- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

A Pennsylvania court lifted yesterday its earlier ruling that temporarily prevented a woman from having an abortion.

Common Pleas Judge Michael Conahan dissolved the temporary injunction issued last week to prevent 23-year-old Tanya Meyers from ending her pregnancy.

Miss Meyers' ex-boyfriend, John Stachokus, filed a lawsuit July 29 trying to prevent her from obtaining an abortion. Judge Conahan dismissed the lawsuit as well yesterday.

"It is incredible that it took this long for the Pennsylvania courts to recognize my client's established constitutional rights, but we are relieved that this ordeal is finally over," said Linda Rosenthal, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy and lead counsel on the case. "An adult woman has a fundamental constitutional right to privacy. There is no excuse for what happened in Pennsylvania this past week."

Mr. Stachokus, 27, said he was willing to take full or partial custody of the child and that Miss Meyers' mother was pressuring her to have the abortion.

Miss Meyers is 10 weeks pregnant.

In his decision yesterday, Judge Conahan said Mr. Stachokus did not cite legal authority establishing his right to block Miss Meyers from receiving an abortion, a center statement said.

"The Supreme Court has been clear that the burdens of pregnancy fall heavily on the woman and during the pregnancy it's her right to decide what's best," said Elizabeth Cavendish, legal director for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

The decision yesterday dismayed abortion opponents and fathers' rights advocates, who argued that fathers should have a say in the outcome of a pregnancy they helped create.

Dianna Thompson, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, called the court's decision a "travesty" and said it "clearly shows that when fathers try to be responsible, these are the kinds of barriers they face."

She said that if the judge was simply following law in throwing out the injunction and lawsuit, "then I really believe we need to start changing some laws" to provide fathers' rights.

"We hear so often how fathers don't take responsibility," Miss Thompson said. "Here's a father who clearly stated, 'I will pay for everything for this child; I will take full responsibility,' and his rights were ignored."

Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, said, "The current abortion regime ignores completely the rights of the father and the rights of the child." He added, "And that is wrong."

Mr. Connor said the Pennsylvania case raises the important question of "whether fathers have any rights at all with regard to their children or whether they're going to be relegated to mere inseminators."

"It's nice to see a young man doing all he can to prolong the life of his child," said Erik Whittington, spokesman for the American Life League, a pro-life group. "Hopefully, the man will appeal the case. As fathers, I think we have the right to protect our children."

Miss Cavendish said it is common to hear of a man trying to stop a woman from having an abortion, but she knows of no precedent in which a judge has issued an injunction.

The injunction was issued July 29 by another judge in the Common Pleas Court, a center aide said. On Wednesday, Judge Conahan ordered the attorneys in the case to submit additional legal papers on the issue, the aide said. The center issued an emergency appeal to the state Superior Court on Thursday, but that court asked for paperwork from the other side. The center issued another emergency appeal Friday to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but the court denied the appeal the same day.

"We're relieved that the injunction was dissolved but appalled that it was issued in the first place," Miss Cavendish said after the decision yesterday.

Miss Thompson said she believes Mr. Stachokus will appeal the case.

"I don't think this is over yet," she said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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