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Planned Parenthood: Fathers’ Right to Stand and Defend

September 30, AD2015

Emily - St Joseph

Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s President Cecile Richards testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood on September 29, 2015. In her remarks, Richards repeatedly emphasized that women choose to obtain their healthcare services from Planned Parenthood and Congress should not try to limit or interfere with the choice of a woman’s choice.

Through the nearly five hour hearing, much discussion was had about the facts of what Planned Parenthood actually offers to women in terms of health care services, how much federal money Planned Parenthood is receiving, and whether other health care facilities can provide healthcare to women. While interesting and certainly germane to the proceedings and the question before the Committee regarding de-funding Planned Parenthood, this article will focus instead on about 90 seconds of commentary from Rep. Tim Walberg from Michigan. During the video clip, in response to some critiques of male representatives concerning themselves with women’s healthcare, Congressman Walberg observed:

“If men in this society aren’t allowed to stand and defend the women and children we love, what has our country fallen to?”

The Desires of the Father: Men and Abortion

The sentiments to which Rep. Walberg was responding is quite common. Men are told that they have no right to speak when it comes to abortion. It is, after all, the woman who carries the child. Yet, what about the right of the man to speak for the fate of his child? Certainly some will simply refuse to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn child.

But what about the right of a father to love his son or daughter? Why is it that the choice for this determination rests solely with the mother? Sure, there is a biological difference in the responsibility for the child before he or she is born. Yet, there is a certain selfishness underlying the familiar mantra of “my body, my choice.” Even if one is not willing to acknowledge the life growing inside the mother, certainly the “choice” should also take into account the desires of the father.

Unfortunately, this societal attitude which seeks to eliminate the voice of men in any discussion about abortion has paralyzed men from standing up for their unborn child. The father has an obligation to stand up for the life of his unborn son or daughter. This statement is not meant as a blanket condemnation for we know not of the circumstances surrounding the abortion. Perhaps the father felt his hands were tied because the mother was set on an abortion. Maybe the father was ignorant or coerced. To ignore the father in the situation fails to appreciate the responsibility that the father should have in the situation.

Planned Parenthood and Abortion: An Attack on the Family

Part of the reason that men feel a great loss after an abortion – sometimes even more so if they don’t find out about it until well after the fact – is because men have a natural instinct to protect and provide for their families. After an abortion experience, men go through the same feelings of guilt, sorrow, and remorse that women do. What is lost through abortion is the opportunity for a unique relationship between a father and his child, something that can’t be replaced with other children. It is the loss of that relationship that causes so many to suffer for years, even decades, after an abortion experience.

St. John Paul II remarked in Muliaris dignitatem that human beings are meant to exist “in relationship to another person,” that is, in communion with others. We are meant to reflect an aspect of the divine union found in the Holy Trinity through our union with the other members of Christ’s mystical body. In fact, this reflection of the Trinity is essential to understanding who we, as human beings are, since we were made to make of ourselves a sincere self-gift, that is, to an authentic and selfless love. As St. John Paul II states in Familiaris consortio, “love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.”

It is precisely this gift of self that is demanded in being a parent. Any parent knows that there are so many herculean tasks that they would undertake for the sake of their child that they would never do for anyone else. Parents are given the opportunity to love selflessly, to give without counting the costs. In this way, they have the chance to grow in holiness by becoming more like Christ who gave the fullest measure of love for us on Calvary.

The Christian family has been called the domestic church precisely because it reveals to us a particular understanding of communion among persons. The family reflects the unique image of the Trinity – that love between two persons bringing forth new life. Indeed, Pope Francis has said:

“Families are the domestic Church, where Jesus grows; He grows in the love of spouses, he grows in the lives of children. That is why the enemy so often attacks the family. The devil does not want the family; he tries to destroy it, to make sure there is no love there.” (Address to the Participants in the 37th National Convocation of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit, June 1, 2014)

This is why abortion is not only an attack on the life of the unborn child but also an attack on the family. The opportunity for a specific familial relationship between a mother, a father, and a child is lost through abortion. It eliminates that opportunity for love.

Genuine Masculinity

In this day and age, we need men, in particular, to have the courage to stand up and defend the sanctity of life and the fundamental role of family. This is not because women are somehow less capable or less worthy to do so, but because the pendulum has swung so far that men are being told to remain idly on the side of important societal discussions on life and family.

The Latin word for “man” is vir, which is the same word for “hero.” A genuine man is worthy of being called a hero, not because he projects a “cool” attitude, because of his virtue and character. Men should be a true image of Christ, defending the most vulnerable and leading his family to Heaven through self-sacrifice and service. With so many assaults on the dignity of human life and on the family, we need men to, as Rep. Walberg puts it, “stand and defend the women and children” they love.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Stephanie To has worked for the Archdiocese of St. Louis's Respect Life Apostolate since 2014. Previously, she was a litigation attorney in a mid-sized law firm in St. Louis for nearly six years. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, a M.A. in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University in Chicago, and a J.D. with certificates in health law and health care ethics from Saint Louis University. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys playing the violin and singing in her parish choir.

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