Speaking Of Prenatal Ultrasound...

There was a moving article by Reshma Memon Yaqub in Sunday's Washington Post (free registration may be required) about a mixed-faith couple who were faced with the difficult choices involved in knowing during pregnancy that the fetus carries a genetic defect. The case involved holoprosencephaly - a devastating failure of the forebrain to develop properly - diagnosed during a prenatal ultrasound. Not only would the baby face difficulty after birth, the mother's life would be in danger during labor.

The couple had strong disagreements about whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term, and in the end, it was the mother's desire to have the child despite the eventual revelation of the near-certain post-natal death for the baby that won. The article includes a memorable retelling of the moments shortly after birth. One quote made by the father after it was over caught my eye.

Saqib, however, has dragged his feet on getting his blood tested. "There's no point," he says. Should he and Susan have another problematic pregnancy, he believes, Susan would again refuse to terminate. And he's not willing to endure such trauma again. It doesn't matter to him how low the chances are the second time around; surely chances were low the first time around, too.

Saqib says he knows he can't control the outcome of a pregnancy. But what he can try to control is the onset of one. "Before there's a pregnancy, Susan and I are equals, and we make decisions together," he explains. "After a pregnancy, when a baby is born, we would be equals and make decisions together. But it's clear to me that during a pregnancy, I am not an equal parent with full rights. So those nine months are very disempowering. And I won't go through that again."

It clear to me that there is a legal disconnect in the status of fathers before birth and after. This was not a typical case in which a father refuses to take responsibility for the care of a child because of neglect after careless sex. Rather, the father had the support of many physicians, church leaders, and family members in a difficult case of genetic mutation that put not only the child's but also the mother's life at risk. In the best case scenario, the outcome would be an emotionally difficult and financially burdensome parenthood of a child that would not be able to communicate in any meaningul way with the parents.

It was the mother's tenacity that brought the child into the world. The father simply had no choice. Ought the father have to bear the burden - emotional, financial, paternal - of providing for the child in such a situation?

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If you buy a puppy, but then

If you buy a puppy, but then decide it’s too much work to take care of, you can sell it. If a guy gets a girl pregnant, but can’t support a child, he should be able to relinquish custodial rights and not have to support it.

Certainly, but a child is qualitatively different from a puppy. Being the creator of a unique moral person, the parent has parental obligations -- both prior and after birth. The only way a parent can rightfully give up those obligations is if somebody else willingly takes them to relieve him of these obligations. A puppy, doesn't have the same moral standing as a human, and hence, abandonment -- though quite cruel -- should be permissible. That option isn't available to a human parent unless somebody else willfully accepts parental responsibilities.

Now it isn't that difficult to find somebody else willing to accept custodial responsibilities. Many people want to adopt babies. There are many private charitable shelters, and orphanages. And there would be many more options for parents who don't want their parental responsibility, if the government would get out of the adoption, welfare, and charity businesses. (If the government got out of the medicine business, it would become more and more possible earlier and earlier to remove the baby with-out killing it too -- but that's another issue.)

If the father, in this situation, can find somebody who's willing to accept responsibility through charitable (Or perhaps selling his parental obligations or paying somebody else to take them) resources, that's fine. But I don't see, how he has a right to force the mother to accept his half of the obligation, if the mother's unwilling. She was under the impression at the beginning that she would have help, from the father. Defaulting on that obligation would be wrong.

Disclaimer -- I'm arguing from a moral standpoint. I'm not a fan of government forcing child support or other sorts of regulations on families. I happen to think child support is a racket that makes these situations worse. Government trying to remedy these problems only makes things worse -- and their remedies are abused quite frequently. Women, in the current legal climate, actively search for a man to impregnate them, so they can run off, not let the father see his kid, but still sic the child support on him. Meanwhile she marries the state. But that doesn't negate that the father has a moral obligation to the child he half created until he can find somebody else willing to adopt his half of it, through some voluntary means. I simply believe that government involvement in situations like this, makes things worse.

If a girl is eight months pregnant and decides she doesn’t want to have a kid, she can get a partial birth abortion and the father has nothing to say about it even though the fetus would be viable outside the womb.

Actually that partial birth abortion thing was supposedly banned. (At least in the U.S. Of course, it was a phony bill that didn't do anything.) But you're right. She would have access to the other two late term abortion methods currently practiced.

I would say your example is just as despicable. I would say that by recognizing the moral nature of the pre-born and the parental obligations of the parents, neither the mother or the father, has a right to terminate the pregnancy in such a way that would result in the baby's death. I think it's just despicable that the mother can terminate a pregnancy against the fathers wishes. But allowing the father to force the mother to terminate her pregnancy against her wishes isn't the proper way to solve this asymmetry. The proper thing to do is to recognize the moral nature of the child and not allow the women the ability to terminate against the fathers will. That's the other way to solve this asymmetry. And it's a way that recognizes and helps to protect the rights of the unborn.

