I am currently at home, caring for my mother who has just received a horrible diagnosis of colon cancer this past week :( Not too much time to post due to recent events, but I just stumbled upon this article...... it's over a week old, but thought that it would stir up some conversations.....
There may be many reasons to oppose Judge Alito's nomination - including the possibility, as highlighted in documents released yesterday, that he would seek to nibble away at Roe v. Wade - but his Casey opinion is not one of them. Rather, Judge Alito's thinking about the role of men in reproductive decision-making is in keeping with how legal thinking needs to evolve in this age of readily available DNA testing. Nor is his position contrary to national sentiment: a majority of Americans feel that the husband should be notified about an abortion.
His only problem was not going far enough, relying only on the marriage contract to legitimate men's claims to a role in the reproductive decision-making process.
Bear with me here. About a decade ago, my girlfriend became pregnant. It wasn't planned, but it wasn't exactly unplanned either, in that we obviously knew how biology worked. I desperately wanted to keep the baby, but she wasn't ready, and there were some minor medical concerns about the fetus, so she decided to terminate the pregnancy against my wishes. What right did I have to stop her? As it turned out, none. It was, indeed, a woman's right to choose.
Not surprisingly, we broke up. And my desire for fatherhood was eventually fulfilled by two wonderful children. But every so often I think back to the fateful decision, and frustration boils up. I am particularly reminded of it now, as I counsel a friend who finds himself in a parallel - but reverse - situation: when he broke off his engagement, his girlfriend told him that she was pregnant and was going to have the child no matter what.
That is her right, of course, and nobody should be able to take that away. But when men and women engage in sexual relations both parties recognize the potential for creating life. If both parties willingly participate then shouldn't both have a say in whether to keep a baby that results?
The abortion debate has polarized into a shouting match about two fundamentally different conceptions of conception, as it were. The anti-abortion position asserts that at the moment sperm meets egg a new human has been created, endowed with its own rights. Much of the recent strategy of anti-abortion advocates has been to attempt an end run around Roe v. Wade by establishing legal personhood in subtle ways through administrative fiat. For example, the Bush administration decided to include fetuses under the Children's Health Insurance Program, a tricky maneuver that creates a paradox for liberals who wish to expand the health coverage of pregnant women, but who loathe the idea of establishing legal claims on behalf of fetuses.
Other such tactics include the attempted appointment of a state guardian for the fetus of a severely retarded woman by Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. In the face of such strategies, the pro-choice movement has desperately clung to the notion that the fetus is part of the mother and not a separate person. Pro-choice advocates argue that the debate is really about a woman's control over her body. Hence my lack of rights to have any say in whether my seed comes to fruition.
Of course, most Americans seem to fall somewhere between these two positions. They support abortion rights, but they are also willing to accept restrictions on those rights. They do not think a fetus is the same as a person, but neither do they think of it as part and parcel of a woman's body like her appendix, a kidney or a tumor. They see a fetus as an individual under construction. Hence the almost universal support for abortion in the case of risk to the mother - why not opt for protecting life that is already here on earth over something that is still, ultimately, potential?
While the abortion debate has been stuck in neutral, the last decade has been marked by two other legal and cultural developments that should have - but haven't - influenced reproductive policy: genetic testing and the responsible fatherhood movement. The two go hand in hand. Today we can know who the real father is, thanks to DNA testing. This means that society can hold fathers responsible for the children they sire.
And this is exactly what is happening. A recent focus of social policy in general and welfare reform in particular has been responsible fatherhood. Efforts to collect child support from deadbeat dads have increased. So have efforts to bring those fathers within the sphere of their families.
NOBODY is arguing that we should let my friend who impregnated his girlfriend off the hook. If you play, you must pay. But if you pay, you should get some say. If a father is willing to legally commit to supporting and raising the child himself, why should a woman be able to end a pregnancy that she knew was a possibility of consensual sex? Why couldn't I make the same claim - that I am going to keep the baby regardless of whether she wants it or not?
Well, you might argue that all the man provides is his seed in a moment of pleasure. The real work consists of carrying a child for nine months, with the attendant morning sickness, leg cramps, biological risks and so on.
But how many times have we heard that fatherhood is not about a moment, it is about being there for the lifetime of a child? If we extend that logic, those 40 weeks of pregnancy - as intense as they may be - are merely a small fraction of a lifetime commitment to that child.
The bottom line is that if we want to make fathers relevant, they need rights, too. If a father is willing to legally commit to raising a child with no help from the mother he should be able to obtain an injunction against the abortion of the fetus he helped create.
Putting this into effect would be problematic, of course. But while such issues may be complicated, so is family life. Better to deal with the metaphorical dirty diapers than to pursue an inconsistent policy toward fatherhood and an abortion debate that doesn't acknowledge the reality of all actors involved. Otherwise, don't expect anything more of me than a few million sperm.