Supreme Court: When It Comes to Abortion, Father’s Day Only Starts at Birth

Opinion   |   Charmaine Yoest   |   Jun 16, 2013   |   1:55PM   |   Washington, DC

I wanted to wish you all a very Happy Father’s Day.

This is a day that we should all recognize as being a particularly subversive celebration for the pro-life mission. . . Why subversive? We live today in a world that only recognizes the rights of the father when a child is born. Up until that moment, the Supreme Court has told us that the mother’s choice trumps the father’s interest unilaterally and completely.

Writing in the Casey decision, Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Souter outlined the parameters that still define this issue today:

It is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the child a woman is carrying will have a far greater impact on the mother’s liberty than on the father’s . . . Inasmuch as it is the woman who physically bears the child and who is the more directly and immediately affected by the pregnancy, as between the two, the balance weighs in her favor. (Citing to Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, ruling that a husband’s consent could not be required for a woman to obtain an abortion.)

The Justices then explained their concern that a husband might abuse his pregnant wife if he were allowed standing in the abortion decision. They then concluded: The husband’s interest in the life of the child his wife is carrying does not permit the State to empower him with this troubling degree of authority over his wife.

Of course, lost in this formulation of the abortion “choice” scenario is the independent life of the child – carrying from the moment of conception a unique DNA giving that baby identifying characteristics reflecting his father. One of my daughters has her father’s blue eyes. Both of my sons have his height. Another daughter has her father’s quick wit. Another one his fierce determination. We know that a father is essential from the very moment of conception. That’s why I say that this holiday is subversive! On the surface, there will appear to be a near-universal outpouring of father-recognition. As there should be.

But there is a deeper subtext. Let us recognize and remember that in fact, a celebration of fathers directly confronts the prevailing ideology and entrenched legal doctrine that has marked out a clear line of demarcation — a line of “choice” that says “your rights this far and no further.”

I often have people tell me that we have to focus on the culture in order to change the law. But the law related to father’s rights in abortion is a good example of how the law equally affects the culture. This badly reasoned doctrine that gives the mother sole power over her unborn child undermines the institution of fatherhood in a very real and pervasive way in our culture.

So let us celebrate Father’s Day this weekend with equal parts joy and steely resolve. In the face of a culture that mocks them and minimizes their essential role in children’s lives, let us remember that restoring the dignity of fatherhood must be an essential part of the pro-life mission.



Thank you for being a part of Team Life and for your support and encouragement.

And Happy Father’s Day! Note: Charmaine Yoest is the president of Americans United for Life.