It seems to me that at the very least, BOTH parents would need to be in agreement to terminate, before abortion should be allowed. After all, they each have half of the responsibility. I don't consider children property, so this analogy isn't quite analogous, but if two people had half ownership in a house, one person wouldn't be allowed to destroy the house with-out first purchasing or obtaining some agreement from the other owner.

Now, as a libertarian who believes that the pre-born is a moral human being with the right to not be killed just like everybody else, I would consider it murder to abort even if they both agreed to abort it. But that's a different debate.

Tracy

Tracey- Here’s a definte

Tracey-

Here’s a definte instance where I disagree with the so-called “men’s” movement. They don’t get it. He helped to create the baby, and as such he has a responsibility to help care for it. He wasn’t “FORCED” by his wife into having sex. It was a purely volentary interaction. We’re never gaurenteed that our actions or investments will have the outcomes that we want them to.

But as with any "investment" you should be able to get out if you realize the outcome is not what you want. If you buy a puppy, but then decide it's too much work to take care of, you can sell it. If a guy gets a girl pregnant, but can't support a child, he should be able to relinquish custodial rights and not have to support it. The girl can take the responsibility wholly on herself or give the child up for adoption; that would be her choice. Impregnating a girl should not be an 18 year contract of indentured servitude.

You're also ignoring the other (in my opinion worse in many respects) aspect of this inequality. If a girl is eight months pregnant and decides she doesn't want to have a kid, she can get a partial birth abortion and the father has nothing to say about it even though the fetus would be viable outside the womb.

I think that either party should be able to relinquish custodial rights and duties at any time, but should not be able to deprive the other of them.

"I don’t think you address

"I don’t think you address the legal asymmetry of the situation."

The legal symetry should be, neither one of them has the right to kill the baby, regardless of defects. I understand what you're saying about legal symetry in marriage relationship -- especially in regards to children. I agree that child support, welfare (Allowing a woman to marry the state), and many other government interventions give the mother a whole lot of power to fleece the father unjustly. I happen to be of the male gender myself and have witnessed these sorts of abuses all my life.

But this isn't one of those times. In this situation, we need to remember the rights of a third party. Namely, the baby. The father was half of what created the situation that 'imprisoned' (if you will) a human being in such a way that removing it would kill it.

About the asymmetry. You can wish for a symmetrical way for this sort of thing to work out, but their isn't one. If the law had been such that he could have forced her to kill the being inside her, that wouldn't have been symestrical either. Wishing for symmetry in a zero-sum game like this, is wishing for the laws of logic to become suddenly suspended. She can't "half-have" the baby. Can she? Perhaps that worked for Schoedinger's cat, but in the macroscopic world we don't have those options.

This is part of the problem in a society that allows the killing of an unborn individual. By it's very nature, it breeds asymetries such this. Two parents, only one child. Something so severe as to kill, or not kill that one child is going to cause legal asymetries in one way or the other regardless of the outcome.

Tracy
Trackback http://prolifelibertarians.blogspot.com/

Here’s a definte instance

Here’s a definte instance where I disagree with the so-called “men’s” movement. They don’t get it. He helped to create the baby, and as such he has a responsibility to help care for it. He wasn’t “FORCED” by his wife into having sex. It was a purely volentary interaction. We’re never gaurenteed that our actions or investments will have the outcomes that we want them to. The same is true when we have sex. It might create a life. That life, might not be optimal. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility, as parents to care for it. Just like if we took out a loan for an investment and the investment went bad, we’d still have a responsibility to the banker.

I don't think you address the legal asymmetry of the situation. Yes, they both take part in the act that creates the pregnancy. But he gets no say in whether the fetus is carried to term. She does. Yet, he is obligated to support the child. In the case of a healthy baby, the ramifications of this are not as large as they are in this case, in which the fetus had a devastating neurological defect - one in which the front part of the brain does not divide appropriately.

Here's a definte instance

Here's a definte instance where I disagree with the so-called "men's" movement. They don't get it. He helped to create the baby, and as such he has a responsibility to help care for it. He wasn't "FORCED" by his wife into having sex. It was a purely volentary interaction. We're never gaurenteed that our actions or investments will have the outcomes that we want them to. The same is true when we have sex. It might create a life. That life, might not be optimal. But that doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility, as parents to care for it. Just like if we took out a loan for an investment and the investment went bad, we'd still have a responsibility to the banker.

The bottom line is a new creation has been made. A living being, with his/her own rights as well.

I find this mans comment a little disturbing. Obviously there was only one possible outcome here. We can be sure that if the baby was aborted, and the mother had the exact same sentiments he wouldn't think they were valid.

