What About Fathers’ Rights?

[Throwback Thursday — originally published on March 8th, 2013]

“A father's interest in having a child-perhaps his only child-may be unmatched by any other interest in his life. It is truly surprising that the state must assign a greater value to a mother's decision to cut off a potential human life by abortion than to a father's decision to let it mature into a live child.” ―William Rehnquist

Photo credit: izquotes

Abortion is a major issue in America. There are three main categories people usually fall into: always for abortions, always against abortions, and for abortions under certain circumstances. It seems that most of America falls into the third group.

According to a poll done in May of 2012, titled “Abortion”, by Gallup, 52% of people believed abortion should be legal in certain situations. While those situations are not clarified, it is still above the 20% who felt abortion should be flat-out illegal. 25% maintained the position that abortion should be legal no matter what, also still above those against it.

For the most part, Americans agree that it is a constitutional right for a woman to do what she wishes with her body, within certain guidelines. This is one of the most common arguments supporting abortion- her body, her choice. Therefore, it’s not very surprising that many pro-choicers often overlook the father’s role in the entire situation.

It takes two people to make a decision that results in an unplanned pregnancy. It only takes one to choose to terminate it.

Other than in cases of rape, incest, or the mother experiencing possible fatality; if the pregnancy is normal, healthy, etc., and simply not planned or wanted, the father should have a say in whether that pregnancy results in a child being born or not.

Abortion is known as a women’s rights issue, when it should be known as a couple’s rights issue.

Most of the arguments for fathers’ rights come from the pro-life side of the abortion issue, and because of this many of those on the opposite side disregard it, or ultimately disagree simply for the sake of disagreeing. More people need to learn the facts, and take into consideration that this is not a one-sided argument; it is simply a human argument.

In many other countries the woman must receive permission from her husband before having an abortion. Dahlia Lithwick explains how here in the Unites States, the father doesn’t even have to be informed of the pregnancy, let alone the decision to terminate it.

Three years after the legendary 1973 court ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that ultimately made abortion legal, Planned Parenthood v. Danforth did away with the requirement of written consent from the woman’s partner. This was reiterated in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, stating even further that a woman need not tell her partner at all. All cases involving a father suing for his right for his child to be born have had the same outcome. While there do seem to be more cases, no judge wants to mess with women’s rights.

What about fathers’ rights?

A woman has many decisions when she becomes pregnant. She can carry out the pregnancy and keep the child. She can also give the child up for adoption; or she can choose to end the pregnancy. The father has one choice- to go along with what the mother chooses.

Sometimes, if the outcome is adoption, the father can fight for his rights to keep his child. However if a man does not want to be a father, yet the woman chooses to keep the baby, that man is forced to take care of his fatherly duties. Courts will rule that he must at least pay child support, which could very well be a huge burden on him, financially and emotionally. The man cannot merely sign over his rights and be done with it.

Yet, if the woman is not ready, and the man is, there is no way for him to keep his child. Even if the man tells the woman she will have no motherly duties, no child support, no anything, the man still does not have a chance at being the father he wants to be.

It is not fair that women can force men into something they do not want or are not ready for, yet men can’t even ask a woman to simply carry their child into the world, with no strings attached.

A father who doesn’t want to be a part of his child’s life is called a deadbeat, and it is actually illegal. A mother who decides she doesn’t want the burden of a child at all, on her body, mind, or wallet, is simply allowed to get rid of it (within 24 weeks of conception of course). This is the most overlooked double standard in history.

Women complain about the toll pregnancy and childbirth take on their bodies. Yes, there are always possibilities of complications during childbirth, yet this is an invalid argument because there are chances of something going wrong during an abortion. If you take the chance that you will get pregnant, you also take the chance that something will happen to you, no matter how you decide to handle the pregnancy.

Pregnancy gives a woman stretch marks and fat. She will most likely be uncomfortable during the pregnancy and delivery. However telling a man you are not giving his child a chance to live, and that he has no say in the matter, can cause lifelong emotional damage.

By now you make have taken my stance as pro-life. I assure you, I am quite the opposite. I am actually one of the women who chose not to have her child.

I did discuss and decide this with the father. Though it seemed forced because of our situation, we both agreed it was the right choice. To this day he still thinks about our never-born son. Sometimes he’ll seem distant out of nowhere; others he will simply cry for what I think is no reason; and sex, well sex will never be the same.

The heat of the moment never comes without its punishment. His head and heart go back to that day, and he remember the one act we are about to engage in previously resulted in this burden on his soul.

