The right of a father not to be one?

Via Danielle Bean at Faith & Family Live comes this story about the flip side of “reproductive choice.” Greg Bruell says he had an agreement with his girlfriend that, if she were to become pregnant, she would abort the child — an agreement that she reneged on when she ultimately did become pregnant and decided to keep the baby and file for child support:

Infuriated about the “miserable betrayal,” Bruell told Hedrick it was over between them, for good. He believed she’d deliberately gotten pregnant. Then, two months later, as he was leaving a session with his personal trainer, he was served with a lawsuit demanding child support for his unborn child. That’s when Bruell called Mel Feit, a founder of the National Center for Men (NCM), and volunteered to become the next poster boy for male reproductive rights. . . .

Feit’s list of grievances range from sexist social standards—why should men still be expected to foot the bill on dates? Why is crying or showing weakness verboten for them?—to what he considers discrimination enforced by the state: men’s lack of reproductive rights combined with unfair child support laws. “Reproductive choice isn’t a fundamental right if it’s only limited to people who have internal reproductive systems,” Feit says. “If it only applies to women, it’s a limited right and that weakens it.” In his view, Planned Parenthood’s motto—“Every child a wanted child”—should apply to both people who make the baby.

Disturbing as Bruell’s attitude may be, there is an internal logic to it in a culture that values personal freedom above all else. If a woman can’t be forced to be a mother, why should a man be forced to be a father? Of course, as Danielle points out, this puts activists for “reproductive rights” in a tricky spot: Would they approve of Bruell’s contract with his girlfriend, essentially demanding that she have an abortion, even if she didn’t want one? What if the tables were turned, and he insisted that she keep the child, over her own potential objection?

 

Bruell seems mystified as to how they could have come to this impasse, insisting, “I’m perfectly willing to take the responsibility of raising a child if it is my choice. If it’s compulsory, it becomes impossible. I especially don’t want to be forced to take responsibility for something that I was deceived into becoming a part of.” But there was no deception when it came to understanding that sex could lead to pregnancy. Bruell, like many others, only sees the resulting pregnancy as a child (to whom he would then have responsibilities) if he happens to want it. And therein lies the rub: What if the mother and father want different things?

The glimmer of hope here is the way both Bruell and Hedrick came around to the idea of raising their baby. For Hedrick, it was as simple as looking at the ultrasound — “bad move,” she says. And Bruell eventually dropped his lawsuit against Hedrick after spending time with his daughter Ava — he ultimately couldn’t countenance being pitted against his own child. When presented with the concrete reality of this new person, somehow talk of “rights” and “personal choice” seems less important.

 

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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