Forced to Be a Father: Matt

Fighting off Fatherhood

When Matt first appeared on the show, he was fighting for his rights as a man who didn't think he should be forced to be a father. He says he told his ex-girlfriend that he wasn't ready to be a father, and she told him she had a condition in which she couldn't get pregnant and was also taking birth control pills for another condition. Matt had unprotected sex with her, and a child was conceived. When he expressed to his ex that he didn't want to be a father at the time, she took him to court for child support. A judge ordered that Matt pay $500 a month.

 

Since then, Matt has taken his case to court two times, and each time, the case was thrown out before it went to trial. Matt's mother, Diane, says the state was making an example of Matt. 

 

"I felt that it was ridiculous to call the lawsuit frivolous. It affects the rights of all men in this country," Diane says. "My son's been punished. I think he's been set up as a scapegoat. I think he's been set up to show the men of this country that you better not question the system as it is. I believe they're trying to scare the men out there who want to address this rights issue."

 

Matt was also ordered to pay thousands of dollars in sanctions. To make the payments, he's had to sell his car and refinance his house. "This situation has been a burden on me financially," he says.  

 

[AD]It took Matt a few years to start dating again, and now he takes every relationship slowly. "Before all this happened, I was a very trusting person. Now I am not," he says. 

 

"My son has had this affect his business life, his social life, and he has even lost some friends over this. And he has said to me, ‘I don't know if I can ever trust a woman again,'" Diane shares. "My son can be out in a social setting, and people come up to him and call him names. They call him a deadbeat dad."

 

"They are telling me that I need to be a part of the child's life, when I don't feel that's the right thing to do at this point," Matt says.

Joining Matt and Diane on stage is Mel Feit, Matt's advocate and the director of the National Center for Men, and Gloria Allred, president of the Women's Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"Why do they keep throwing this out?" Dr. Phil asks Mel.

"Matt was going to show tremendous inequality in how child support was collected. The court didn't want to see it. They threw it out, and then they punished him. They made him pay all the legal fees connected with the trial," he says. "It was a message sent to any man, ‘Don't even try it.' The judge acted shamefully."

Dr. Phil points out the fact is Matt impregnated a woman and fathered a child.

 

"If a man and a woman together make a choice to have a sexual relationship for the purpose of intimacy and not procreation, as long as that choice is made together as a couple, then the choice belongs to both of them and not just to her," Mel says. "Even in the event of a contraceptive failure, that choice belongs to both of them, not just to her, because sexual choices made as a couple belong to the couple. That's what it means to have consensual sex."

"You say you didn't have a choice in this," Dr. Phil says to Matt, "but you made your choice when you got in bed and had sex."

"I did not make a choice at that point," Matt says. "I explained to her that I was not ready to be a father, and we both agreed that we would not be parents at that point."

[AD]"Your best protection then is to not have sex with this woman," Dr. Phil says.

"Society says to women, ‘You are entitled to have a private intimate life, while at the same time choosing not to be a parent, even in the event of a contraceptive failure,'" Mel says. "What Matt knows now is what every man should know: When he closes the door of the bedroom and thinks he's alone with his sweetheart, [it's] not true. In that bedroom with him, every time he makes love with his woman, looking over his shoulder, taking notes ready to spring into action is the attorney general of that state where he lives. The only person who had any rights in that bedroom was the woman in this case. He had no choice, no rights."

Asked for her thoughts, Gloria says, "Matt, you are a father. That's 100 percent clear … You need to take full responsibility for that baby, because it's either you or the taxpayer, along with the mother."

Mel mentions to Gloria that in the state of New York the statute says that a parent can drop a baby off at a safe place and walk away with no responsibilities whatsoever. He asks her what advice she would give a man who came to her and wanted to do that with his child.

"A safe harbor for children who are not wanted by both parents or who think that their child is be better off placed with a family who can take care of them, that's a whole other option," she says. Turning to Matt, she says, "The point is this mother is keeping this child, and you have a responsibility for this child."

[AD]Diane turns to Gloria and says, "We never say to a woman, ‘You must be a mother. It doesn't matter if you're tricked, it doesn't matter how it came about. You're rights don't matter.' We never say that to a mother. We just say to the men, ‘You must pay.'"

"Rather than supporting your son in something that is wrong, that is shutting this little innocent child out of his life and out of yours, let this little child into [your] life, let's share in the responsibility and love, because that's something we will always be happy we did," Gloria says.

Diane points out that if women were forced by men to be mothers and pay child support, there would be an uproar throughout the country and changes would be made.

Dr. Phil suggests that once a man and a woman have consensual sex, they should assume there are certain risks involved.

 

"The price of intimacy should not be giving up reproductive choice. That's what Roe v. Wade stood for," Mel says. "I think the window of opportunity for a man to opt out should be very narrow, even a matter of days. I think a woman should have a responsibility to inform a man that a pregnancy resulted. If they have discussed, if they have talked together that they did not want to be a parent, under those circumstances where she was not deceived by him, he should have a right to then say to her, ‘It's your body. It's your pregnancy. You do what you want without interference by me, but do not impose your reproductive will on me against my will.' As long as he makes that clear in a matter of days and signs an affidavit with the court, I think he should have a chance to opt out."

"If she wanted to terminate the pregnancy, would he have the right to say no?" Dr. Phil asks Mel.

"I believe in reproductive choice for women," Mel says. "I'm an advocate for reproductive choice, not men's rights. I think Gloria's an advocate for women's rights and not reproductive rights."

"Even if both parties were using birth control, it is possible that the woman is going to become pregnant," Gloria points out. She adds that the woman has the right to choose to terminate the pregnancy or have the baby, and if she has the baby, someone needs to support the child.

Mel responds, "We could say, as a men's advocate, as a women's rights lawyer, that the concept of reproductive choice " that you shouldn't be forced to be a parent simply because you have sex " is a fundamental human right deserving of perpetual constitutional protection. You can join me in that and raise this right to level of a human right. Will you do that?"

[AD]"What about the baby's choice, Mel?" Gloria asks. "The baby needs food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical and lots of other things. Who is going to provide that? It takes two parents, and that's what Matt and Diane should be doing."

Mel points out that there are millions of people who are desperate to adopt children, and that's a better solution than forcing a person to be a parent. "I'm trying to create a world of greater equality. I think that's in the best interest of all children," he says.

"It's not about them anymore. It's about this baby," Gloria says.

Matt learned about the child's conception a few weeks after he had sex with his ex-girlfriend. 

 

"This would perhaps have been within a window that you would espouse?" Dr. Phil asks Mel.

"I would give him a very limited time, because I want her to know his choice before she acts on her choice," Mel says.

[AD]"At that point, you certainly said, ‘I don't want to do this,'" Dr. Phil says.

"I was very clear," Matt says.

"Do you have any thoughts or feelings that you have a child in this world that is your offspring?" Dr. Phil asks Matt.

Matt says he has feelings similar to those of parents who place their child for adoption. "I hope the best for the child. I hope everything turns out great," he says.

"At the end of your life, if you reflect, you're going to say, ‘I wish I had done better for my child, because my child deserved it,'" Gloria says to Matt.