported income of her live-in partner as appropriate, and the current income of the respondent." Since the "child" is already 18, one speculates that perhaps the reason the support order was filed now was in order to enlist the father’s financial contribution to his college education. (Addendum: This speculation was confirmed in the NY Law Journal's November 29 article about the case.)

The problem with this case is the on-again, off-again nature of the mother's inclusion of the father in the child's life. The initial claim was that the mother would never ask for child support. The mother moved away, making a relationship with the father nearly impossible for the child. The mother is asking for the father's financial involvement because she needs it for the child's college tuition.
This seems to me to be the woman exploiting the man. She got what she wanted: the opportunity to raise a child with little interference from the child's father. She used him as a sperm bank. Now she is trying to use him as a wallet.
Let me be clear: the problem with this case is NOT the fact that the mother has a lesbian partner. I would dislike this behavior just as much, if the mother were a single mother without a partner of either sex. Come to think of it, it might even be worse if she had acquired an opposite sex partner, and had come back after all these years to ask for child support....

How Many Women who have abortions have had Previous Abortions?

According to the CDC, about 46% of women who had abortions in 2004, had had at least one prior abortion. Find it in the CDC's MMWR report for November 23, 2007, Table 13. Look at the bottom of the first column, where is shows that 53.7% of all American women who had abortions in 2004, had zero previous abortions. Subtract that from 100% and get approximately 46% of women who have had at least one prior abortion.
Hat Tip: Chris Gacek, of the Family REsearch Council.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taken Into Custody

I reviewed Taken Into Custody for my column in the National Catholic Register. I have already been getting responses from the on-line version of the column. Here is my brief summary of the book's argument:
no-fault divorce frequently means unilateral divorce: One party wants a divorce against the wishes of the other, who wants to stay married. This fact means that the divorce has to be enforced. The coercive machinery of the state is wheeled into action to separate the reluctantly divorced party from the joint assets of the marriage, typically the home and the children. Involving the family court in the minutiae of family life amounts to an unprecedented blurring of the boundaries between public and private life.

People under the jurisdiction of the family courts can have virtually all of their private lives subject to its scrutiny. If the courts are influenced by feminist ideology, that ideology can extend its reach into every bedroom and kitchen in America.

Thus, the social experiment of no-fault divorce, which was supposed to increase personal liberty has had the unintended consequence of empowering the state.

Taken Into Custodyis well worth reading, for anyone who wants to understand just how much the government has done to undermine marriage.

I have already begun getting responses from readers about my article. I'll be posting them, once I have their permission.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Family Friendly Cities

Joel Kotkin explains that the fastest growing cities are not the ones that cater to singles, but those that cater to families. Read it all here.
cross-posted at the Acton blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More on Malachi: A Child Advocate Attorney Speaks

From an attorney who has represented both children and parents in the Child Protective System. He was initially not too happy with me for blaming the attorneys and social workers and the whole "due process" process.
I represented one father about 6 years ago, who was on his way to prison, and whose nine children (yes, nine) were in the child-protective system as a result. He was very bitter and wanted to fight the system. I met with him the night before the court hearing, and I asked him to consider whether fighting for his kids was in the best interest of his children, or whether he just wanted to fight for fighting’s sake. When he paused, I told him that I would meet with him the next morning before court, and if he could look me in the eye and give me one reason why fighting was in the best interest of his children, then I would fight all the way. But if he couldn’t, then I asked him to consider voluntarily relinquishing his parental rights. The next day, he did so.

I believe that attorneys should discuss relinquishing rights with their clients, and should not always assume that fighting is the correct approach. Perhaps that is one small area where the system could improve, through training for those involved. Many of the attorneys in the system are inexperienced or barely competent attorneys who either don’t understand the system, or don’t care about the cases very much. And there is a cultural problem among attorneys, where most assume that you must accept your client’s goals without question in order to fulfill your duty of representation. Law schools and bar associations should encourage attorneys to “counsel” with their clients to help them choose the most appropriate goal, rather than simply accept the client’s goal unhesitatingly.

