Tuesday, January 15, 2008
If I was 14 weeks' pregnant, I could have an abortion. I could simply decide on my own that another child would complicate my life in unacceptable ways. Too expensive, too inconvenient, not the right time - whatever the cause - I could make a call, schedule an abortion and be rid of my problem.
I could do this because I'm a woman, the potential mother-to-be. Fathers, however, do not share the same rights. Just ask Manishkumar Patel.
Patel, 34, of Appleton was charged in November with attempted first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child and eight other counts for allegedly slipping the abortion drug RU-486 into his pregnant girlfriend's drink. She later miscarried - her second miscarriage in less than a year. (A warrant has been issued for Patel's arrest after he failed to check in with Outagamie County sheriff's authorities last week.)
Patel's actions, if proved, were wrong. No one ever should surreptitiously give a drug to another. But why can a father be charged with attempted homicide when a mother can choose legally to take the exact same drug with the exact same effect.
The legal answer is because Wisconsin is one of 37 states to have a fetal homicide law. In Wisconsin, it is a felony to intentionally destroy the life of an unborn quick child. Under the law, feticide is a Class E felony, carrying a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.
Yet under Roe vs. Wade, women are free to destroy their unborn child at almost any time. Is this fair? Is this right?
Even if you agree with the legality of abortion - which I do - how do you reconcile the fact that mothers-to-be are allowed to stop a pregnancy from progressing to birth while fathers are not? Does the fetus not share the DNA of both mother and father?
Fathers, I think, get short shrift. Because a mother carries the child, she has all the power. She can decide to keep the child or not. The father has no say, although the decision has lifelong implications for both of them. Should the mother decide to keep the child despite the father's wishes, he will be forced to provide financial support for 18 years, whether or not it is convenient to do so. Should she decide to abort a child that he would rather keep, he has no recourse - only empty arms and an empty heart.
It appears Patel had no intention of loving or caring for his unborn child. He was married to another woman. If he and his girlfriend had talked about it, perhaps they could have prevented the unplanned pregnancy, much less two of them. Instead, Patel allegedly took matters into his own hands.
His case deserves our attention. Patel's alleged actions may have been reprehensible, but fathers are parents, too. Let's hope this case draws attention to the rights of fathers everywhere.
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