Father's rights trampled

Posted: Aug 14, 2002 12:00 AM
Since Roe vs. Wade secured for women their right to execute their unborn babies, there has been a common refrain - because women are biologically tied to the birth process, they bear the responsibility in deciding the birth or death of their children. Women rally around this decision the way medieval citizens used to worship the church. The reason for their support is straightforward. Roe vs. Wade rejected the idea that another person controlled a woman's body. This shattered patriarchal stereotypes that regarded women as little more than vessels. Plainly that is a good thing. But, in the continued fight for equality, various feminist groups have refused to acknowledge the basic human rights of the unborn child and the father. Plainly, that is a bad thing. Just ask John Stachokus. Not long ago, Stachokus planned to have a child with his 23-year-old girlfriend. Together, they picked out the child's name and godparents. He imagined what it would be like to start a family. This made him happy. Then one day, his girlfriend abruptly decided to terminate her pregnancy. She was reacting to pressure from her parents, Stachokus says. Stachokus responded by obtaining an injunction, temporarily prohibiting her from having an abortion. Common Pleas Judge Michael Conahan overturned that decision last week. Just that quickly, Stachokus' hopes and dreams for his child dissolved. It did not matter that Stachokus was willing to take responsibility for nurturing and providing for the child. It did not matter that he has basic human rights. All that mattered was that his girlfriend suddenly changed her mind and decided to murder their unborn baby. You see, as far as the court is concerned, John has no say in the life of his own child. Apparently, the court regards John as little more than a turkey baster with a pulse. Of course, the response of abortion rights advocates is predictable. They greeted news of Stachokus' child's demise with cheers and the standard rhetoric about a woman's right to choose. "An adult woman has a fundamental constitutional right to privacy," said Linda Rosenthal, an attorney representing John's girlfriend. And, indeed, it is her body, but her body does not exist in a vacuum. She shared that body with Stachokus - as he did with her - and together they made a decision that neither was equipped to carry out on their own. Doesn't this symbiotic act give John some say in the matter? After all, if the baby had been carried to term, Stachokus would have been legally obligated to pay child support. But on the decision of whether or not to abort his child, he is denied any say whatsoever. That is an appalling contradiction. We live in an age of eroding family values where fathers routinely abandon their children and disregard their familial responsibilities. John's desire to raise and care responsibly for his child should be commended and encouraged. Instead, the law brutally and arbitrarily denies that he has any right to his child whatsoever. Countless men are faced with the same nightmare of having no voice in the execution of their child. "Men's rights are trampled on all the time when it comes to reproductive rights," said Dianna Thompson, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. It is time to fight back, to force our government to re-evaluate the logic of treating men like nothing more than fertilizers. This case raises serious questions about a father's say in the life of his own child, as well as the extent of the government's duty to help project human rights and encourage the family unit. Sadly, these profound questions bounced off Judge Conahan's forehead and into the trash bin of a society that increasingly treats Roe vs. Wade like God, and relegates the voice of fathers and unborn babies to the silent margin.