Paternal Consent Bill Proposed in Ohio

Eesha Pandit

A group of Ohio state legislators have submitted a bill that would ban women from obtaining abortions without consent from the man who impregnated her.

Let the battle for "Most Outrageous Piece of Legislation" begin!

A group of Ohio state legislators have submitted a bill that would ban women from obtaining abortions without consent from the man who impregnated her. The proposal comes two weeks after Ohio Representative Tom Brinkman proposed a law that would ban all abortions in the state.

Why, you ask? From the Record-Courier:

"This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child," said [Rep. John] Adams, a Republican from Sidney. "I didn't bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial. In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say."

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But wait, there's more, and it's a doozy:

As written, the bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the father of the fetus. In cases where the identity of the father is unknown, women would be required to submit a list of possible fathers. The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test from the provided list and then seek paternal permission to abort.

In this brave new world, that one-night-stand or abusive partner can now control whether you become a parent or not. Doctors and medical professionals are private investigators. And a woman's body is definitely not her own.

Claiming to not know the father's identity is not a viable excuse, according to the proposed legislation. Simply put: no father means no abortion.

"I'm really pleased that this has been proposed for one reason – it draws attention to the fact that many men are concerned and care for their unborn children," said Denise Mackura, the director of the Ohio Right to Life Society. "You have no idea how many men call telling me about their girlfriends who plan to abort, asking what they can do to help her. They do want to help and they should have a voice."

Now, this sentiment is one that many of us can understand — abortion is often a matter of family concern. Yet, if Mackura thinks this is a good move to afford previously marginalized fathers a voice in the process, she clearly fails to consider the severity of the difference between the burden borne by the person carrying the child and anyone who is not. More often than not, the responsibility falls on the person carrying the child to ensure that the child's physical, emotional and economic needs are met. This responsibility is hardly comparable to the potential child support payments that Adams and Mackura repeatedly reference as justification for such a bill. It is also unclear who will pay for the required paternity tests and probable lawyers and court fees if the woman contests the decision.

If you needed further evidence that these legislators do not think women can be trusted: Per this legislation, if a woman wanted to prove that the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest she would be required to present a police report, attesting to those events. The burden of proof once again falls on the victim, letting the perpetrator and the justice system off the hook yet again.

Executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Kellie Copeland says,

"This extreme bill shows just how far some of our state legislators are willing to go to rally a far-right base that is frustrated with the pro-choice gains made in the last election … It is completely out of touch with Ohio's mainstream values. This measure is a clear attack on a woman's freedom and privacy."

Coming on the heels of a proposal to ban all abortions by Rep. Brinkman, a Republican from Cincinnati and one of the eights sponsors of this bill, the bill seems to have a slight advantage over the all out ban in potentially becoming law. Despite being aware of its strong chances at being declared unconstitutional, supporters of the bill find the dialogue illuminating:

Simply taking a look at this as a possibility is a step in the right direction," Mackura said. "Pregnancy is a unique human condition and obviously a woman is affected differently than a man. As a woman, I can sympathize. However, to completely take rights away from the father is unfair.

It is indeed, illuminating. Though certainly not in the way Mackura suggests. Instead, of encouraging comprehensive sex ed, universal health care, quality education systems and resources for poor women to care for children whose fathers are not in the picture, this bill shows us what "pro-lifers" really think of women: They can't be trusted to make decisions about their bodies and their families; Sex is a matter not merely between consenting adults, but also the state; And the power to control life should only rest in a man's hands, despite the fact that it happens in a woman's body.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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