Bench Memos

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I Am Man, Hear Me Roar!


George Will has a very good column in the Washington Post today on the law and politics of abortion. Also worth a look is a column by one Dalton Conley in the New York Times, titled “A Man’s Right to Choose.” Conley argues that modern genetic testing and recent advances in the encouragement of “responsible fatherhood” should make us ready for this next step in abortion policy: “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.” Pretty radical stuff for the Times, right?

But before anyone says “amen, brother,” it should be noted that Conley’s own logic runs in the opposite direction too. Though he does not draw this conclusion, his argument could equally lead to the view that a man who is unwilling to commit to raising a child, who wants no offspring (at least by the woman in question), and who is fearful of being dunned for child support by a single mom whose baby he sired, should be able to get an injunction ordering the woman to obtain an abortion.

What, you say? Could Conley’s argument open the door to that possibility? Sure it could. He himself uses the example early in the article of a friend “whose girlfriend told him that she was pregnant and was going to have the child no matter what.” This Conley describes as “a parallel–but reverse–situation” comparable to that of the willing father helpless to prevent an abortion.

Only one thing can keep Conley’s argument running in the direction he apparently prefers, and not in the other direction as well. That one thing is a pro-life principle, grounded in the view that the unborn child is just that–an unborn child, not “an individual under construction” (Conley’s preferred via media) whose progress toward personhood can be halted if enough “responsible” parties are involved.

Conley is all for “father’s rights,” meaning joining fathers to mothers in the ranks of the powerful. He has nothing to say for the powerless, whose destruction appears not to trouble him if the grown-ups agree.


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