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Jewish World Review August 12, 2002/ 4 Elul, 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Biology burdens and marriage

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The messy business last week of a man trying to prevent his ex-girlfriend's abortion is the best argument yet for marriage. At least for men.

First, this won't be a defense of abortion. Current law supports a woman's right to "choose," and legally the case has been appropriately resolved. The court ruling in question confirmed what Roe vs. Wade guaranteed, that only a woman has the right to determine whether she carries a pregnancy to term.

But the pushing and shoving from abortion friends and foes, as well as fathers' rights groups, underscores an unlikely truth -- that men more than women need marriage today. And children as always, whether born or unborn, need it most of all.

This unpleasant chapter in family history began when Tanya Meyers, 22 and 10 weeks pregnant, wanted to end her pregnancy. But her former boyfriend, John Stachokus, 27, wanted her to carry the baby to term and let him have custody of the child.

Stachokus sought and was granted a temporary injunction barring the abortion. A common-pleas judge on Monday dissolved the injunction and dismissed a lawsuit filed by Stachokus. A few days later, Meyers reportedly suffered a miscarriage.

The fetus -- also known as a baby among those who plan their pregnancies -- is no longer at issue. But the rumblings from both sides of the argument provided a glimpse at what happens when a society abandons its most important institution, marriage, and the families it is intended to protect and nurture.

Were the couple married, we might have been blessed in never knowing their names. Although it is true that a married woman can get an abortion without her husband's permission, most abortions don't happen that way. Recent research shows that unmarried women are six times more likely than married women to seek an abortion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (1996) Abortion Surveillance Report found that 80 percent of women who got abortions in 1995 were unmarried. The highest rate was among women 18 to 19 years old.

Even without relying on a court's application of Roe vs. Wade to cases like Stachokus', one could reasonably argue against his claim. From a woman's point of view, it is unconscionable that a man -- a former boyfriend no less -- could prevail in insisting she give birth to his child. Women in this country, thankfully, are not required to serve as child-bearing vessels for men.

Moreover, as a matter of simple biology, women bear the larger burden in the child-bearing equation. Having sex does not a father make, but carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth does make a woman a mother. Nine months of another human being growing inside one's own body changes more than a woman's dress size.

I didn't say it makes her a good mother, or a more qualified parent. It may well be that Stachokus would have proven to be a lovely parent, but his donation of sperm to the equation of procreation doesn't compare to the woman's contribution. Without the moral bindings of marriage, by which men promise to protect their offspring, his vote simply has less sway.

But what about other considerations? What about the man's moral claim to what is undeniably his offspring-to-be? I sympathize with fathers' rights advocates who argue that the same woman who has the unilateral right to abort her fetus also can seek financial support from the "father" if she gives birth.

Under my dictatorship, this would be disallowed. If a woman can make the choice to abort or have a baby without the father's consent, she can do so without his financial support. Fair is fair.

Ideally, of course, Meyers and Stachokus might have avoided this altogether by practicing better birth control. They're not children, and Meyers already has a child. She knows how "it" happens. Message: Try chatting before sex.

It must be bitterly ironic to men that the tables have turned so dramatically. Once upon a time, women insisted on marriage before sex and in order to have children. Now women eschew marriage, have sex as casually as men, and have children when it suits them -- all under the protection of laws that also permit what amounts to extortion through child support.

The only hope men now have of becoming fathers who play more than a peripheral financial role is through marriage. If they can find someone who'll say "I do."

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