A Man’s Right To Choose?

I first read about this last week, but waited to gather my thoughts on it before speaking.

A bill about abortion was recently re-introduced in the Ohio state House of Representatives.  The bill was originally proposed in 2007 by the same person, Representative John Adams (back from the dead and demoted, apparently), and either never made it to a floor vote or was defeated when it did – my research is unclear on its original fate.  But it’s back now, and more patriarchal than ever!

The bill, if made into law, would require that pregnant women obtain the consent of a baby’s father before they could have an abortion.  If the woman doesn’t know who the father is, she would be legally required to submit a list a possibles, and a doctor would administer paternity tests to determine who the father is. (A cheaper alternative would be to go on The Maury Povich Show and have Maury pay for it.  Those things ain’t cheap, you know.)  If the father cannot be determined, the woman could not have an abortion.

Wait, it gets better.

If a woman brought forth a patsy to claim that he was the father and give permission, and it is later discovered that the patsy is not the real father, the woman could then be charged with first degree misdemeanor abortion fraud.  The same goes for the patsy, and for any health care worker who gives an abortion without paternal consent.

The law is not totally heartless, though; in the case of rape or incest, a woman could have an abortion without the consetn of the rapist.  All she would have to do is provide a police report stating that she was raped!  Thank goodness every single rape in this country gets reported to the authorities!  (Seriously, it could be worse.  The women could have to provide proof of a rape conviction in order to have the abortion.)

The stated goal here, according to John Adams, is to “keep the two people who have created that child together.”  Yeah.  Because forcing two people to stay together for the sake of children has always worked out so well.

I’m really of two minds about this.  I do think it’s unfair that men have no real say in whether or not a woman gets an abortion.  On the other hand, I also think it’s unfair that men have no choice but to be on the hook, financially, if a woman decides to have a child, whether he wanted an abortion or not.

Before you get out the pitchforks and torches and gathering the townsfolk into an angry mob to come after me, let me explain a bit.  And dig a moat.

I get that, when people have sex, they are putting their financial, physical, and possibly mental health into someone else’s hands and/or various other body parts.  There are many means of reducing the risks of sexual activity, but none are absolutely 100% effective.  (Not even vasectomies; I’ve been told that there is a 25% failure rate on those.)  Even with measures taken to reduce those risks, there is always the chance that, say, one partner is lying about their own measures or has the intent of trapping the other in an a half-unwanted pregnancy.  (Remember the guy last year who was surprised to discover that a woman he’d had sex with five years ago, while using a condom, had fished the condom out of the trash, used it to impregnate herself, and wanted him to pay child support for the son he took every reasonable measure to prevent?  If I can find the article again, I’ll post the link.)  I understand about the risks that men and women alike take in having sex, truly, I do.  But, when pregnancy occurs, only one of the two truly has a choice in the matter, and, I hate to say it but I know it to be true, there are women out there that will use a pregnancy to either trap a man into staying with them or punish him for a real or perceived grievance or even because they want a child, don’t want the man, but want the man to pay for it.

Then again, there are also women who will abort a child without even telling the father that she is pregnant and talking with him about whether or not he wants to have a baby with her.

Case in point:  in 1994, I was about to start my second year of college and had a beautiful girlfriend.  Over that summer, we had sex for the first time, six months into our relationship.  She got pregnant.  She decided, without consulting me, to have an abortion.  I found out about it a year later, after the relationship had ended from my cousin, who had gotten the secret out of her sister while trying to get with her.

In that instance, I had absolutely no choice at all, and I grieved for the child that I’d never known existed and would have wanted and done all I could to take care of.  And yes, if I’d known, I would have asked her to have the baby.

Now for the other side:  in 2000, I was out of college and dating a woman who claimed to have a severe latex allergy, so condoms were out.  Since she was very meticulous in most areas of her life and I’d known her for about two years at that point, I trusted her when she said she took her birth control pills regularly.

That was a mistake.  When she ended up pregnant, I asked what happened to the birth control.  She explained that she’d run out and had “forgotten” to get more.  In the process of talking and doctor’s visits, it became clear that she wasn’t being totally honest with me or the doctors, and the stress of the pregnancy caused the “great girlfriend mask” she normally wore to fall away, revealing her true personality, and I realized she was not someone that I wanted to be tied to for the rest of my life.  Who would want to put a child into a broken home right off the bat?  I asked her for an abortion.

She refused.  I was left with absolutely no choice in the matter, and financial responsibility for the child.  My only choice was between being in my child’s life, being only a financial presence in my child’s life, or running like hell and dodging child support payments for the rest of my life.  However, I refused to let any child of mine come into the world without a father, having had a largely absent one myself, and decided that I would be in my child’s life.  The child did not deserve to suffer because I’d made the mistake of choosing the wrong woman to trust.  Anybody that halfway knows me knows that that would be my decision; in other words, I was the perfect guy to trap,and she used my strong sense of honour, and refusal to allow my progeny suffer as I did, against me.

My daughter is 8 now, and the most wonderful child ever.  Best of all, she doesn’t resemble her mother in appearance or demeanor.  But that doesn’t change the fact that, when it came down to it, again, I had no choice at all as to whether or not I would become a father.  My only choice was what type of father I would be.

And that’s why I am of two minds about this bill.

I agree that fathers need to have a voice.  I can agree that fathers should be notified of the pregnancy before action can be taken; I just don’t think that requiring consent for an abortion is the best thing to do here.  It is a woman’s body, after all, and hers to do with as she pleases.  I don’t know how to make it fair on both sides.  In the case of a woman choosing to have the child of an unwanted or accidental pregnancy,  the best I can think of is allowing the man to legally and permanently surrender parental rights and obligations, but then that puts the entire financial onus on the woman, which isn’t entirely fair either.  In “trap” situations, it would be fair, but not so much for women who are not selfish harpies that would use an innocent child to get what they want.  (I’m not bitter, though.)

I think the best thing to do here, or at least the best that I can come up with, might be to just require notification, provide court-appointed mediation if necessary, and work on a case-by-case basis as to what steps should be taken, instead of creating a blanket law.  Every situation is different, and this is one in which individual solutions may be better than all-encompassing grand gestures.  For example, in a “trap” situation, the father could opt out.  In a genuine, honest accident, both parents would have to agree on a course of action (this is why mediation would be necessary, if they couldn’t work it out amongst themselves), and in the case of difference, decide on the merits of the individual case what the proper course of action would be.

Of course, the best solution would be for everyone to practice safe sex and never trust someone else to be looking out for your own sexual interests.

But how realistic is that?

VS – 8.04.09

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One Response to “A Man’s Right To Choose?”

  1. SOlid advise.

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