WILLIAMS: A critical role for fathers

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OPINION/ANALYSIS:

The celebration of Father’s Day allows our nation a moment to pause and reflect on the memories and experiences of childhood and fatherhood alike.

Aside from the typical gift selection of a new tie, putter or power tools, no serious consideration is given to this holiday. This Father’s Day, take a break from the barbecue grill, playing catch or listening to another one of dad’s widely exaggerated stories (that you’ve already heard at least a thousand times), and ponder a more broad subject, the rights of a father.

A father’s rights have remained a largely hidden issue, tucked away beneath America’s fiery and passionate opinions on abortion. In many ways, the parental rights of expectant fathers are blatantly ignored, and fathers are, in a court of law, unable to voice their opinion in regard to childbirth.

A fundamental assumption leading to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade was that because women are biologically tied to the birth process, they should therefore bear all responsibility in deciding the life or death of their children. The reason for this perspective is straightforward: Roe v. Wade rejected the idea that another person controlled a woman’s body.

On the one hand, 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 co-equal contributors to pregnancy: the unborn child and the father. Plainly, that is a bad thing.

Just ask John Stachokus.

Not long ago, Mr. Stachokus planned to have a child with his 23-year-old girlfriend. Together, they picked out the child’s name and godparents. He proudly 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, Mr. Stachokus says. He responded by obtaining an injunction, temporarily prohibiting her from having an abortion, which a court rejected. And just that quickly, Mr. Stachokus’ hopes and dreams for his child dissolved.

It did not matter to the court that Mr. Stachokus was willing to take full responsibility for nurturing and providing for the child. His basic human rights did not factor into the court’s decision. All that mattered was that his girlfriend suddenly changed her mind and decided to murder their unborn baby. As far as the court was concerned, Mr. Stachokus had no say in the life of his own child. The court regarded him as little more than a soulless contributor of DNA.

Of course, the response of abortion rights advocates is predictable. They greeted news of the demise of Mr. Stachokus’ child 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 the girlfriend.

Indeed, it is her body, but her body does not exist in a vacuum. She shared that body with Mr. Stachokus - as he did with her - and together they made a decision that led to the creation of a baby (a feat neither of them could have accomplished individually).

Doesn’t this symbiotic act give the father some say in the matter of whether his girlfriend may have an abortion? After all, if the baby had been carried to term, Mr. Stachokus, irrespective of his own preferences, would have been legally obligated to pay child support. Society would have demanded that he take responsibility. And yet when it comes to the decision of whether to abort that same child, he is denied any say whatsoever. That is an appalling contradiction.

We live in an age of eroding family values, in which fathers routinely abandon their children and disregard their familial responsibilities. Mr. Stachokus’ 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 children.

“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 as little more than fertilizers.

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