But aside from better training for the participants in the system (including much needed training for social workers regarding the constitution and the integrity of the family unit), I’m not sure what the solution is on a system-wide level. In Michigan, under reform legislation in the 1990s (that I believe many states adopted), the parent has one year from the date a child was removed to get their act together, before the state will file a petition to terminate parental rights. And where there are serious allegations of abuse, the state may petition to terminate parental rights at the first dispositional hearing (after the court takes jurisdiction). Perhaps in the case you wrote about, given the history of that mother, the state should have sought termination sooner. But the laws already allow for that option in some circumstances. Is there some reform to the system or the legal framework that you are advocating? I am interested in considering any possible solutions (or improvements). I sometimes find these court hearings so depressing that I skip the rest of the day and go home to enjoy my wonderfully intact family and young kids!

I think I agree with you more than I first thought. Your article was strongly worded, and I still think blaming the attorney for the mother (and others) for the murder perpetrated by the foster family is incorrect. Balancing the needs for permanency and protection of children with preserving the integrity of parent-child relationships is very difficult. I’m not ready to say that we should abandon the procedural requirements before terminating parental rights. But I think that your comments about the broader cultural issues (i.e., on adoption) are dead on.

More on Malachi

Here is another comment, similar to the one above:
Over the years many young women have crossed my path who have had children out of wedlock. More often than not, these young women would have their own parents care for the child so that the young woman could go out and party, do the hook-up scene, and "still have a life." Only one actually gave her daughter up for adoption, and I commended her for it. As for the others, whenever I would ask these young women why they did not choose adoption for their children, they'd say, "Because I don't want my baby having another mother." If the women were actually taking responsibility for their children instead of going out every night, I would understand. But this kind of selfishness is a sad commentary on our times.

Who Killed Malachi?

Way back when.... I wrote about the sad case of a child killed in foster care, by his foster mother. His birth mother was 15 when he was born, and had been and still was, in foster care herself. My question was: why was that little boy not placed for adoption right away, so he could have had a chance for a normal life?
I got a lot of mail in my in-box, rather than through this blog. So I am just now getting around to posting it all here.
I must say, I feel somewhat uncomfortable with your comments in "Who Killed Malachi". As a crisis pregnancy counselor, I have to tell you how extremely difficult it is to get our clients to be open to the thought of adoption. Just today I tried and tried to get the point of how adoption would benefit their child to a couple that will most certainly lose their child to CYS and the foster care system once the baby is born. Adoption is not something they will even try to consider. Generally, these are lowly educated people who are not responsible and take no accountability for their actions,- all reasons that helped lead them to the crisis they are facing. They generally rebel against authority and truly believe that their children are better off with them. Your article made it sound like if only someone had encouraged adoption, the mother would have suddenly taken responsbility and accountability as a parent. While I am not at all familiar with this case, I can tell you that biological parents will rarely admit their children are better off elsewhere, much less be responsible enough to actually go through with placing their child for adoption. I went through a lengthy training from the National Adoption Council, yet in my 4 years at a crisis pregnancy center, I have yet to see a client 'do the right thing' by placing her child for adoption.

Thanks to everyone who wrote about this. Sorry it took so long to get this posted. The original article is here.

Fighting AIDS with African Common Sense

That's the title the Acton Institute gave to my review of Helen Epstein's fine new book: The Invisible Cure: Africa, The West and the Fight Against AIDS
This book is good and interesting on multiple levels. The most striking thing about the book is that it makes it clear that the international aid organizations charged with fighting AIDS had their own agendas, particularly a view of human sexuality. I hope to write another review, highlighting that aspect of the book. The review over at the Acton site focuses on the good sense of the local people in comparison with the distant and out of touch approach of the international agencies. This is a fine example of the Catholic Social Teaching principle of Subsidiarity. Although Epstein is probably not aware of it and never mentions it, I think she would agree that social functions need to be performed by the lowest level of society that is capable of doing the job. The lower levels of organization have knowledge and information that are not avaialable to the higher levels. And the lower levels can interatct with individuals in a more humane way. This book is worth reading in any case.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Boyfriend Problem

