Monday, December 22, 2008

My Position

This last semester I was enrolled in an English Writing Class. I had the task of choosing an issue I felt strongly about, which I would then spend the whole semester developing a position for. In the end, I was able to describe my thoughts and convictions on paper, which resulted in a final essay of my carefully thought out topic.

This wasn't an easy assignment for me. I had many ideas of what issue I would take a stand on, and then write about. I finally came to a decision of the topic I would develop over the course of 16 weeks, and it became an issue that was near and dear to my heart.

Fathers Rights.

I'm sure the rights of fathers is an issue that many of us have heard about, or even personally experienced. The perspective of fathers rights I choose to concentrate on was the lack-of rights fathers have to prevent their wife or girlfriend from having an abortion.

This may not be something that most people even think about. Well, I have been thinking about this for 12 years, and I finally want to express my thoughts about this seemingly unknown issue.

The following is the final copy of my Position Paper/Portfolio for those who may be interested in what I have to say. Be warned, it is a long post, but one that I think you will find worth reading.

Fathers Rights to Life:
The Struggles Men Face to Protect Their Child in the Womb.

As the world turns each day, we are faced more and more with the many choices life presents us, and in an attempt to make sense of exactly who we are, it’s tempting to choose the path of least resistance. This is done, subconsciously or consciously, in an effort to survive with as little pain as possible. However, through the never ending choices one finds in front of them, the one path we painfully decide on can drastically and negatively affect those around us. The following story illustrates this point.

As a young man hears the news for the first time that his girlfriend is pregnant, the seconds that follow are a blur. At first, he is overwhelmed with a flood of emotions, and then the hypothetical questions race through his mind as he tries to make sense of the information he has just learned. There’s no doubt he’s scared and nervous. Then he comes to terms with the idea and starts to feel a little joy. He will be a father! He has always wanted to have children, he just didn’t think it was going to be this soon and with this woman standing in front of him. He tells himself, “What’s done is done. Now where do we go from here?”. The days and weeks follow with conversations of marriage, baby names, nursery colors and whether the baby is a boy or girl. There’s excitement in the air even with the future grandparents as they plan for their first grandchild to enter the world. However, much to their surprise, the girlfriend informs her boyfriend and his family that she will be having an abortion. She doesn’t give any real explanation as to why, only that it’s her body and she has the right to decide what’s best for her. This comes as a bombshell to the boyfriend and his family. They cry, beg and plead with her to carry the baby to term and then turn over her parental rights to the father who is willing and able to care for an infant. Even the soon-to-be grandparents offer to raise the child themselves. She refuses. Her parents are in agreement with the choice she has made, and are paying all the expenses involved in carrying out the abortion. The boyfriend and his family are devastated and shocked at the apathy they feel from the girlfriend, especially since there was never any talk or question about abortion. She just didn’t want the responsibility of a child, and took it upon herself to decide for the both of them.

Abortion has been controversially practiced and debated since the beginning of time, and the reasons behind the choices are so vast that one can’t possibly comprehend them all. As was just illustrated, the girlfriend was faced with a choice that was extremely difficult; however, in her effort to do what she felt was best for her, she devastated the lives of many other people. It will never be clear if she considered the different family members this baby would have had. This decision shattered a whole family and no one could stop her. Now the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles of this child will be mourning the death of a family member. The hard truth of the matter is, fathers don’t have any legal recourse to stop a woman from terminating her pregnancy. Fathers should have rights when is comes to protecting their unborn children from unwanted abortions, and they don’t.

If the issue of abortion itself were set aside, and the focus was just on the rights (or lack thereof) of the fathers, you’d find many different perspectives on this controversial topic. There are many positions and opinions as to why women have abortions, including: overpopulation, rape, incest, birth defect, poor health, inconvenient timing, unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, and poverty (Reasons). However, regardless of these justifications, many claim that it’s a woman’s right to abort a pregnancy for any reason and on demand. After reviewing several of these explanations as to the rights father’s have and don’t have when it comes to abortion, the following are three that I felt were important enough to exemplify: first, the lack of consideration fathers have in the decision making process; second, the effects on fathers after an abortion has been performed against his will; lastly, the fact that husbands and boyfriends don’t have to be consulted or even informed before an abortion.

First of all, the fact that fathers aren’t even considered with regards to this issue strikes me as odd. As the law reads today, only women have the right to decide when it comes to aborting a pregnancy. However, the father’s voice is slowly being heard. In an article by Mike Hixenbaugh, a staff writer for The Record-Courier, he states, “Simply taking a look at this as a possibility is a step in the right direction. Pregnancy is a unique human condition and obviously a woman is affected differently than a man…However, to completely take rights away from the father is unfair” (Hixenbaugh). Men deserve the same rights as women do when it comes protecting their unborn child, and the fact that fathers are only being taken into a fraction of the consideration is, in many ways, quite disturbing. Jeffery M. Leving, a family attorney and member of Congressional Task Force on Fathers, Families & Public Policy, says, “Depriving fathers of a meaningful voice will not solve the problem for anyone…Moreover, many children will be far beyond the protective reach of their fathers who want to be included in such a pivotal decision” (Leving).

