Alito and the Rights of Men

By Glenn Sacks

Immediately after the nomination of Appellate Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, the National Organization for Women sent out a nationwide Action Alert announcing that they are "ready for the fight" against Alito, and that he "opposes our rights." Planned Parenthood blasted the nomination, saying that Alito has shown "callous disregard of battered women."

Alito’s sin is his 1991 vote to uphold a section of a Pennsylvania law which required women to notify their husbands of their intent to have an abortion, allegedly putting the women in harm’s way. (When NOW says "husband" or "father," it’s usually preceded by the word "abusive"; the word "wife" is generally modified by "battered.")

I do hate to interrupt the ladies while they’re enjoying a good lynching, but Alito’s defense of the Pennsylvania law is quite defensible, and bears little resemblance to the hysterical claims being made against him. Alito simply acknowledged the principle that husbands and fathers have a reasonable interest in their unborn children.

The Pennsylvania statute contained numerous, well-enumerated protections for women, protections which Alito cited and supported. Section 3209 of the law specifically stated that a woman’s obligation to inform her husband of her intent to abort did not apply if she had reason to believe that notification was likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her. A false claim was to be punished—gasp—as a third degree misdemeanor. A woman could only have been prosecuted if the state could somehow prove that she did not "believe" her claim to be true. The law, portrayed by feminists as a forerunner of The Handmaid’s Tale, was instead merely symbolic.

Alito’s defense of the law is reasonable but not necessarily correct—feminists do have reason to be skittish about burdening pregnant women with obligations. What’s troubling, however, is how indignant women’s advocates are at the suggestion that husbands be granted any consideration at all in these matters. The abortion issue is rife with anti-male double standards which give women enormous control over men’s lives. When it comes to reproduction in America today, women have rights and men merely have responsibilities.

When a woman gets pregnant she has the right to decide whether or not to carry the baby to term, and whether to raise the child herself or to give it up for adoption. In Los Angeles today bus stop posters read "No shame. No blame. No names." The posters explain that in California, as in more than 40 states, a mother can terminate all parental responsibility by returning the baby to the hospital within a few days or weeks of birth, with no repercussions (and no consultation with the father). Yet if the mother decides she wants to keep the child, she can demand 18 years of child support from the father, and he has no choice in the matter.

Feminists base their support for Roe v. Wade in large part on the idea of "My Body, My Choice." Yet can we deny that the sacrifices required to pay support—a quarter or more of one’s income in California—take a heavy toll on a man’s body, too?

NOW and Planned Parenthood are legitimately concerned that, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, states would be free to exercise control over a very important part of a woman’s life. Romania made a genuine attempt to eradicate abortion during the 1980s, and it took methods such as tracking women’s menstrual cycles on the bulletin boards of the factory workers’ lounge in order to do it.

Yet 100,000 men each year are jailed for alleged non payment of child support, and a federal study shows that 70% of those behind on payments earn $10,000 a year or less. When states force a man to be responsible for a child he never wanted and jail him if he comes up short, aren’t they exercising control over an important part of his life?

Over a million American women legally walk away from motherhood every year by adoption, abortion, or abandonment. Women’s advocates correctly note that pregnant women often have legitimate reasons for not wanting to be mothers, including youth, finances, and the lack of a suitable relationship or marriage. Yet do we imagine that none of these apply to men?

Fetal protection laws now severely punish anyone who harms a fetus—except for mom. A Texas teenager named Gerardo Flores is now serving life in prison for the death of two fetuses even though his former girlfriend, Erica Basoria, acknowledged asking him to help end her pregnancy. According to Basoria, four months into her pregnancy she regretted not getting an abortion and punched herself in the stomach while Flores stepped on her stomach to induce a miscarriage. Basoria, who stood by Flores and cried when he was sentenced, could not be prosecuted because of her legal right to abortion.

Misguided feminists save their harshest vitriol for the would-be fathers who don’t want their wives to abort their unborn children, labeling them "controlling" and "abusive." While that certainly can sometimes be the case, it’s far more likely that most are simply proud papas-to-be who look forward to having a cuddly little daddy’s girl or a son they’d proudly raise to be a man. Do we really expect that husbands do not and should not have any legitimate feelings about their wives deciding to abort the children they’d planned to have together?

Alito may or may not have been correct in supporting the controversial Pennsylvania law. But he wasn’t wrong in acknowledging reproductive rights for men.

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