Roe vs. Wade is a remarkable case as much for the lack of interest of Roe (real name Norma McCorvey) in the case itself. She was an unreliable witness first claiming her pregnancy was the result of rape, and later recanting the claim. By the time the case came to the Supreme Court, Norma McCorvey had already had the child. Nevertheless, she became a cause célèbre for the issue of abortion on demand.
It is even more remarkable although rarely acknowledged, that the power women won through this case was granted through those who are so often seen as limiting women's rights. This case and the judgment emerged through the male-dominated legal institution. The ruling opinion was delivered by a set of male judges.
Despite the judgment which gave women the right to abortion on demand, the issue is one that is debated on an ongoing basis, even among women. On one hand are those who defend the fetus' 'right-to-life' and on the other are those who defend the mother's 'right-to-choice.'
So, the battle lines are clearly drawn. Except that one stakeholder, the individual that is essential for this circumstance to arise is not even invited to the battle. Where is the father?
The rights of the father are simply non-existent. Even if he wants to defend the rights of the fetus over the mother as noted by a (male) Supreme Court justice:
"A father's interest in having a child – perhaps his only child – may be unmatched by any other interest in his life… It is truly surprising that… the State must assign a greater value to a mother's decision to cut off a potential human life by abortion than to a father's decision to let it mature into a live child."The issue is particularly perplexing when it is realized that the woman decides whether or not to carry the fetus. The man who has no role in the decision can be required to pay for support of that child.
The pro-choice view is one that quite clearly provides considerable rights to women. To do otherwise, to force her to carry a child against her wishes, is viewed as subjecting the mother to 'involuntary servitude' or 'forced labor.' This is in violation of the thirteenth amendment.
However, the pro-choice view is limited to a choice by the mother. She can, if she chooses, decide to carry the child. And should she do so, she can claim child support from the alleged father of the child. And the courts will defend her in her right to do this.
It is intriguing then, that while even if he does not want the child, the father can be effectively set to 18 or so years of 'involuntary servitude' or 'forced labor.' As the fetus has no voice, the only one that really has the power to make that happen is the mother.
It is not my desire to argue that men or women get a rougher deal than the other in general. In this case however, it must be acknowledged that a woman's claims to having fewer rights are unreasonable. Nonetheless, she will have to physically carry the child for nine months.
Despite the uneven degree of involvement, her commitment and his involvement are mutually required. If she makes the decision to carry the child, this gives her the right to demand support from the man. So her decision has consequences on him – economic rather than physical, but consequences nonetheless.
Once the baby exits her body, modern technology allows for the involvement of the mother and the father to be virtually identical. However, the courts don't see it that way. The man can be asked to pay for the child, and the mother can choose to be an at-home mother. The women's rights continue, and she can require the unwitting father to shoulder his financial responsibility in raising a child even when she has deliberately deceived him. Yes, it has happened. And on at least one occasion, the man contested her right to do this. And he lost.
Matt Dubay is the man's name. Lauren Wells, his girlfriend told him that she was not able to have a child, and told him that in any case, she was taking contraceptives. After they separated, she informed him that she was pregnant. They reportedly discussed adoption. However, she chose not to follow this course of action and kept the baby at birth.
Despite Dubay's being deceived in the first instance, and unable to have his wishes met in the second instance, the judge ruled that he had to pay $475 a month and half of the child's health costs until the child reached maturity.
Look, abortion is undoubtedly a difficult issue. There are a number of lives involved. First and foremost, an unborn child who cannot speak for themselves.. And then there's the mother. There's no doubt that her wishes are vitally important.
However, there is also a father.