When my wife was pregnant with each of our four children, I never once thought of saying to friends or anyone else “We are going to have a baby”. Things have changed since then: in recent years the male habitually says “We are going to have a baby” when his wife/partner is pregnant. In my unreconstructed mind this at first seemed daft. Men can’t have babies so why claim to be going to have one? Gradually light seeped into the dark corners of my skull and I realised that “having a baby” wasn’t just a biological event, it involved a lifetime of concern and care for the soon-to-arrive, and in this respect the man was equally responsible for the child.
So with the south on the brink of introducing its new abortion law, the thought struck me: where do the father-to-be’s concerns enter the equation? You might well respond “Hardly at all”, in that there are men who see their part in the whole affair as ending shortly after impregnation. But there are men who do care about their children, including the soon-to-be-born ones, and yet I don’t think I’ve come across any articles referring to the father’s role or rights.
Take the suicide thing, which is the part of the south’s abortion law that’s creating the biggest furore. Under the new law, if three medics - an obstetrician and two psychiatrists - rule that the pregnant woman is in danger of taking her own life, then an abortion can be legally performed.
Now leave aside for the moment (yes, yes, I know it’s an effort) the accuracy of psychiatric prediction of suicide. The thing is, what would happen if the unborn child’s father was a suicide risk? If the mother of the unborn child can have suicidal thoughts, isn’t it possible the father of the unborn child could equally have thoughts of suicide? With the only way of resolving these thoughts being the abortion of the foetus? Or can a man only think in positive terms of his unborn child, so there’s no need to make provision for any male who might have suicidal thoughts at the prospect of becoming a father?
When you think about it, one of the more positive changes in family life in recent decades is the role of the father. He’s more involved with his children from the earliest years than ever before, and that’s seen universally as a good thing. So if a woman satisfies three medics that she’s contemplating suicide and the solution is the abortion of the unborn child, why is it not seen as being any of the man’s business? Because if the child gets lucky enough to be born, it’ll certainly be his business then.