In a rare move to acknowledge fathers’ rights, a newly formed political party in South Africa (Christians of South Africa) has called for fathers to be given some legal power in abortion decisions. The party’s interim president, Derick Masoana, points out the legal inconsistencies faced by fathers in South Africa. Men who father children are legally required to support their children until adulthood but they are not allowed any legal power related to termination of pregnancy. In addition, while women are given three months maternity leave, men are allotted a mere ten days.
The arguments related to the lack of equality between men and women have been made previously by legal scholars. In his review of legal cases and decisions involving paternal liability in the United States, George S. Swan (1975) writes: “These decisions denying a paternal veto over abortion undermine the various justifications given by courts for holding fathers liable for their children’s care. The father’s coequal generative relationship no longer has a legal counterpart: though the potential person is half his genetically, it is yet exclusively under the mother’s dominion legally as well as physically until birth (p. 256).”
Similarly, Hiester (2004) argued that “The current law claims for a woman that which it refuses for a man: the ability to choose parenthood. Instead, the law imposes parenthood on a man solely as a result of the choice of the woman. Allowing a man equal protection by the ability to voluntarily terminate his paternal rights may be distasteful, contrary to custom and history, and bad public policy, but these are not legitimate reasons for refusing to give legal protection to fathers (p. 241).”
To date, no man has been successful in either preventing an abortion against his wishes or in terminating his financial obligations to his child. Clearly there are challenges to giving men any legal rights in relation to pregnancy outcome. Nonetheless, a commitment to equality demands acknowledgment of men’s rights as well as of women’s. The attempt to do so in South Africa reminds us that there are two parents involved with and affected by abortion decisions.
Hiester, H.M. (2004). Child support statutes and the father’s right not to procreate. Ave Maria Law Review, 2 (1), 213-241.
Njilo, N. (Dec. 23, 2018). New party vows to change law to give fathers say in abortions. Retrieved from: https://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2018-12-23-new-party-vows-to-change-law-to-give-fathers-say-in-abortions/
Shaw, G. S. (1975). Abortion on maternal demand: Paternal support liability implications. Valparaiso University Law Review, 9 (2), 243-272.