We’re not the only couple affected by the A word. It is hard enough to keep a relationship alive without the possibility of having a child, and even harder once the pregnancy is terminated. If both sides do not agree to the abortion, there is almost no chance the relationship will last.

A friend of mine adored his girlfriend before she got pregnant; after the pregnancy was terminated, he resented her. Another friend is begging his girlfriend, probably as you’re reading this, to not go through with it. Sadly, if she does their relationship will end as well.

Some may say those couples just weren’t strong enough. In reality, not having a choice in whether your child is born or not feels just the same as losing one you planned on having. It hurts for a long, long time. The pain may never fully go away. Would you be able to love someone who took that right away from you?

From a woman’s perspective, I fully agree that abortion should always remain legal. Yet while no woman should ever be told by a man or woman she does not know, or even the state or federal government, that she does not have a choice regarding her and her fetus’s future, this decision should be made by both her and her partner.

If women want equal rights, we should be prepared to give them as well. Taking this decision away from a would-be father could have serious, unwanted effects on everyone involved. Fairness triumphs pettiness, and although abortion is a serious matter, not allowing the other person responsible for the pregnancy to have a say in the final outcome is petty.


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20 thoughts on “What About Fathers’ Rights?

  1. You bring up so many valid points — things that I believe every woman contemplating abortion should consider. Still, and yes I’m biased, I believe the woman should have more of the choice here if we’re speaking generally and more importantly before we push for fathers having to be informed by law. Pregnancy is a big deal. Having a child changes a woman’s circumstances far more than it does a man’s, not to mention that women earn 77% of what men earn and this number drops with the birth of each child. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/04/16/11391/the-top-10-facts-about-the-wage-gap/

    That said, I absolutely agree that the father should be informed, but I think it would set women back further and would far negatively impact children if legally, the fathers had to be informed. I also think it opens up a can of worms in regards to what else fathers should have a say in. Should they have to sign off for women to use birth control? Because technically that’s preventing children that he very well may want.

    As you know, abortion can’t be taken lightly. I recently got into a heated argument with a male friend who accused me of flippantly disregarding life because I am wholeheartedly pro-choice. He did everything short of calling me a baby killer, but the reality is I have had LOTS of friends who’ve had abortions and the emotional ramifications can be dreadful. I’m pro-choice, but I don’t view abortion as a simple solution. And I agree with you that it nearly always takes a toll on a relationship. I’m thinking of three couples I know whose relationships were shattered even after both parties agreed that ending the pregnancy was the best descision.

    Again, I do think you bring up good points. Men and women are certainly both affected emotionally after an abortion and I honor that and do not want to be dismissive of the father’s feelings. But I think we have to look at the social and economic ramifications — requiring fathers to be informed by law is not the way to go.

    Thanks for making me think this morning! I’d love to hear your thoughts on comprehensive sex education in schools. Personally, I think this type of legislation would be a better step forward in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’ll be completely honest — I wrote this as an essay for a college class, put it up on my blog, and haven’t reread it since. So some of my ideas may have changed.

      I agree that implementing it would probably cause more problems than solutions. There would have to be so many by laws and whatnot put in place, it would definitely end up being an invasion of privacy and probably set women back. But I think it’s important for people to think about and take into consideration if ever found in this situation.

      I think sex ed in schools is a brilliant idea, although it did not seem to help me one bit. One girl in my class was actually caught masturbating during it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I totally agree that sex ed might not be the way to go — especially the way it’s taught these days. I’m a huge social work/sociology junkie and at one point was working on my Master’s in social work, so I totally have that slant and I love discussing this stuff. I took a fascinating class a few years ago called Sexuality Education where we basically studied all the different ways Sex Ed is taught, particularly in the US — abstinence education, an hour long class in 4th or 5th grade, letting parents and churches (don’t even get me started on that shit) handle it, etc. Until that class, I had no understanding at all about true comprehensive sex education, but I swear I think that’s the way to go, though I doubt it would ever pass in the US. The basic idea is that starting around kindergarten, a developmentally appropriate form of sex ed is taught, so it’s not this big weird embarrassing thing. Sex is also normalized and each year the curriculum is built upon what the students learned in previous years. There are also emotional/psychological components where things like relationships are touched on. Anyhoo, in my idealistic, I-want-my-kids-to-know-that-sex-can-be-a-beautiful-thing world, I’d love for this to be a reality, not to mention the fact that I don’t want them knocking someone up and bringing home a baby for me to raise when they’re 15 cause I might just nut up for real. Okay, thanks for the brainwork this AM.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I completely agree! I mean, there’s no reason for everyone to get all worked up about having “the birds and the bees” talk — it should be honest and common knowledge, in my opinion. Especially these days when kids are having sex younger and younger.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. So much yes to this!!! I find it terribly frustrating and horrifying that fathers are treated like second rate parents in our society…as if they are the “less than” parent. I absolutely do not believe that men should be able to force women into a decision (any decision), but the current system of women forcing men into decisions on this matter is also unacceptable. Perhaps if our society didn’t treat fathers as if their role were far less important than the mother’s role, we’d have way fewer “deadbeat” dads. I think abortions should require the approval of both parents…and if a father truly wants nothing to do with a child that a woman wishes to keep, he should have the option to permanently and unquestionably give up his rights and responsibilities to that child. (Just as a woman does when she chooses adoption.) In cases where an agreement cannot be reached, there should be a (speedy) mediation process…much like in cases of custody disagreements.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds interesting! I was wondering how this would be able to be implemented, and it sounds like you’ve got it down!