Tracy

Track-backed at Libertarians For Life ( http://www.l4l.org ) topica group.

Isn't forcing the father to

Isn't forcing the father to pay child support the same as telling him what to do with his body? Also, I don't see why the issue of whether a the decision is shared or not can't be settled prior to the pregnancy in the terms of the marriage.

This is sort of tangential,

This is sort of tangential, but even more than ultrasounds, amniocentesis, which is potentially much more dangerous to a fetus than an ultrasound, is another issue in the decision whether or not to know if a fetus carries a genetic defect.

I know when my mom was pregnant with my youngest sister she had several disagreements with an OB/GYN that really wanted her to get an amniocentesis to check if the fetus had Downs Syndrome because my mom’s age put her at a higher risk.

Her response was that she was going to keep it either way, and didn’t want to take the risk and finally just got a new doctor.

More to the point, I agree completely that men and women should have more equality in respect to the duties they have to a child or fetus, but moving towards that is about as likely as moving towards equality in opportunity between African Americans and Caucasians in college admission or scholarship programs.

I'm not sure a whole lot is

I'm not sure a whole lot is gained in distinguishing between 'careless sex' and birth/genetic defects. Unless you want to make a similar distinction for women's rights to terminate pregnancies. (Yes for defects, no for careless sex?)

Symmetric rights/duties between the parents would seem to involve fathers being able to renounce all involvement with the child, totally terminating both parental rights and obligations for child support. (Women have this option, plus the right to terminate the very existence of the child.)

While this would put the man and woman on symmetric grounds, it would seem to unfair to the fetus.
Then again, we have (rightly, in my mind) ranked a woman's freedom over her body as being more important than the rights of a embryo/fetus/potential human.
Control over your body is presumably more important than control over your emotional, financial, and family obligations. But life vs. death, existence vs. non-existence for the embryo/fetus/potential human is also presumably more important than the emotional/financial support of fathers.

So, the woman's strong claim of freedom trumps a strong fetal interest. Why should a man's weaker claim of freedom not trump a weaker fetal interest? It makes me queasy, but I'm not Leon Kass, so I don't believe the shiver test to be good moral/ethical philosophy or a good guide for policy making.

A- If fathers are held to be

A-

If fathers are held to be responsible for the child after it is born, how come he has absolutely 0 input during the pregnancy? After all, it’s his child too, right?

It seems to me that the better solution to this problem would be allow the father to relinquish both parental rights and obligations rather than allow the father to force the mother to undergo a surgical procedure to terminate the pregnancy.

You aren’t being entirely

You aren’t being entirely honest... Setting aside the moral implications of abortion, do you really believe that a man should be able to pressure a woman into having an abortion? For ANY reason? I don’t.

Uhh, minus the rhetoric, that's the question he's asking.
The question here is not "is abortion right or wrong?". It's "what are the rights of both parents to make health care decisions over their unborn offspring?" If fathers are held to be responsible for the child after it is born, how come he has absolutely 0 input during the pregnancy? After all, it's his child too, right?

One way to answer that is to use the tactic previously employed here: abortion is wrong anyway, so he can't ask her to have one. Which, I feel, is simply avoiding answering the question.

It amuses me greatly that anti-choicers, many of whom so easily disregard any concern about women's autonomy in their health decisions, find this particular situation to be very conducive to a sudden interest in women's interests ("You wouldn't dare argue that a husband should have a say in whether or not a woman has an abortion, would you?")

Here’s a definte instance

Here’s a definte instance where I disagree with the so-called “men’s” movement. They don’t get it. He helped to create the baby, and as such he has a responsibility to help care for it. He wasn’t “FORCED” by his wife into having sex. It was a purely volentary interaction. We’re never gaurenteed that our actions or investments will have the outcomes that we want them to. The same is true when we have sex. It might create a life. That life, might not be optimal. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility, as parents to care for it. Just like if we took out a loan for an investment and the investment went bad, we’d still have a responsibility to the banker. The bottom line is a new creation has been made. A living being, with his/her own rights as well. I find this mans comment a little disturbing. Obviously there was only one possible outcome here. We can be sure that if the baby was aborted, and the mother had the exact same sentiments he wouldn’t think they were valid.

This is a ridiculous argument. It does not address the issue Wilde is discussing with this particular case: the rights, such as they are, of the "father of a pregnancy".

The above argument is merely an argument against abortion itself, and it's not terribly well thought out or original either. To wit:

1. Sex is voluntary
2. It may produce life, which may or may not be "optimal"
3. This life form has "rights"
4. The parents voluntarily engaged in an act that, whatever their intentions, ended up creating this life form, and so they are obligated to sustain it until such time it can attain actual personhood.

