"Choice For Men" (C4M), also known as "male abortion"
"Choice For Men" (C4M) - overview
"Choice For Men" (C4M or "male abortion") - more details
Commentary on the C4M FAQ
The politics of "Choice For Men" in the UK
An aiming point for the future "Beyond C4M"
Reproductive trends for never-together men & women
"Scenario 1" - what should the law be in this case?
Related topic - Advances in male contraception - overview
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The politics of "Choice For Men" in the UK

The prospects for C4M in the UK

"Choice For Men" doesn't have significant advocacy in the UK. Perhaps that is because it is accepted that it will never become law in its standard form, but it is also because C4M is seen by some to be a reaction to "abortion on demand" in the USA. There is no such thing in the UK.

There is no significant lobby for it, there is certainly strong opposition to its key themes, and long before these factors could change C4M will be made obsolete by high quality male contraceptives. It will never become law in the UK.

At most there will only ever be minor components of the "she stole my sperm" and other forms of "paternity against a man's will" variety, and even those don't appear to have a useful lobby for them. They are interesting theoretical possibilities without a large body of evidence that they are a significant problem. ("Statutory rape" of under-aged boys is a good case to be considered as an exception to normal child support law).

C4M and the UK's political process

Legislation has a process. It is a convenient myth, for a person who wants to avoid considering alternatives, that a law supporting his/her case could be implemented quickly. But how? Here is an incredibly short summary of the UK's legislative process:

1: Obtain a government that wants to implement that proposal, or find an agreeable MP who has won the private members' bills ballot.

2: Depending on the nature of the change, go through consultation stages (green paper, white paper) to establish the draft Bill. There may be Select Committee evidence & reports at this phase.

3: Go through a set of readings in the Houses of Commons & Lords (may be either order). Typically there will be a House of Commons research paper during this period to help discussion. Also round about this time there may be Standing Committee clause-by-clause debate.

4: Go through voting stages, which may further refine the details. If the Bill is very controversial and is out-of-line with common sense, public opinion, or poorly thought through, it may be repeatedly rejected by the Lords and run out of time, having to be restarted next year.

5: Assuming it gets through and becomes an Act, then eventually it has to be implemented, for example by the civil service. Recruitment, training, new computer systems, etc.

Now stages 2 to 5 can happen quickly - months - if it is relatively uncontroversial and in-line with party policy. Handguns were banned quite quickly - although follow-up compensation has been slow. And there is still disquiet that this was bad law as a knee-jerk reaction, exploiting public outcry. Stage 2 may take years for law with big consequences, such as law affecting children & families. (Stages 2 to 5 for the reform of the Child Support Agency are about 6 years in total).

But stage 1 is the tricky bit - in the UK, this will not happen for C4M in the foreseeable future. No party has this on their agenda (or even on their back-burner) - quite the opposite. No MP would waste a private member's Bill on something so certain to fail with hardly a vote in favour. The reality of C4M law in the UK is "not for many years, if ever".

Consequences

Discussing proposals such as C4M is worthwhile; new laws have to start somewhere, and if they were not discussed the government might make worse law. But using such a proposal to inhibit discussion of other possibilities with spurious claims that it "is realisable today" is really a dishonest debating trick.

To pretend that this is some parallel universe where politicians happen to be ready to legislate as required, in spite of lack of indications in this universe they are ready to do so, is a science fiction device - Sliders, Star Trek, etc. People operating in the real world can't fall back on this option - they have to do the hard work of getting those politicians to be ready to legislate, and that can take decades.

In fact, it is likely that if C4M were already law it would be revoked at least as fast as the poll tax was replaced by council tax.

It isn't that laws can't be made fast in the UK. Especially where children are impacted, laws can be made very fast. It is that C4M is positioned in the opposite direction from the thinking of all the political parties, and there is no significant (even "detectable") lobby or media activity that will change this in the foreseeable future. This statement is based on an understanding of the policies of these parties and the nature of the debates & lobbies over the last 3+ years of the reform of the CSA. Throughout this period there hasn't been any noticeable support for anything like C4M, and there isn't a political seat to be gained from supporting it, while any party proposing it would be visibly making a U-turn of massive & unpopular proportions.

With C4M, after the man states that if a child is born he will not support it, normally one of 2 things would happen:

  1. A lone mother has a child whose bio-father doesn't support it.
  2. A foetus is aborted where it may be a result of the man's statement.

C4M has themes of pressured-abortion or child-abandonment & mother-desertion. Lobby groups, the media, and politicians will see this (if C4M ever gets their attention). Labour politicians are strongly pursuing the elimination of child poverty with child support as one of the components. Conservatives want to cut taxes and won't let fathers pass the support costs onto taxpayers. The Conservative religious right (plus the Catholic Church & pro-life groups) would condemn anything with an abortion-theme. The Church of England favours celibacy outside marriage. All parties support the principles that both parents should support their children. C4M would be one of the most hated pieces of legislation around!

The killer blow

The killer blow for any serious discussion of C4M in the UK will be the process of introducing high quality male contraceptives to the UK - high quality male contraceptives will come onto the market & the discussion will be over. This doesn't just mean starting to sell them - it also means all the advanced publicity, including hype, which will precede this by years.

Who knows when it will be in any particular country? RISUG has passed its clinical trials in India in mid-2002. It may be 2005 for the Edinburgh "pill", but this may simply be optimistic. It is convenient to use "perhaps 2010" as a somewhat cautious date for "the West". Over half-a-million men in China have undergone years of trials during the 1990s. While "the West" agonises, the countries with serious population pressures, aided by the World Health Organisation, are getting on with it, sometimes using home-grown technologies.

A guess for the UK is that there will be lots of hype by 2005, and it will come to market by 2010. The hype alone will be sufficient to squash C4M.

Promoting C4M is potentially BAD for men in the medium & long term. The companies developing those contraceptives should see that part of their market is for men to be able to veto conception. It is therefore necessary for men to NEED to veto conception. C4M would pull the rug from under one of the markets for those contraceptives, and potentially delay their introduction.

Page last updated: 21 July, 2005 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003