Even the mainstream media is starting to connect the dots between cohabiting boyfriends and child abuse. This AP story reported on includes horrific incidents, as well as interviews with experts like my friend Prof. Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia sociology department.
The bottom line: the most dangerous person in a child's life, the person most likely to abuse a child, is his mother's cohabiting boyfriend. Not the biological father. The feminists and their political allies have driven biological married fathers out of the home. Feminists have convinced women that marriage is dangerous to them. The opponents of marriage never seem to take responsibility for the fact that the main alternative to marriage, cohabitation, is much more dangerous to women and their children.
Notice this paragraph from the very bottom of the AP story:
Oscar Jimenez Jr., the San Jose, Calif., boy found buried under cement and fertilizer, did have a biological father who was devoted to him. But the father, Oscar Sr., separated from Oscar Jr.'s mother in 2002 and was prevented from seeing his son in the weeks before the boy's death in February, allegedly from a beating by live-in boyfriend and ex-convict Samuel Corona.

I'd be interested to know who prevented the father from seeing his child, and how they prevented him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Corrections to Gender Jumble

Two different attorneys wrote to me to point out an error in my NRO article, Gender Jumble. They both called attention to the fact that I had quoted the language from an early version of the bill. The difference is between "reflects adversely" upon anyone based on sexual orientation and "promotes a discriminatory bias."
My first message was from Matt McReynolds, Associate Counsel for the Pacific Justice Institute:
As a matter of accuracy, please note that the original versions of SB 777 and its predecessors containing the "reflects adversely" language were amended before it was adopted. In place of "reflects adversely," which caught a lot of flak last year when it was proposed as SB 1437, the statute as enacted now prohibits instruction or activity that "promotes a discriminatory bias." The substantive effect will likely be the same, but I thought I should alert you to the distinction before someone from the left tries to use that point to discredit your piece.

As I understand it, Pacific Justice Institute was involved in tracking SB777 and commenting on its potentially disastrous consequences.
My second missive came from another attorney:
Dear Jennifer: I enjoyed your article about SB 777. However, you quoted the OLD statute rather than the NEW one. The old law was bad enough, but the new version is much worse. Whereas the old language barred any instruction that "reflected adversely on any person" in the protected groups, the new language leaves out "any person" and bars any statement that "promotes a discriminatory bias." This phrase is nowhere defined in California law. It does not require a showing that any specific person has been adversely affected. It simply focuses on the potential that a sentence uttered by a teacher, or by a student at a school activity, might make it more likely that any person in their audience subjectively might become more rather than less biased toward a member of the protected groups. It is clear from statements by the author of the legislation that ANYTHING that criticizes the LGBT agenda, such as opposition to gay marriage, or even quoting a news story in which such opposition is voiced, would be punished as a violation of the new law. In other words, gay rights groups now have the power under California law to completely censor any statement that disagrees with their political views. Indeed, any statement critical of SB 777 itself is now a violation of law and can result in punishment of teachers and students and lawsuits by LGBT groups against the schools. Schools must take the political position of the LGBT groups or be punished. It is a violation of the First Amendment, both in its free speech and freedom of religion clauses. Indeed, it amounts to an "establishment" of a religious philosophy that sees all kinds of sex outside of marriage as moral.

He offers a more complete analysis of his argument here. I am not qualified to evaluate his claims, as I am not an attorney. Does anyone else have any analysis of this issue? As I said in my original article, any bill that can not be easily interpretted is worth defeating on that grounds alone. But this bill not only passed through the legislature, but it was signed by the Governator.
Readers might be interested to know that the Capitol Resource Institute is sponsoring a petition drive to overturn the law.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gender Jumble on National Review

The powerful California gay rights lobby has passed a bill regulating the content of public school curriculum, requiring that it not "reflect adversely" on persons based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. I illustrate how this will amount to a huge power grab by the state in my latest article.