A Father's Rights

Why aren't fathers consulted on the decision of whether or not to abort their child?

BY: Armstrong Williams

 
Memories of my departed father are all a little more urgent to me during this time of year. I can still recall, with perfect vividness, my father teaching me how to catch a football or the firm grip of his hands as he hugged me after I won the 1976 high school oratory contest. I remember feeling like a grown up as I trailed him across the farm, trying to help out with various chores, or the abundance of joy in his face as I received my college diploma.

This is special bond between a father and a son. And while there are plenty of fathers who neglect the duty altogether, there are plenty for whom parenting is the most joyful and encompassing of all endeavors. We should be cognizant to encourage good parenting, and to protect fathers' rights as caregivers.

Sadly, we do not. Roe v. Wade assumed that because women are biologically tied to the birth process, they bear all responsibility in deciding the life or death of their children. Fathers' rights fall by the wayside. Liberals rally around the decision the way medieval citizens used to worship the church. The reason for their support is straightforward. Roe v. Wade rejected the idea that another person controlled a woman's body. This shattered patriarchal stereotypes that regarded women as little more than vessels. Plainly that is a good thing. But, in the continued fight for equality, various feminist groups have refused to acknowledge the basic human rights of the unborn child and the father. Plainly, that is a bad thing.

Just ask John Stachokus. Not long ago, Stachokus planned to have a child with his 23-year-old girlfriend. Together, they picked out the child's name and godparents. He imagined what it would be like to start a family. This made him happy. Then one day, his girlfriend abruptly decided to terminate her pregnancy. She was reacting to pressure from her parents, Stachokus says. Stachokus responded by obtaining an injunction, temporarily prohibiting her from having an abortion. Common Pleas Judge Michael Conahan overturned that decision last week. Just that quickly, Stachokus' hopes and dreams for his child dissolved.

It did not matter that Stachokus was willing to take responsibility for nurturing and providing for the child. It did not matter that he has basic human rights. All that mattered was that his girlfriend suddenly changed her mind and decided to murder their unborn baby. You see, as far as the court is concerned, John has no say in the life of his own child. Apparently, the court regards John as little more than a turkey baster with a pulse.

Of course, the response of abortion rights advocates is predictable. They greeted news of Stachokus' child's demise with cheers and the standard rhetoric about a woman's right to choose. "An adult woman has a fundamental constitutional right to privacy," said Linda Rosenthal, an attorney representing John's girlfriend.

And, indeed, it is her body, but her body does not exist in a vacuum. She shared that body with Stachokus--as he did with her--and together they made a decision that neither was equipped to carry out on their own. Doesn't this symbiotic act give John some say in the matter? After all, if the baby had been carried to term, Stachokus would have been legally obligated to pay child support. But on the decision of whether or not to abort his child, he is denied any say whatsoever. That is an appalling contradiction.

We live in an age of eroding family values where fathers routinely abandon their children and disregard their familial responsibilities. John's desire to raise and care responsibly for his child should be commended and encouraged. Instead, the law brutally and arbitrarily denies that he has any right to his child whatsoever.

Countless men are faced with the same nightmare of having no voice in the execution of their child. "Men's rights are trampled on all the time when it comes to reproductive rights," said Dianna Thompson, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. It is time to fight back, to force our government to re-evaluate the logic of treating men like nothing more than fertilizers.

This case raises serious questions about a father's say in the life of his own child, as well as the extent of the government's duty to help project human rights and encourage the family unit. Sadly, these profound questions fall by the wayside in a society that worships at the altar of Roe v. Wade, and relegates the voice of fathers and unborn babies to the margin.

There are plenty of bad fathers out there. Let's not neglect the good ones by peeling back their rights, or their say in the most important decisions in their lives. Something to think about this Father's day, and every day thereafter.

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