THERE are few things more complicated than the moral and ethical debates about conception. How much of a say, if any, do men get about becoming fathers if their partner falls pregnant?
It's the situation an American woman found herself in when she contacted The Ethicist at the New York Times Magazine asking for advice about an accidental pregnancy.
"Against his will?"
"I am 38 and accidentally pregnant," the unnamed woman wrote. "It turns out my boyfriend does not ever want children, never mind after just a few months of dating".
The woman goes on to say that her partner wanted her to get a termination, and while she was considering that option,she was also mindful that given her age, her options for having a baby might be running out.
"While I'm apparently quite fertile, as time goes on the odds of getting pregnant get tougher, and there are enormous costs in egg freezing and/or I.V.F. For these reasons, I'm leaning heavily toward having the baby."
"My boyfriend is disturbed, angry and upset that I would have his baby 'against his will', as he put it. The point being, I think, that I can find another guy or get inseminated, so it's not fair to have his baby because of my biological-clock concerns."
The woman says that she assured the man he didn't have to have any involvement if she went ahead, but she also made it clear that he was not without responsibility for the current situation.
"He thought I was on birth control (but never asked, and I had requested that he use a condom once before), so he didn't think he was having unprotected sex."
On the boyfriend
'The Ethicist' pointed out in his response that even though the boyfriend does not want the baby, "he had it in his power to try to make sure the pregnancy didn't happen."
There were many similar comments from readers on the page about the boyfriend's lack of interest in contraception at the time, suggesting that perhaps his window of opportunity to prevent the arrival of a baby has closed.
"The boyfriend's objection to the pregnancy is a little too late. His responsibility to keep himself unencumbered by a child were done when he had unprotected sex," said one.
Another added, "the time to decide you don't want to be a father is before you have unprotected sex with a woman of childbearing age."
The father-to-be had an overall serious lack of supporters.
"A man who does not ever want children should have a vasectomy," said one.
"He made a bet and now he has to accept that the bet was not a wise one," said another.
There really was not a whole lot of overwhelming support for the boyfriend in this case, since it appeared he missed his opportunity to have that awkward conversation before a baby was conceived.
On the pregnant woman
'The Ethicist' also acknowledged that while a man cannot force a woman to have an abortion, the woman promising to relinquish all financial claims really means nothing. "As a general rule, a father must help support a child even if he didn't want it."
Many saw it as a very black and white argument. The baby is now inside the woman's body, therefore it is now her choice on what happens to it.
One commenter posted, "With every fiber of my being I believe this is the woman's decision. It is her body which will give birth, and it is her body which can terminate a pregnancy."
Another wrote, "I don't think boyfriend has veto power over your decision, whether you decide to keep the baby or to terminate the pregnancy."
And a few more in favour of a woman's right to make her own decision.
"Have your baby, and enjoy the heck out of motherhood. If the boyfriend comes around and falls in love with his child against his expectations, he will not be the first>
"You clearly have a desire for a child, and the universe has given you the opportunity to have one--if you want it. It is YOUR body. It is YOUR future. It is YOUR choice."
"It's your body, your life, your baby's life and entirely up to you!!"
Is there any point in debating fault?
A mature couple of child-bearing age BOTH had unprotected sex and a baby has been conceived as a result. Clearly the couple should have had a discussion about birth control. But whether the man is in the wrong for assuming it was taken care of, or the woman is in the wrong because she didn't speak up is really irrelevant now.
There is a life growing inside a woman who knows she wants children in the near future and the man does not want her to have it. So who should actually get a say in this situation?
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