Abortion has arguably been one of the most controversial social topics of the last 50 years, and neither side of the argument seems to show any sign of budging. In fact, people seem to have only grown more passionate since the Supreme Court case, “Roe v. Wade,” ruled in 1973 that a woman could legally terminate her pregnancy in conjunction with the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. This clause made claim to a right to privacy, which the Supreme Court saw as extending to medical matters surrounding abortion. These rights, however, are considered to fade as the pregnancy progresses, putting legal responsibility into the hands of the State as well as the mother after the first trimester. This all seems fairly straightforward, and thus far it seems that the majority of the debate’s focus has revolved around the rights of the mother and her child. For instance, at what point, if any, is it okay to abort a pregnancy? Should it be done only when the mother’s life is in jeopardy, or whenever she wants to? However, as long as this debate has been going on, I have had a hard time thinking back on what I’ve learned about the father’s role in the termination, or not, of his child’s life. Maybe he doesn’t have one. But, after all, he is the genetic half of the unborn child. Shouldn’t he have some responsibility?
Focusing more on unmarried relationships, a woman can legally terminate a pregnancy without the biological father’s consent. The reasons for this may have to do with the fact that a man is not physically affected by a pregnancy, or, according to family.findlaw.com, “a woman’s right to privacy in her medical decisions,” as mentioned above. Since the Supreme Court Case, “Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth,” of 1976, and according to a timeline created by npr.org of Supreme Court cases regarding abortion laws, a spouse does not possess the veto power necessary to have any legitimate and legal say in the termination (or not) of a woman’s pregnancy because of the spouse’s position as a third party member of the case.
I understand this completely. And, as a woman and pro-choice advocate myself, I feel better knowing that Federal law complies with women’s interests in pregnancy before men’s. I would never want to hear of a woman being legally bound to carrying a pregnancy to term because the biological father, whatever his intentions may be, objected to her terminating a pregnancy she wasn’t prepared to handle. However, while I do agree that the rights of women and the children they’re carrying should take priority, I do think there are some adverse consequences to disregarding a man’s role in abortion that don’t seem to get enough consideration.
People seem to forget that men are just as responsible for conception as women — even more so in cases of sexual force. However, it seems to me that women unjustly carry an excessive amount of the burden of pregnancy, whether that be due to some inherent biological detachment men have from the issue, or cultural influences that suggest that because men aren’t “supposed” to be the primary caretakers of children, they have less responsibility for those children during all phases of life. Whatever the reason, the results are frustrating to me. It’s frustrating that so many men of various ages don’t seem to feel the same burden of responsibility surrounding the potential for unplanned pregnancy that women feel. And the fact that the law favors women heavily over men in cases of abortion, adoption, etc. is, I think, perpetuating this and reinforcing acceptably negligent behaviors by men that can negatively affect women.
I’m not sure what the solution to the issue is, especially because I think women should be protected first and foremost in cases regarding abortion. And I’m sure plenty of people don’t even see an issue here. But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that some men, and even some women, can have somewhat flippant attitudes towards sex and its consequences. And while women all too often have no choice but to carry the blunt of the aftermath, too many men are let off the hook. So legally acknowledging men’s roles in the lives of their unborn children, rather than dismissing them, I think, is important if we want to see men in general take more responsibility for their actions involving the lives of others — the lives of their partners, children and potential children. Whether that comes from giving these men more parental credit when considering custody, or legally requiring them to experience the effect of an unplanned pregnancy, I think men should be more involved in what happens after the hookup is over.