Two male legislators in Tennessee are proving (yet again) that men are the fucking worst. In a new bill introduced by both the House and Senate, a man would be able to stop a woman from getting an abortion in court by asserting his paternity. It’s just another way to restrict access to abortions by giving men far too much power. The “father” would be able to go to court and file a petition to stop the abortion. And if the pregnant person goes through with it anyway, they could be held in criminal or civil contempt.
“A person may petition a court with jurisdiction over domestic relations matters to request an injunction to prohibit a woman who is pregnant with the person’s unborn child from obtaining an abortion,” the Senate bill reads.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton. And yes, they’re both Republicans. Of course this isn’t a surprise since the whole party is obsessed with what happens inside of a woman’s uterus, but doesn’t appear to give a shit about the babies once they are born. This also isn’t the first time Tennessee lawmakers have tried to control what happens to a woman’s body. The only silver lining is that thanks to a 1992 Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, this new bill could be ruled unconstitutional. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court ruled that states can’t require those seeking an abortion to inform their partners.
According to Senator Pody, he introduced the bill after a Tennessee resident expressed “concern” that fathers don’t get to have a say when it comes to abortion. (Of course they don’t.) So his reasoning is that this bill would ensure fathers have an equal say in what happens to a pregnancy.
“I believe a father should have a right to say what’s gonna be happening to that child,” Pody said. “And if somebody is going to kill that child, he should be able to say, ‘No, I don’t want that child to be killed. I want to able to raise that child and love that child.'”
Oh my fucking god, are you kidding me? That is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. First of all, it’s not solely their child. And they’re not the ones who have to endure pregnancy to bring that “child” into the world. Yes, maybe a small percentage of these men would actually step up and be decent fathers. But let’s be honest: Most of them would use a law like this to exert authority over a woman. By asserting they want to be a present father, they’re stripping the woman of her autonomy. And they fucking know it. This is abusive.
What about women who are trapped in violent/dangerous relationships? Of course their abusive, controlling partner will want to force them to continue a pregnancy. What about men who wish to make their partners conform to their religious/personal beliefs? Yep, they will have no issue exerting this trauma upon a pregnant person either. In all of these situations, it’s not only forcing a woman to have a baby against her will (barbaric), it’s also forcing her to stay connected to someone else for life. Someone who may be dangerous, violent, or generally unfit to be a parent. Absolutely unacceptable.
With this new bill, a judge would be able to grant the petition as long as there’s a “reasonable possibility” that the woman would seek an abortion. And in case you’re wondering, no, the man doesn’t need proof of paternity. Meaning a man doesn’t even have to take a DNA test to prove that he’s the biological father. They just need to acknowledge paternity. As in, all they have to do is go to the court, say, “Hey I think I’m the father,” and poof! They can keep a woman from having an abortion. It’s really that simple, which is beyond absurd. If the couple isn’t married, he can still voluntarily establish paternity. And he can do so without the woman’s consent.
THIS DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE, PEOPLE.
The only good thing Pody is saying with this is that once paternity is established, the father can’t back out. “He can’t turn around under any circumstance and say, ‘I was wrong, and it’s not mine,'” Pody said.
The court will expect him to care for this child. So he would have to pay child support, or do other things to ensure the care of this child. And he wouldn’t be able to take back his declaration of paternity either. At least if he’s going to keep a woman from having an abortion, he’s going to be held accountable? I guess. But at what cost? Also, what if he doesn’t have stable employment and can’t/won’t pay child support? What about healthcare and childcare? The same republicans who agree with this bill are the people who vote against the socials support systems we need in these situations. The hypocrisy is making my skin crawl with rage.
And! There aren’t exceptions for an abortion that comes from instances of rape or incest. Which means a woman can go through a truly traumatic experience and then have a man force her to carry a child. That’s disgusting. Pody stupidly doesn’t think that a rapist would force a woman to carry his child, though. It’s astounding how dense this man is.
“If somebody comes up and says, ‘Yes, I raped her and I’m the father,’ he should immediately go to jail,” he says. “I just do not believe that somebody is gonna come in and say, ‘I committed this crime, I’m guilty of this crime. Put me in jail.'”
Imagine thinking that a man wouldn’t lie to make a woman’s life miserable. Imagine! Hello! Men will manipulate a woman in a heartbeat. And if you think that a man wouldn’t lie and say that the rape was consensual, I have a golden egg laying goose to sell you. Newsflash, Mark, not all rapes are unknown. A man could rape a woman he knows, and then go to the court to stop her from having an abortion. Don’t forget, if the couple isn’t married, he doesn’t need the woman’s consent or acknowledgement.
“Nobody should have the power to make healthcare decisions for someone else — not a judge, a partner, and certainly not a rapist regardless of paternity,” executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, Francie Hunt, said in a statement shared by the Tennessean.
This particular caveat to the law is beyond dangerous. A woman who is a victim of rape or incest has gone through a harrowing experience, to say the least. There are going to be mental and emotional traumas she has to work through. By stopping her from having an abortion, she may not be able to truly work through her trauma. Can you fathom what it would be like to then have to raise the child? Because we already know that man isn’t going to raise that child himself. And adoption isn’t a readily available option, and should never be forced on a person. So now this woman is tethered to this awful experience for the rest of her life. She got no say in the say in the assault, and then was forced to carry a baby (and risk her personal health) against her will. Her life is irreparably damaged. But who cares, as long as the father has an ‘equal’ say? Fuck that.
The only person who should be allowed to have a say in a woman’s abortion is that woman. The men who advocate for fathers having rights are only thinking about what happens after. They can conveniently forget about pregnancy. Because it isn’t something that they ever have to deal with. So of course they don’t care that a woman has to carry and deliver a child she doesn’t want. Or that pregnancies are not without personal health risks, so the pregnant person should get to decide if they wish to take those risks.
Once the baby is born, the father will be legally required to help care for it, but what does that look like? He’s not going to be the one making any major sacrifices for the baby. The judgment and shame and ridicule would fall on the mother too, not the person (and politicians) pushing for this inhumane law. The odds that the father’s day-to-day life will not change. So why should he be able to force a woman to have his child?
He shouldn’t. Point blank, period. I can’t even believe we have to discuss this, and I truly can’t believe there will be people who are idiotic and hateful enough to agree with it.
Allowing a bill like this to become law would set a dangerous precedent. Even if it doesn’t get passed, its mere existence is terrifying. Because once other conservative states see this is possible, it’s only a matter of time before they try it too. And we absolutely cannot let that happen.