A lawmaker in Oklahoma is trying to pass an anti-abortion bill in the state legislature that would would prohibit abortions without the written consent of the father — yes, you read that right. But besides the terrifying civil liberties-related implications of this bill, I am most curious to know why this bill doesn't do more to mandate the father's role in a pregnancy carried to term.
The bill, authored by freshman legislator Rep. Justin Humphrey, would require women seeking abortions to provide their doctor with written consent from the father, except in cases of incest, rape or life-threatening medical danger to the mother, which would be determined by a physician. It does not allow any caveats for women for whom such a conversation could be dangerous for them, such as women in abusive relationships. Additionally, it would allow a father to request a paternity test, and block the abortion until it was received. Bustle reached out to Humphrey but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
It is already being decreed by many pro-choice activists and groups as a flagrant women's rights violation, and if passed would likely see its constitutionality challenged. A similar provision was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992.
But my question for the supporters of the law is not, actually, how could you support stripping women of autonomy over their bodies and personal medical choices.
That does not appear to be a concern for Humphrey who, in an attempt to explain his position in an interview with The Intercept, doled out an explanation, referring to women as becoming "hosts" after conception. Specifically, Humprey said of women:
I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions ... I understand that they feel like that is their body ... I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you're a 'host.' And you know when you enter into a relationship you're going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don't get pregnant ... So that's where I'm at. I'm like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you're irresponsible then don't claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you're the host and you invited that in.
Rather, my question is: if you are going to give the final say on terminating a pregnancy to the father, what are you doing to regulate the father throughout the pregnancy and child's life? If a man can deny a woman access to an abortion, what is he now required to do to support that fetus and, later, a child?
In the interview with The Intercept, Humphrey said that the bill was intended to ensure that fathers pay child support from conception. But eventually that language was removed from the bill. From my perspective, that proposal doesn't do much to support his argument that the bill's purpose is to involve men in this process. After all, as the bill stands, other than overriding a woman's abortion, there is nothing else regulating men's involvement with the pregnancy or child.
If a woman is seeking an abortion because she can not financially support a child, and she is prevented from doing so by the father of the fetus, shouldn't the father be held accountable? Sure, there are child support laws in effect, but in most states those do not require financial assistance to start until birth. The manner in which they are enforced is also detrimental to poor families. If the father is unable to pay, the consequence is usually jail time, which does nothing to benefit the mother who is still unable to pay for the child's needs. The cycle often continues, with the father unable to obtain work or pay the fees back in the short amount of time given, resulting in more jail time.
What about the time commitment required of being pregnant and having a child? For all of the doctors' appointments that the mother will need to go to during pregnancy, potentially having to missing work, will the father also be required to attend? When the child is born, will the parents be required to share the duties of caring for the child? Will they both have to adjust their work schedules to accommodate child care? Studies say that working women spend more time with their kids than working men, and that women adjust their careers to accommodate their families more often than men do.
If you are going to say that the responsibilities of the mother as a "host" should come before all else, you can not spare the father his share of responsibilities just because his body does not physically tie him to the child. What's missing from this law (other than any shred of respect for women) is the portion that regulates the father's involvement with the child past conception. If Humphrey is so concerned with men missing out on pregnancy decisions, he can start there.