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Responsibilities to the Father

Pregnancy is a tumultuous time in any parent's life, particularly regarding personal autonomy and broadened responsibilities toward the family. Through it all, there is a bond between mother and offspring that develops during this time that is unlike any other, but who is often forgotten in this all? The partner, particularly the father in cis relationships or in cases of surrogate mothers the non-surrogate(s). As a cis woman, I dare to have the audacity to play the devil's advocate regarding the non-pregnant parent(s) in a relationship and the effects the actions of the pregnant parent can have on their child's other DNA contributor(s). This is my opinion post for the debate on the rights of a father's input regarding their child during pregnancy.

Some time ago during a venue changeover on New Year's Eve, my date and I were quietly sitting on a curb outside of a bar. As we waited for our designated driver to pick us up we overheard two women chatting about a vocal passerby that had told the heavily pregnant female of the pair to put out her cigarette. As she smoked she prattled on to her friend that even if she were to be publicly shamed for smoking, what was to stop her from staying home and getting drunk or high there? Her buddy chimed in to say that she had gotten high frequently during her pregnancy and that she saw no ill effects in her child as a result of it (a possibly biased assessment on her part). My date and I took it all in and said nothing to them.

When our driver picked us up and we were on our way to the next event of the evening, I turned to him and asked his opinion about the two women. His direct words were "She should not do that to another guy's kid." When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me something that I had not considered until then, he said that it was unfair to the child's father to have to foot the bill or stand as that woman made such poor personal choices because the father still has to raise the child too or if nothing else be financially responsible for it. I realized that my date had a point. Those women may be blackening their lungs, but they are also impacting the health of an unborn child which was affecting the life of the other parent involved too.

There is an amount of a gray area between a woman's right to self-direction and that of the maintenance of the health of the child that she willingly carries. Obviously, not consider the case of abortion, which this post is not in context to at all. To put it into perspective a mother can have a glass of wine while pregnant but if a parent were to serve an infant alcohol after birth that parent would likely face a criminal penalty. Sure there are cases of a woman being arrested for breastfeeding while intoxicated, but those are few and far between as well as very public acts, to begin with, like bringing their baby to a bar. Taking this all into consideration there are a few points in which the law can step in and help with this sort of behavior that may likely hurt a fetus and then again there are other factors to consider.

When do well-intentioned regulations interfere with self-determination? Well-being can get tricky to litigate quickly when filtering opinion from fact or preference from necessity. Should a partner be able to have input to deny foods deemed unhealthy from their pregnant spouse? How could that even be enforced? Or if a pregnant woman is taking a medication that may harm her child's health, does the other parent have a right to sue for damages? Who could say that it is the mother's fault if the child is born with any illness at all as these things can be quite difficult to prove in a courtroom setting? At the least, this could lead to controlling and abusive attitudes toward pregnant women who often already feel the pressure of society on them during this vulnerable time in their lives.

Ultimately it may take a village to raise a child, but it should not be the village that is allowed to have input over the mother's right to her own body outside of extreme cases. Still, it is worth mentioning that the other parent should at least be respected enough to have their partner make responsible decisions while pregnant with their child. What do you think? Where does the line between individual responsibility and familial obligation get drawn regarding pregnancy and how can that play out in the best possible way for all parties involved? Leave your comments in the Conspiracy Meow! forums and please be kind to one another. No one ever changed another person's mind by being confrontational.


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