Why married men should be concerned about abortion rights
The Kansas City Star
Gentlemen, how would you like to be responsible for raising the child of the man who raped your wife.
Though the presidential election is over, disagreement about abortion rights is not. And make no mistake, opponents of abortion are determined. They convinced the Republican Party to make the party’s platform exclude any exceptions that would permit abortion, and the Susan B. Anthony political action committee says it will continue promoting this position.
Though they probably aren’t positioned to achieve their goals, there are several members of Congress who strongly support a complete ban on abortion. Paul Ryan, for example, was reelected to Congress, and he stated his position on abortion before accepting his vice-presidential nomination. Rape, he reasoned, is a method of conception, but the fertilized egg is still a human life and should not be aborted.
Ryan’s view is intellectually honest, especially in comparison to the political compromise the Romney campaign eventually settled on to allow exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. But as they say, a woman can’t be a little pregnant, and it’s not consistent to be a little pro-life.
If the fertilized egg, the zygote, is human life, there can be no exceptions that allow abortion, and though I disagree with the premise, I respect the sincerity of the view. But let’s consider the practical implications of a complete ban on abortion.
Say you’re a happily married man with a wife and two teenage children. Then your spouse is brutally raped and becomes pregnant, but the rapist isn’t caught. In most states, a husband is presumed to be the father of the baby his wife bears, and he is financially responsible for the child.
If a husband decides to divorce his wife because she has had an affair that produced a child, DNA testing may relieve a husband of financial responsibility. But in case of rape, if the rapist is not identified, would a court allow the financial burden of raising the child to fall on the mother alone? I don’t know whether this issue has been settled, but my guess is that a court would make both man and woman bear the cost of such a child. To do otherwise would punish the child.
In theory at least, a baby conceived by rape could be given up for adoption…if the baby is healthy and readily adoptable. But some women (and some men) would be reluctant to do this, and a woman’s decision to keep the child means her husband would raise the child, too.
Apart from financial considerations, there are intense emotional issues that should be considered. Ideally, a husband should be supportive of his wife if she were raped. But one might expect a man to be angry with the rapist, and the anger probably would be displaced onto his wife, at least at times.
And imagine how difficult it would be for many men to love and not be angry with a child who is the product of rape.
The difficulty fathers face when rape causes a daughter’s pregnancy is also something for men to consider. Suppose that a couple’s 16 year old daughter is the victim of rape and becomes pregnant. The parents would bear the cost of the pregnancy. And giving the baby up for adoption would mean giving away a grandchild, albeit a grandchild resulting from rape.
A decision to give a baby to adoption is always difficult, and especially in case of a pregnancy from rape, a father, mother and 16 year old daughter could have very different and conflicting feelings and opinions that would create turmoil in the family. A married couple would face a daunting task of helping their adolescent cope with the challenges of considering adoption or motherhood.
But suppose that the Republican Party platform became law and did allow exceptions for abortions in case of rape or incest. What tribunal would convene quickly and make a decision in time to permit an abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy. What evidence would suffice to prove that rape had occurred. Would the fetus have to be genetically tested to prove that the paternity could not be attributed to a husband or boyfriend of the daughter? What man do you know who wouldn’t be distraught over the trauma of such proceedings.
We may think we know, but we can’t know for sure what we would do when faced with such a crisis. Opponents of capital punishment may see things differently if a loved one is murdered. A nation decides that torture is permissible when faced with an enemy who follows no rules. Pragmatism often trumps principle.
It is difficult in multiple respects to be purely logical regarding abortion. Women whose political philosophy is pro-choice often find it unexpectedly difficult to terminate a pregnancy. Some pro-choice women who have abortions later come to regret the decision.
But I ask you, husbands and fathers who would legislate an end to all abortion exceptions, would you want a prosecution for murder of your wife or daughter for her decision to obtain an abortion? Are you sure you would truly be able, without anger or prejudice, to love a baby conceived by a rape of your wife or daughter?
These questions are neither idle nor trivial. An article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1996 estimated that there were 32,101 pregnancies annually because of rape. Everyone of these women is somebody’s daughter. Many are men’s wives.
End note: I am fully aware that I have not discussed the terrible impact of rape on women and, in general, women’s voices should be predominant in political discussions about rape and abortion. But men are also deeply affected by these issues, and I simply chose here to focus on a male’s perspective.