A Man’s Right to Choose

From A Man’s Right to Choose, an op-ed in the New York Times by Dalton Conley:

About a decade ago, my girlfriend became pregnant. It wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t exactly unplanned either, in that we obviously knew how biology worked. I desperately wanted to keep the baby, but she wasn’t ready, and there were some minor medical concerns about the fetus, so she decided to terminate the pregnancy against my wishes. What right did I have to stop her? As it turned out, none. It was, indeed, a woman’s right to choose.Not surprisingly, we broke up… But every so often I think back to the fateful decision, and frustration boils up. I am particularly reminded of it now, as I counsel a friend who finds himself in a parallel – but reverse – situation: when he broke off his engagement, his girlfriend told him that she was pregnant and was going to have the child no matter what.

That is her right, of course, and nobody should be able to take that away. But when men and women engage in sexual relations both parties recognize the potential for creating life. If both parties willingly participate then shouldn’t both have a say in whether to keep a baby that results?

…the last decade has been marked by two other legal and cultural developments that should have – but haven’t – influenced reproductive policy: genetic testing and the responsible fatherhood movement. The two go hand in hand. Today we can know who the real father is, thanks to DNA testing. This means that society can hold fathers responsible for the children they sire…

…Nobody is arguing that we should let my friend who impregnated his girlfriend off the hook. If you play, you must pay. But if you pay, you should get some say…

Well, you might argue that all the man provides is his seed in a moment of pleasure. The real work consists of carrying a child for nine months…

But how many times have we heard that fatherhood is not about a moment, it is about being there for the lifetime of a child? If we extend that logic, those 40 weeks of pregnancy – as intense as they may be – are merely a small fraction of a lifetime commitment to that child.

The bottom line is that if we want to make fathers relevant, they need rights, too. If a father is willing to legally commit to raising a child with no help from the mother he should be able to obtain an injunction against the abortion of the fetus he helped create.

Putting this into effect would be problematic, of course. But while such issues may be complicated, so is family life. Better to deal with the metaphorical dirty diapers than to pursue an inconsistent policy toward fatherhood and an abortion debate that doesn’t acknowledge the reality of all actors involved. Otherwise, don’t expect anything more of me than a few million sperm.

To me, the choice comes before conception, not after; but other than that, I believe this man makes a valid point.

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