Secondly, the effects of an unwanted abortion on a father-to-be can be long-lasting. There are many different ways an abortion may impact the life of a father. A father experiencing such a situation may suffer a wide range of emotions, including: depression, sleeplessness, bad dreams, nightmares, sexual dysfunctions, fear of failure, fear of rejection, loneliness or numbness, relationship struggles, difficulty with commitment, lack of self worth, inability to trust friends, anger, rage, addictions and sexual compulsions (My Life). A man can experience grief and pain for his unborn child as each year passes by. He may fall into a depression during a time when his child was due to be born and feel extreme heartache with the realization of the age that child could be any given moment. In the article titled, “My Life was Changed Forever“, it states, “Although the abortion may take care of the “immediate” problem, the impact of its finality and irreversibility can be overwhelming”. With this in mind, a frequently heard quote among pro-life advocates is: “There are only two victims to every abortion, but only one survives”. On the contrary, “for every abortion there is a third victim that gets overlooked most of the time. The victim is the father-to-be of the aborted child ” (Tabor). Dealing with the symptoms that occur from the loss of an unwanted abortion can be difficult. However, the most important way to cope would be to find someone to share the experience with and express the grief and pain being felt (Mattes).

Lastly, a perspective on abortion that may not be wide spread, is the fact that fathers do not have to be consulted or even informed when his wife or girlfriend aborts their child. According to a Supreme Court case in 1976, “Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, a decision was handed down regarding fathers’ rights and abortion. One of the findings was that a man’s right to know about his wife or daughter’s abortion is ‘unconstitutional’” (Stewart). To some degree this doesn’t make much since especially when “in most countries men have no right to insist that a woman abort an embryo that they have fathered. Most legal systems don’t allow a father to escape responsibility for his child and for paying to support that child; this applies even if the father had wanted the mother to have an abortion” (“Abortion and the Father“). If this is understood correctly, a mother can abort a child without legally having to ask or inform the father, even if he wants the child and has the willingness and means to care for it. However, if the mother gives birth to a child against the will and/or knowledge of the father, legally he is financially responsible for the well being of that child. He has no legal rights to protect his unborn child; however, a deadbeat dad is held to a higher standard in terms of caring for children that are alive. Although logically it may seem cruel and horrible to not allow a willing father to care for a child he helped create, the law is the law, and women have beaten the fathers in every aspect when it comes to the choice of an unborn child’s life. “Women have all the power, and men have none at all” (Lithwick).

In addition, one may find themselves being compelled to understand some of the reasoning why a woman may abort her pregnancy against the will of the father, especially when he is willing and able to care for a child. The choice of abortion seems to be a constant issue for the government to decide and pass laws about. It’s understandable that abortion is sometimes necessary when the circumstances are that of rape and incest, in fact, it may be the only option a woman, man or couple may have. However, more often than one might think, a woman aborts a pregnancy without the consent and/or knowledge of the father, even if she is married to him.

The issue of abortion itself isn’t being debated in this paper. Having an abortion is a right a citizen has according to many states in the U.S., and the idea that someone may make use of the services of an abortionist is entirely the choice of the individuals involved. The position that this paper is taking is not that abortion is right or wrong, it’s the fact that fathers are becoming victims by not being afforded the same rights as women. Is there anyone out there willing to take a look at these devastated fathers and realize that they are people too, who experience feelings of heartache and loss just like any woman in this world? Will there ever be equal rights when it comes to this issue? A father has the right to have an active role in the decision making process when an abortion is being thought out. It’s sad to learn that a husband and father doesn’t even have to be informed when their wives or daughters terminate their pregnancy, claiming “…it an “undue burden” on women to have to share their abortion decision (or even notification) with their husband” (Stewart).

There are many individuals who disagree with me. They believe that it is a woman’s Constitutional Right to be in control of her own body, and that she should have the right to choose for herself what is and isn’t done with it. They also feel that no woman should be forced to grow a baby in her womb against her will. In fact, according to Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor of Slate, “The courts won’t stomach forcing a woman to bear a child to term against her will”. Other reasons may include: feeling pressure by parents or other family members, financial concerns, the inconvenient timing of a pregnancy, and the interference of goals (“Reasons”). These may seem like very logical reasons, however the thought of a father not being informed of the possible termination of his unborn child goes against his rights as a human being. He doesn’t have the freedom of choice to decide whether he is willing to take on the responsibility of fatherhood.

No one wins when it comes to this very controversial issue of who has what rights and who doesn’t. The lines are clearly drawn and when it comes right down to the basics, the one who loses is most likely the unborn child. The fact of the matter is, a father’s voice isn’t being heard and it should be. In the United States alone there have been 48,589,993 abortions performed since Roe v. Wade in 1973 to the year 2004 (“Abortion in the United States“). Hypothetically, if only half of these abortions were performed with the disapproval of the fathers, that would leave 24,294,996 grieving men in the United States. Unfortunately, like the boyfriend in the story, he was one of many experiencing the same disregard. In this manner, the lives of these fathers will never be the same.

The decision to have an abortion is one of grave importance. It can and will change the lives of many people, not just the mother. Although the argument that a woman should be able to choose what happens to her body is a valid position, the fact that there is a huge lack of consideration for fathers in the decision making process, is one aspect that needs to be reconsidered. The effects on fathers after an unwanted abortion has been performed against his will are very real and can change a man forever. The devastation that follows after an unwanted abortion can last for many, many years. Also, the fact that husbands don’t have to be informed of their wives’, or daughters abortion, seems so disturbing that the law deserves to be criticized, and the possibilities of more equal rights for fathers should be considered. The men of this country deserve a voice in this matter. It isn’t justifiable that a father be excluded from the process of determining if a child, his child, should or shouldn’t be brought into this world. If the choice comes to pass that an abortion is the right choice for the couple, than so be it. The only argument is, fathers need and want to be a part of the decision, and we have a responsibility to make that opportunity available.

It’s our duty to acknowledge these fathers whom have experienced this heartache and will continue to do so, until their voices are heard and someone or something makes a change. It’s ignorant to believe that laws can’t be revolutionized and people can’t make a difference. Hopefully, one day the eyes and ears of the law will shift in the direction of fathers and ultimately give hope to those who seek the opportunity to be heard.

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