Woman's National Democratic Club

In Tennessee, the Sperm is Mightier than the Egg

Last week the Tennessee General assembly introduced a bill that would allow any man the right to veto the decision of his female partner to have an abortion. The man would not need to undergo any test to prove his paternity. A simple declaration by the man will be deemed adequate to secure a court injunction to stay the abortion.

Interestingly, however, the partner who vetoes the abortion bears NO FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to his pregnant partner or to the baby, once birth has occurred. And the pregnant woman has no legal right to demand paternity testing for the man she declares is the biological father.

Historically a man has been able to avoid legal paternal responsibility by accusing the woman of being “promiscuous”. However, we now have the ability to prove paternity via genetic testing. However, the man named by the woman as “the father of her baby” can legally refuse the paternity testing. Not much equality or fairness in the male-dominated Tennessee General Assembly these days.

The “Men’s Rights” groups are demanding more input into the pregnancy decisions of their respective women, even when the couple is not married. What most states do NOT have now is any legal mechanism that mandates financial support to the woman in raising that child through college. Perhaps we women should be advocating the return to “Shotgun Weddings” to ensure adequate financial support for the growth and development of every newborn child. And perhaps men would be more scrupulous in preventing unplanned pregnancies if there were financial ramifications of fatherhood.

Karen Pataky, Chair, Health Policy Task Force