Editor’s note. This Sunday is Father’s Day. We’ve run posts for almost two weeks in anticipation. We’ve talked mostly about Men and Abortion but also about dads stepping up and doing the right thing. Happy Father’s Day! These thoughts first ran in 1999.
“Maybe we are all so starved for the cleanness of courage, so emptied of it ourselves, that we elevate to the exceptional what is simply our species on good behavior.” — Columnist Patt Morrison
“Clearly, it is galling to abortion supporters that after 26 years of virtually unlimited abortion, 26 years of owning the title ‘constitutional right,’ 26 years of support from the most elite segments of society – – we in the pro-life movement will not call a wrong a right. They know, and we know, the sheer power of a conscience formed in truth.” — Helen Alvare, Catholic Standard, May 27
As I sat down to write these remarks we were only 10 days removed from Father’s Day. Better news even than the gifts of stylish ties and pants that we will struggle to wiggle on over our expanding middles is that more and more of us are coming to appreciate that we have been far too busy for our own good, let alone our children’s. There is mounting evidence that many fathers are seriously reevaluating the way they lead their lives. This is enormously important news.
The culture at large appears to be awakening to the importance of fathers. We are beginning to remember there is a steep price to be paid when fathers are disengaged from the daily lives of their children.
As the father of four I am quadruply aware of a dad’s role (however imperfectly performed) in civilizing his children. However, in my more candid moments, I happily concede that the tutorials often run in the other direction. In my 17 years as a dad, my kids have bestowed upon me the equivalent of a Ph.D. They have taught me far more than I have ever taught them, certainly about the things that matter: civility and patience and generosity and forgiveness.
What prompted these thoughts was not just the rapid approach of June 20. I was also thinking of how ironic it is that so often we pro-lifers subconsciously view the life-and-death drama that is abortion in terms that, in one respect at least, are not so different than our opponents.
Pro-abortionists say abortion is a “woman’s right.” If we actually ponder it at all, many of us vaguely think of abortion as a “woman’s decision,” which we hope will be life-affirming, but which in any event is hers. Honestly, ask yourselves, when is the last time you had a conversation about abortion when the guy’s role was seriously discussed? Such talk ought to feel natural, but often it seems forced, indeed awkward.
Every few years there is a surge in interest in the gut-wrenching stories of men whose girlfriends aborted their child against their wishes. Believe me, I think I understand the pain. Not being able to save your child must qualify as about the most humiliating, emasculating, horrible fate that could befall a man.
But these are atypical cases, representing, alas, only a small fraction of the men involved. We wouldn’t have had 38 million abortions if the typical male response was to plead/shout/cajole for the life of his unborn child.
Patt Morrison’s remarks quoted above pushed me to think carefully about the way many/most people expect men to act in the abortion context. When they are not dismissing men’s roles altogether, pro-abortionists merrily caricature men in demeaning, almost entirely negative terms.
This serves their agenda. If guys are beasts, that’s just one more reason they should have nothing to say about whether a woman aborts. (If the word “child” surfaces, it is “the” child or “her” child, never “his” or “their” child.)
But while we are not interested in vilifying men, pro-lifers still don’t talk about or think enough about fathers and their frequently decisive role. Perhaps that’s because we know that so often the decisive factor in whether a child lives is how the father reacts to the news that his wife (or, more typically, girlfriend) is pregnant – – and that millions of men have failed that test abysmally.
But beyond the sheer carnage itself, isn’t near the top of the most deleterious outpourings of Roe v. Wade the failure of men to routinely do what they ought to do – – and us to fail to expect it of them? Why should we have to say what ought not need to be said: that it is cowardly for a man to abandon the woman he impregnated? But, on the other hand, why do even we pro-lifers say this so infrequently, if at all?
It oughtn’t to be seen as an act of praiseworthy courage merely for men to own up to their parental responsibilities. How is it that we have come to expect so little from men?
Helen Alvare is quite right when she reminds us that we have refused to bow to the pro-abortionists’ cardinal demand: to call a wrong right. “They know, and we know,” Ms. Alvare writes, “the sheer power of a conscience formed in truth.”
But another dimension of that truth is that men do matter and ought to care a whole lot more than many of us do. That the children whose lives are snuffed out have fathers. That countless numbers of those fathers directly contributed to the death of their children either by coercing the mothers or (in some ways worse) by default – – by failing to support women in their hour of desperation and despair.
So many otherwise decent men need to stop taking refuge in the noxious excuse “Well, it’s her decision.” It is, in countless cases, not because women want to make the decision alone but because men “honored” the woman’s “right to choose.” What a cop-out on the part of men, what an exercise in hypocrisy, what patent insincerity.
One day is officially Father’s Day. But if we are ever going to save the children, every day must become Father’s Responsibility Day.