- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Missouri bill to require women seeking abortions to get the written, notarized consent of the unborn child’s father is reviving a long-standing argument about men’s rights in abortions.

Pro-choice groups are livid over the idea that a woman would need “a permission slip” to have an abortion.

But for years, men’s rights organizations have protested the legal double standard that allows women the unilateral power to decide to abort a fetus or to bear the child and get child support payments from the father, whether he is willing or not.

In December, Missouri State Rep. Rick Brattin, a Republican, reintroduced a bill that would forbid a physician from performing an abortion “unless and until” the father of the unborn child provided written, notarized consent to the abortion.

Pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest are exempted, and if the father has died, the woman must sign a notarized affidavit attesting to that.

In an interview with Mother Jones magazine, Mr. Brattin said he thought of the bill because he needed his wife’s written consent to get a vasectomy.

Mr. Brattin’s bill was promptly denounced by Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“What?! Are you joking?” she said in a recent email to supporters that described the bill as forcing women to get a “permission slip for an abortion.”

Ms. Hogue also took umbrage at a comment Mr. Brattin made to the Mother Jones reporter about the bill’s exemption for pregnancies conceived in rape.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it and you have to prove it,” Mr. Brattin said, according to the left-leaning magazine. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped,’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”

“Yes, he really said that,” Ms. Hogue said, referring to the phrase, “legitimate rape.”

“Legitimate rape” became front-page news in 2012 when former Senate candidate Todd Akin, a Republican, used that phrase in an interview about abortion and exceptions in cases of rape. Pro-choice and feminist groups pounced on Mr. Akin for being clueless about the gravity of rape, and helped his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, cruise to a second term.

Mr. Brattin has since told The Associated Press that his statement to Mother Jones referred to the state definition of rape.

“What I was trying to explain is whatever is considered by statute to be a rape should apply in this,” he said. “I’m not going Akin here and trying to redefine what it is and all that kind of garbage.”

Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst for RH Reality Check, a pro-choice news blog, still chided Mr. Brattin and his and others’ “fetus-first” philosophy.

As many as 60 percent of rapes are unreported, and “this bill could force rape survivors who do not want to report the rape to law enforcement to get permission from their rapists before being ‘allowed’ to get an abortion,” she wrote.

Fathers’ rights proponents have long supported the idea that fathers should be involved in abortion decisions. “Ideally,” attorney Jeffery M. Leving has written, “both parties” would be involved in “any decision regarding the child.”

But to many lawmakers, the Supreme Court already addressed the father’s-consent question: In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, the high court struck a Pennsylvania state law requiring a wife to tell her husband she was getting an abortion, saying it was an “undue burden” on her right to abortion.

Since then, many state lawmakers have been silent on the issue of any father’s rights in abortion.

An exception was in Ohio in the late 2000s, when some lawmakers, including Ohio State Republican Rep. John Adams introduced a bill similar to Mr. Brattin‘s.

There are “always two parents, and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child,” Mr. Adams said in 2007, according to the Record-Courier in Ohio.

“I didn’t bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial,” Mr. Adams added at the time. “In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say.”

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