The new raft of laws significantly restricting abortions in multiple states has already achieved at least one of the stated intents of the architects of these bills. They have pushed the conversation about abortion and pro-life policies back to the forefront of the national discussion and set up a series of challenges that will very likely see the question thrust before the Supreme Court once again.
But virtually all of the details in these laws seem to focus on two groups of people. Those would be the pregnant women and the doctors involved in terminating their pregnancies. Is there someone missing from this conversation? That’s the take offered by Teri Carter at the Washington Post. What about the men who got the women pregnant in the first place? Should the abortion laws be penalizing them in some fashion? (Please note: this column was apparently not intended to be satirical.)
What I have yet to see in a single line in any of these new abortion bills — Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Utah, Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas — is accountability or penalties for the impregnators.
I was born and abandoned by my birth father in Cape Girardeau, Mo. When I was 6 years old, he signed away his parental rights — my stepfather wanted to adopt me — which had the added bonus of making him legally immune from both past and future child support.
Men like him in states like Missouri and Alabama don’t seem to be on anyone’s minds during this new rush to criminalize abortion. But they should be. A woman, after all, cannot get pregnant without a man’s sperm. This new definition of when life begins should be prompting a lot of questions about how the law really works when it comes to men’s moral and financial responsibility.
Reading through some of the author’s history as provided in this column, Ms. Carter has a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to men abandoning their families or pregnant girlfriends, and rightfully so. Her own father abandoned her mother when she was an infant and was a serial abandoner. He never provided any financial support and left them to their own devices.
What’s never adequately explained here is what this has to do with the underlying question of whether or not the pregnant girlfriend or soon-to-be ex-wife should be able to legally get an abortion. She raises a number of interesting points beyond questions of child support (though if child support is in play it seems that an abortion didn’t happen). Assuming life begins at conception she asks if the father shouldn’t be responsible for 50% of the medical bills. Should his insurance cover prenatal care?
Intriguing topics all, but why would any of those questions be addressed in a law dealing with the legality of terminating the pregnancy? Is the author suggesting that the father has some sort of legal right to weigh in and help decide whether the woman can get an abortion or not? Because last time I checked, that sort of opinion is strictly verboten in feminist thinking. So what is it exactly that Ms. Carter is proposing? She finally gets around to that question in the penultimate paragraph. Sort of.
With these new antiabortion laws, we have prison time for doctors. We have humiliation and punishment for girls and women. What we don’t have are laws to address the impregnators, the abandoners, the shirkers of personal, social and financial responsibility.
In reality, there are already laws on the books in most, if not all of the states that deal with parental responsibility, child support, and related topics. And perhaps some of those require firming up. For example, I’m unsure whether it’s standard practice for an unwed father to be held accountable for prenatal medical costs. If there are gaps in the system, they should be up for discussion. But I ask for one final time… what does this have to do with the legality of abortion?