Over the past few years, abortion rights have come under attack. Just in the last few months of 2021, state legislatures introduced more than 500 regulations on abortion.
It is absolutely appalling the extent to which some states have gone to criminalize abortion. One anti-abortion law features a 99-year maximum sentence for a woman getting an abortion, regardless of the reason. They all have long prison sentences. They all punish any doctor who performs the abortion. Yet none of them hold any father accountable for creating the unwanted pregnancy.
It gets even more disheartening when you research these bills to look for instances where a father’s accountability is included. What one finds is a bill that actually gives father’s rights not repercussions. For instance, in the state of Tennessee, legislation was introduced in early 2021 that would grant fathers veto power over abortion, with no exception for rape or incest. [Senate Bill 494]
In the landmark 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a person's constitutional right to abortion, but maintained that states could prohibit the procedure once the fetus reached viability. Viability is defined as the point at which a fetus can sustain life outside the womb. Since then and until 2021, the Supreme Court has always asserted the constitutional right to abortion, while also allowing states to determine new limits on a pregnant person's ability to obtain one.
But in September 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to act on a request by abortion-rights groups to block a Texas law, SB8, banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. The Texas law went into effect on September 1, 2021 and prohibits abortions — even for victims of rape and incest — once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at six weeks and often before many people with a uterus even realize they are pregnant.
The Texas law goes one step further than similar bills passed by other conservative-led states in that it prevents government officials from enforcing the ban and rather incentives regular citizens to sue anyone who they suspect has aided someone seeking abortion services. Citizens who win such lawsuits would be entitled to at least $10,000. Citizens can sue from anywhere in the country.
Now a dozen or so other states who have signed the Heartbeat Bills could use this formula to enact the bans. Parents Magazine has a great article that describes abortion rights by state. [Read the Article]
In October 2021, the Supreme Court reconvened and agreed to hear arguments in a major case over Mississippi's 2018 law banning abortion after 15 weeks. Their ruling is due by the end of June 2022.
Until men are required to carry a significant portion of the responsibility for an unwanted pregnancy, government cannot place all of the burden on the mothers and providers. Men and women create a pregnancy and current legislation doesn’t appear to recognize this. We need to shift the focus and start addressing shared responsibility. If we want to end abortion it has to start with addressing the fathers. Without them there would be no unwanted pregnancies. Once we start with this conversation, we will find different solutions.