The responsibilities of men faced with an unwanted pregnancy

By David Quinn

The Irish people have voted in favour of the right to choose. Under the proposed Irish law, a woman who becomes pregnant will be free to decide whether to proceed with the pregnancy or not, whether to accept the responsibilities of motherhood, or not. But what of the rights and duties of the father in this situation? Does he have any at all?

Clearly, he has no legal right to insist that the woman continue with the pregnancy. It might be his child, but the child is not in his body. What happens if the woman does continue with the pregnancy, if she chooses to have the child? Must the man then accept certain duties towards the child, like it or not, regardless of whether he wanted to become a father or not?

It is hard to see how and why such responsibilities could be imposed on him. If the woman can choose not to become a mother, then the man surely has a right to choose not to be a father, in the sense of not taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood? This would appear to be the logic of the ‘right to choose’.

When you are pro-life, the logic obviously plays out differently. From a pro-life point of view the responsibilities of parenthood begin at pregnancy. Both the mother and the father ought to accept responsibility for their child. One reason why practically every society in history has invented marriage is to ensure that as many parents as possible raise their children together.

But when we prioritise the right to choose, this argument is destroyed. It gives women the right to terminate their pregnancy rather than accept responsibility for an unplanned child. If she has the right not to choose to proceed with being a mother, how do we deny this same right to the man who doesn’t want to become a father? How do we justify forcing the responsibilities of fatherhood on him when he did not plan for the child either?

Pro-choice advocates must answer this question.