July 24, 2004

You May Be Donating More Than You Think

My opinion on abortion has pretty much been as follows:

Until I develop a womb, and can carry a child in it for nine months as a woman does, I'm just gonna shut the hell up.

If you really pressured me, I would come down on the side of pro-choice. But I can't help but notice what I feel are glaring inconsistencies in the law, or perhaps more correctly, the implementation of the law. Take this case for example, in which a sperm donor is forced by the PA courts to pay child support to the twins born from his donation.
The three-judge panel ruled Thursday that the deal between Joel McKiernan and Ivonne Ferguson - in which McKiernan donated his sperm and would not be obligated to pay any support - was unenforceable because of "legal, equitable and moral principles."

Despite an agreement that appeared to be a binding contract, the father is obligated to provide financial support, the court decided.

"It is the interest of the children we hold most dear,'" wrote Senior Judge Patrick Tamalia.

We all know that the mother's right to privacy gives her the right to abort the pregnancy. (Apparently the right of the children is not always held "most dear.") The courts determined that in Roe v. Wade (1973) :
This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Clear enough. But the court's opinion goes on to say:

...appellant and some amici argue that the woman's right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree....The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot be said to be absolute. In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court's decisions. The Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past....We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.

Is there room in there for the father's rights? It's a tough question. We strive for equality among the genders, at least under the law. But here there is a clear case in which biological differences have created (and almost necessitated) inequalities under the law. As this article from Slate states, "the law just can't overcome our gender-bound bodies."

The article also mentions the reasoning behind Planned Parenthood v. Danforth (1976):
In situations where one parent was being given a veto--have the baby or don't--the court determined that it could not give fathers veto power the state itself did not posses.

I guess my question, then, is "why?" The state has no problem giving that power to the mother. True, it is her body. But as stated above, that right to privacy is not absolute, according to the courts. Logically, the state should not posses the power to veto--it has very little, if any, stake in the matter. But extending that argument to include the father falls apart. He does have a very big stake in the matter. Although he is not affected physically, he is subject to some of the other hardships that result from a pregnancy, and which were the reasoning behind the Roe v. Wade decision--emotional, social, and financial hardships.

I don't know what the answer is. I don't know if there even is one. I know I don't have one. I'd like to see where you all stand on the matter. Ring out and let your voice be heard! (At least by the three or four readers I have...)

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