      Sadly, ANY way of including the father would have many people crying out against taking rights away from women. Which, to me, is crazy because obviously I am all about women’s rights. But also men’s rights.


      • I might be crazy here, but I think any issue involving children is not a women’s rights issue so much as it is a parents’ rights issue. I’m with you in the “men have rights, too” department.

        I forgot to add up there that in the cases where a father wants to keep a child, but the mother doesn’t, she should also have the option to sign away her rights…much like a surrogate situation. And, yes, she would go through the pregnancy and get fat (Oh, no! Not that HORROR!) and have health risks, but sex comes with risks. That’s just the reality of the situation.

        Interestingly enough, I put a baby up for adoption when I was much younger, and it was absolutely required for the father to be told and to give approval. Why would we require that for adoption but not abortion? Baffling.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree for the most part that the father should have a say, but I think the argument against it, that it’s the woman bearing the child, is a bit more nuanced. For example, many pregnant mothers start feeling a connection to their fetus immediately, but many men may not until the baby is ex utero. What if the mother doesn’t want that connection, knowing that she’ll bond with the baby with each kick whether she likes it or not and then have to sever it? What if the pregnancy came from a rape that wasn’t ‘proven’? What if the father uses his consent as a power play, or leverage?

    I don’t think it’s a simple issue. But I do think you’re right that a woman considering abortion needs to consider the father’s feelings more seriously. She’d have to transition her mindset to that of a surrogate, and there are so many women acting as surrogates that it wouldn’t be an alien concept.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I resonate with all the reasons you develop for men’s involvement in all these options a prospective mother has, but in the end I’m too aware of how often simply “being found out” by the prospective father leads to serious and harmful pressure — physical as well as psychological — on the woman at this vulnerable juncture. While I agree that if — and to the extent that — she can, it is good for her to involve him, and more likely if both of them are mature and psychologically healthy, she must always be free to act in her own perceived best interest. If she is not entirely free, she is not free at all, and legal requirements that he be informed would be incredibly — often fatally — disastrous for all too many women.

    If we were all completely mature and psychologically healthy… but the plain fat is that we all fall short of that, and for me the bottom line is she must be free; our desire for a more “perfect” (remember the word means “complete”) world must never allow us to diminish her freedom, and often her safety, in deference to his (admittedly intense and legitimate) “needs”/wishes. His choices got him into this situation, and if he recognizes her need and right to be free, his own maturity is now called upon. We cannot guarantee he will be able to exercise it adequately, but again that is the human condition in reality.

    Our only truly reliable capability in all this as a society is to refrain from imprisoning women — it’s mostly the women in this situation — by laws requiring them to involve him in what is ultimately her responsibility and power to decide — regardless of how desirable his involvement would ideally be. This is not an ideal world.

    And as for equal rights, yes but again while if she is “whole”, healthy and mature she may be able to take this into account, in the end her own limitations may leave her as short of ideal as his may leave him. If she is sensitive to the equality issues she will act on that, but if she is not, the dangers to her of forced revelation to him all too often must override any rights he has, and that must finally be her free choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I wrote this a while ago as an essay for college and haven’t even read over it before reposting. I agree with much of what you say though — I wish there could be a way to implement this idea without it taking away necessary freedoms. I just think our culture in general overlooks the father far too often. It takes two people to make a baby.


  5. “Equality or rights and responsibilities” (as it reads in the ERA) wherever possible, but protection first for the vulnerable until as a species we learn to control violence against the (unequally) more vulnerable.

    Vulnerability is not an equal-opportunity danger.

    Liked by 1 person

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