Thursday, December 1, 2005

Father's rights to their unborn child

For the past two weeks on his Defending Life show, Fr. Frank Pavone has been highlighting the phenomenon known as "lost fatherhood." Lost fatherhood is the name of the set of symptoms that men suffer from after the loss of a child through abortion. The testimonies of several fathers were shown, as well as their involvement with the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

You may be wondering why this is even an issue. Doesn't it seem obvious that a married woman would notify her husband upon the abortion of their child? Sadly, the Supreme Court doesn't seem to think it is necessary to require this precisely because it seems so obvious, however by ruling this way in their 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, they effectively stripped all fathers of unborn children from their legal rights to protect the life of that child from abortion. With the legal precedent set by Roe, this is to be expected, and gives us one more reason to fight for a human-life-at-conception amendment to the US Constitution.

Here are some excerpts from the Casey decision which struck down Section 3209, a provision "which command[ed] that, unless certain exceptions apply, a married woman seeking an abortion must sign a statement indicating that she has notified her husband." The following absurd statements speak for themselves on the extreme nature of the Casey decision.

This conclusion rests upon the basic nature of marriage and the nature of our Constitution: [T]he marital couple is not an independent entity with a mind and heart of its own, but an association of two individuals, each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup. If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child… The husband's interest in the life of the child his wife is carrying does not permit the State to empower him with this troubling degree of authority over his wife. (505 U.S. 833, 896)


After all, if the husband's interest in the fetus' safety is a sufficient predicate for state regulation, the State could reasonably conclude that pregnant wives should notify their husbands before drinking alcohol or smoking. Perhaps married women should notify their husbands before using contraceptives or before undergoing any type of surgery that may have complications affecting the husband's interest in his wife's reproductive organs. And if a husband's interest justifies notice in any of these cases, one might reasonably argue that it justifies exactly what the Danforth Court held it did not justify - a requirement of the husband's consent as well. A State may not give to a man the kind of dominion over his wife that parents exercise over their children.



Section 3209 embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common law status of married women, but repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry. The Constitution protects all individuals, male or female, married or unmarried, from the abuse of governmental power, even where that power is employed for the supposed benefit of a member of the individual's family. These considerations confirm our conclusion that 3209 is invalid. (505 U.S. 833, 898)


I mention this case specifically because it was the reason that Judge Samuel Alito has been tagged as supportive of the pro-life cause (well, we hope!). Prior to being sent to the Supreme Court, this case was decided by three judges in Pennsylvania. Judge Alito was one of those three, and his opinion was that spousal consent was constitutionally protected.

In light of the upcoming hearings for Alito's confirmation, the New York Times has been featuring several op-eds focusing on the irony of a lack of spousal or fathers' rights. Please read today's article, "Man's right to choose" and an article from a few weeks ago, "Right to be a father."

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