What are the rights of fathers on issues like abortion and child-rearing?

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(By Dr. Mary Ruwart from Ask Dr. Ruwart, from the Liberator Online Volume 18, No. 15. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Do libertarians believe a father has rights in regards to issues of abortion and child-raising? After all, he is partially responsible for the pregnancy. What if the man wants the baby but the woman doesn’t? What about mandatory child support?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarians don’t always agree on the answers to these difficult and controversial questions. Some libertarians believe that the creation of a child obligates both parents to support the child until he or she is self-sufficient. Others believe that giving the gift of life doesn’t create an obligation to maintain it for either parent. Consequently, some libertarians believe in obligatory child support and others don’t.

A libertarian society would likely render abortion obsolete sooner than the society of today, because of rapid technological and economic growth. Technology should soon allow a fetus unwanted by a mother, but desired by the father, to be transferred to another womb, whether artificial or natural. This isn’t science fiction; by some reports (see “Learn More” below) we may have this option available in the near future.

Before this option becomes available, the woman is the one literally giving of her life’s blood to support the fetus. She will probably have the final say about whether it continues to reside within her. The father might be able to persuade an unwilling mother to carry the baby to term, rather than abort, by compensating her for doing so.

Although not a popular idea in today’s culture, potential baby-making activities are best undertaken with partners who can agree on how a surprise pregnancy will be handled. We wouldn’t take on a business partner without planning, via written agreement, for unexpected consequences. Should we undertake sexual congress with a partner without agreeing how unexpected consequences — a new, individual life — will be handled?

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:

* “Will Science Trump Politics in Resolving Abortion Debate?“ by libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy. EXCERPT: “[T]he extent of the problem may well be diminished by science, by new reproductive technologies that sustain the viability of fetuses removed from women who do not wish to become mothers. Like heart transplants or intrauterine operations to correct birth defects, ectogenesis may be taken for granted some day.”

* “Artificial wombs: bold, controversial science coming soon,” by Dick Pelletier, PositiveFuturist.com. EXCERPT: “Cutting-edge research in the U.S. and Japan will soon launch a new era in human procreation: a world in which embryos can be ‘brought to term’ in artificial wombs, eliminating traditional pregnancies.”

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About the author: Mary Ruwart

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication and author of the international bestseller Healing Our World. She is also author of Short Answers to Tough Questions, in which you will find a collection of her answers from this column. In this column she provides Liberator Online readers with answers to questions libertarians are often asked. Dr. Ruwart is a research scientist, ethicist, and a libertarian author/activist. She received her B.S. in biochemistry in 1970 and her Ph.D. in Biophysics in 1974 (both from Michigan State University). She subsequently joined the Department of Surgery at St. Louis University and left her Assistant Professorship there to accept a position with The Upjohn Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1976. As a senior research scientist, Dr. Ruwart was involved in developing new therapies for a variety of diseases, including liver cirrhosis and AIDS. Dr. Ruwart left Upjohn in 1995 to devote her time to consulting and writing. Her communications course for scientists (www.speakingforscientists.com), covering written, oral, and poster presentations has received high praise from attendees. She also provides consulting services for nutraceutical companies, clinical research organizations, and universities. Currently, Dr. Ruwart serves as Chair of the International Society for Individual Liberty (www.isil.org) and Secretary of the Foundation for a Free Society (www.f4fs.org). She has been an At-Large member of the Libertarian National Committee (www.lp.org), served on the Board of both the Heartland Institute (www.heartland.org; Michigan Chapter) and the Fully Informed Jury Amendment Association (www.fija.org).