Saturday, January 28, 2006

The pictures said it all. First was the shot of the unflappable judge, serenely gazing — waiting, hoping Sen. Joe Biden would finally get around to asking his question. Then the unforgettable image of federal appeals court Judge Samuel Alito’s wife Martha-Ann, gasping at the accusation that her husband was a closet racist.

And at the end of it all, there was Teddy Kennedy, his contorted face reduced to a helpless, choleric rage. Richard Durbin buried his brow in his hands. And poor Dianne Feinstein — she looked like she had just returned from a back-alley encounter with a pack of mating wildebeests.

Much of the Judiciary Committee’s scrutiny revolved around Judge Alito’s views on abortion, including his 1991 dissent in the now-famous Planned Parenthood v. Casey case.

Predictably the “engaged and enraged” feminists had worked themselves into a lather. Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California fumed that Judge Alito’s position “takes us right back to the 1950s,” and a hyperventilating Louise Slaughter said Judge Alito had “argued that the state effectively has the right to give a man control over his wife.”

It may surprise many that Planned Parenthood once opposed abortion. Back in 1963, the organization warned: “An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it.”

But along came Roe v. Wade in 1973, and Planned Parenthood decided to milk the cash cow of abortion-on-demand. Eventually it realized state laws that restricted access to abortion robbed them of their market share. In Pennsylvania, the Planned Parenthood chapter began to eye a 1982 law that required a pregnant woman to “notify” her husband of her intention to abort.

Contrary to Rep. Louise Slaughter’s rant, the spousal notification requirement of the Pennsylvania law did not give the husband any veto power. In fact, the law didn’t even require a woman to “plan” the pregnancy with her spouse. It only required a simple notification, as in, “Hey hon’, I’m going to go out to have my nails done, pick up some groceries, and maybe get an abortion.”

But Planned Parenthood would not tolerate even that minimal concession to the father’s interest to keep his unborn child alive. So it sued to overturn the law.

At the time, Samuel Alito happened to be one of three judges on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Two of the judges ruled the spousal notification requirement was not lawful, but Judge Alito disagreed. He argued the provision was “constitutional because it is ‘rationally related’ to a ‘legitimate’ state interest.”

As we know, the next year Planned Parenthood took the case to the Supreme Court. In 1992, the Supreme Court affirmed fathers had no legitimate role in decisions to continue the lives of their own offspring. We have to ask how so many learned judges, most of them fathers, failed to discern a legitimate state interest in respecting the bonds between biological dads and their children.

The 1992 Supreme Court ruling came just months after Vice President Dan Quayle gave his famous “Murphy Brown” speech, which deplored the fact that, “Where there are no mature, responsible men around to teach boys how to become good men, gangs serve in their place.” The opinion followed a decade of revelations by social scientist Sara McLanahan, who discovered to her horror that fatherless children do far worse on a broad range of social indicators.

A tragic result of the decision was that fathers were banished from the abortion debate. From the Left, fathers were scorned as simply irrelevant. On the Right they were reviled for their alleged hit-and-run treatment of women, even though rape and incest accounted for less than 1 percent of all abortions. The sad fact was, dads were now persona non grata.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey amounted to the biological disenfranchisement of dads and the radical delegitimization of fatherhood. For every beating heart snuffed out by Roe v. Wade, Casey drove a stake through the heart of a father-to-be.

Judge Samuel Alito, whose confirmation is expected later this week, has almost single-handedly deflated the Leftist hegemony over the spousal notification debate. Now we can to begin to acknowledge the obvious: men are grievously wounded when removed from the life-and-death decisions affecting their own flesh and blood.


A Washington-area writer.

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