This is a tired old anti-choice argument. To see that it does not address Wilde's point about the asymmetry in the father's choice, simply substitute all the "he"s and "his"' and "father"s to the feminine counterparts. They fit.

Saboe's argument is only "useful" if one already holds that abortion, even of a single celled zygote,is morally wrong. But it is therefore also entirely superfluous: if you think abortion is wrong anyway, the whole asymmentry debate doesn't even arise. Judging the father on this basis is ridiculous: he does not share Saboe's belief about the "wrongness" of abortion, so it is absurd to hold that he is "disturbing".

You aren't being entirely

You aren't being entirely honest. The article says the mother's life MIGHT have been in danger, not was in danger. Late term abortions are not without risk either. Setting aside the moral implications of abortion, do you really believe that a man should be able to pressure a woman into having an abortion? For ANY reason? I don't.

The husband eventually came to the realization that his marriage would be over if he continued to pressure his wife to abort this baby. The end result was that he was able to meet his daughter prior to her death. Yes, it was painful. Life often is.

Legal

Legal assemetry.....

:stupid:

In every pregnancy, the absolute possibility of everything exists. It is always *possible* that both mom & baby could die. The fallacy is thinking that modern medicine provides us with CONTROL. If they truly had CONTROL they wouldn't have had a defected baby in the first place. What the father wanted, he can't have- we don't have the ability to control our bodies. Can we control it if our hearts go into AFIB? Can we CONTROL it when a cancerous tumor grows in our stomach? No. We manipulate to our abilities- but we do not have true control over our lives, our health.

As far as the husband not having the same legal control- hello- no he doesn't. And shouldn't. It is not his body which gestates and faces the potential complications, or bears the burden. He cannot ever be the pregnant person. So if his legal rights aren't on par with his wife- they shouldn't be- as his "responsibilities" (physically) aren't the same. This point pertains only to decision re: management of the pregnancy/childbirth.

The only place where we go wrong is that we fail to give the child it's due legal representation. When we do this- all else falls into place. If an unborn child were treated like a born child- the father would have no reason to bitch- he couldn't advocate killing his (born) child. Neither then, mother nor father, would be legally able to abuse their children to death. They'd both be jointly responsible at every stage. Simple problem fixed. Only our society rejects the easy way out for both MEN AND WOMEN to "fix" unwanted/defected children via abortion.

It seems to me that the

It seems to me that the better solution to this problem would be allow the father to relinquish both parental rights and obligations...

Thea,

Exactly. In fact it seems to me that is not just the better solution, it's the only (fair) solution.

There is no way around the asymmetry that exists. For it exists for a very good reason: the biologic reality is asymmetrical - the pregnancy is carried within the body of one partner, and what is done to the pregnancy by necessity also involves the bodily autonomy of this partner in an extraordinarily intimate way.

I would say that the moral thing for a couple to do when the woman finds that she is pregnant is first for her to gather her own thoughts on the matter and then to listen - really listen - to the guy's point of view, evaluating it with as much dispassion as she can muster under the circumstances. She should then decide.

If they are not in a long term relationship such as a marriage, the option of relinquishing parental obligation should be open to both partners if the decision that is made conflicts with what they want. For instance, if A and B have a one night fling, B becomes pregnant and decides to have the child, B should be completely free to carry the pregnancy and raise her child, but A should not be forced to have to pay child support for the rest of his life (a situation which in reality also usually comes with extremely abridged parental rights for the guy). If A wants the baby but B does not want to raise a child, but is willing to carry the pregnancy, A should be allowed to exercise both his rights and obligations as a father.

The group of people who can really get shafted because of the biologic reality are males in long-term relationships, ie. the husbands. They are committed to a long relationship with the lady they married and to their family, but they potentially can have virtually no say in decisions that may have a devastating effect on the rest of their lives. That's what (nearly) happened to Saqib in this story. It was Susan's decision whether to keep the pregnancy or not, a decision he had absolutely no control over, and he would have to live with that decision for the rest of his life. If the baby had been born and lived say 40 years, but requiring round the clock, 24 hour care, remained in a vegetative state throughout it all, this would have had an enormous, almost wholly negative, effect on his life. (It will also have had such an effect on hers, but at least she had the full freedom of choosing that outcome). How would any one of you react if you were forced into a life of serving the vegetative needs of a being with no cognition, with not even a faint smile of recognition or gratitude to show for it at the end of decades, and to have all that foisted on you by someone else? That was the potential future of Saqib.

This guy was willing to basically hand his life over to his wife on a silver platter and say "do whatever you want with it", and for that he deserves a lot better than the shit being hurled at him. A lot of other guys would have balked. I am shocked at the callousness shown him by some of the pricks who were in the chat at WaPo.