Fathers: The Fall-Guy in the Abortion Debate

by Carey Roberts
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This article represents the views of the author, and not necessarily of Pregnant Pause. Which in this case means that we question a few points but sympathize with the general idea.

Despite the vast ideological differences that divide the pro-abortion and pro-life camps, advocates on both sides will agree on one key point: it’s really the man’s fault.

Here’s radical feminist Catherine McKinnon: “All heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.”

And pro-lifer Kathleen Howley opens her anti-male diatribe with this sentence: “I am going to try to say this without sounding like a man-hating feminist.” (www.roevwade.org/howley.html)

But reflexively blaming the father only serves to perpetuate demeaning stereotypes about women, and marginalizes the institution of fatherhood in our society.

Let’s examine the reality of how a woman ends up getting an abortion.

First, the interlude of passion. Yes, it’s fair to say that on the whole, men enjoy sexual relations.

Seductive women pursue sexual liaisons, as well – they just employ different tactics. Just read the advice columns in Cosmo magazine. Or go to your local nightclub on a Friday night -- count the number of women cavorting about in bare midriffs, revealing necklines, and high-cut dresses.

And if we accept McKinnon’s absurd claim about women not being able to give consent to the sex act, then obviously women are incapable of consenting to surgical procedures, signing wills, and entering into business contracts.

Second, the use of contraceptives. Yes, male condoms are available and easy to use. But condoms are not nearly as effective as the female-controlled forms of contraception, especially the pill. And dare we mention the women who “forget” to take their pill before the big date?

Third is the decision to get the abortion. As proof of male irresponsibility, people like to cite Carol Gilligan’s famous study, In a Different Voice, which found that in one-third of cases, the father influenced the woman’s decision to get the abortion.

But citing this and similar studies reverses the argument. If the decision to get an abortion rests with the father one-third of the time, then clearly, the woman has made the decision in the other two-thirds of the cases.

But even Gilligan’s one-third figure is suspect. A few years ago, Arthur Shostak and Gary McLouth interviewed 1,000 fathers of aborted children. Their book, Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses, and Love reveals that only 4% of the women had been opposed to getting the abortion in the first place.

So the myth that women get an abortion because of coercion by marauding sexual predators is an urban legend that serves to shield us from one simple fact: abortion is by and large a female-dominated decision.

Consider the case of Norma McCorvey. She became pregnant in 1969. In order to get an abortion, she falsely claimed that she had been raped by her boyfriend. Her attorneys did not prevail under Texas law, so they appealed, the case eventually reaching the Supreme Court.

To protect her confidentiality, McCorvey was referred to as Jane Roe. In their famous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruled in McCorvey’s favor, establishing abortion as a “fundamental” right for women. But one must wonder, if the Supreme Court had known that the pregnancy was concensual and not the result of rape, would the split decision have gone the other way?

The fetus that resides within the mother’s womb inherits half of its genetic material from the father. But as a result of Roe v. Wade, fathers have no standing under reproductive law. Women, married or not, have no duty to consult with, or even inform the father about the abortion. And this is exactly what happens 15% of the time. Fathers have been biologically disenfranchised.

It is a truism that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. When rights recede, responsibilities also diminish. Thus deprived of their fundamental biological rights, is it possible that Roe v. Wade also may have intruded on men’s basic sense of familial obligation?


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Posted 9 Mar 2004.

Copyright 2004 by Carey Roberts
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