It’s a curious thing to me: once a sperm leaves a man’s body, he no longer has rights or claims to his genetic material until it re-emerges as a fully-formed human. This is evident in a recent case in Texas. Erick Munoz is the father of a toddler and an unborn baby or, more appropriately, a fetus. His wife, who suffered a pulmonary embolism a week after Thanksgiving, is brain dead, breathing with the help of machines. At the time of her “death,” her fetus was 14 weeks old. It was her wish that she not live like this. It was her husband’s wish that he honor her request to die peacefully, along with their fetus, which suffered the same lack of oxygen and chemical cocktails as the mother.
But the state of Texas, being (as you know) right-to-life extremists, says no. The mother must remain on life support as an incubator. The baby will be carried to term–or at least until viability. But what about Munoz’s wishes as a father? Apparently men have no rights when it comes to the production of babies, and this is something that seems to be overlooked. A man can contribute the raw materials, but after that, it’s up to either the woman or the state to determine what becomes of the fetus.
This makes no sense. If a woman is incapacitated and unable to make these important decisions, the next in line should be the father, not the state, not the politicians and not the doctors, who, no doubt, would not like strangers making these choices for them either. Yet it’s the father who will suffer, watching his wife act as incubator to a fetus that most likely has serious health and developmental issues, too. He knew his wife’s wishes. She was early in her pregnancy. If the child survives in poor health, Munoz, now a widow, will have the burden of caring for a healthy toddler along with a sick infant.
You might be thinking, “But the baby could be born perfectly (and miraculously!) healthy.” To which I would answer, “Perhaps. But the decision, the suffering and the risks are not yours to make.” Or you might be thinking, “Is it right to let a fetus die simply because it suffered brain damage?” And the brutally honest answer is, yes. It’s not only right, but also fair and natural in the grand scheme of life.
In Texas we complain that the government does not belong in our business. Those of you who live here know that. Hell, Rick Perry even vetoed a law that would prohibit drivers from texting while driving. So Texas will make certain that you have the right to text, even if you can harm people. But if you only want to make a choice that affects you and your family, then apparently the government becomes part of your family. You probably know, too, that Texas has—by far–the highest number of executions in the country. We’re pro-life, right?
It’s pretty clear to me that only two people are responsible for creating and raising a child: the mother and the father. In the absence of the mother, the father should have the same rights to choose as the mother would have had. If the child is born in a vegetative state, who will pay for the care? How will one parent have the time, energy and emotional stamina to raise a disabled child while he still has another mouth to feed, a mortgage to pay and Little League games to coach?
The father has a right to his own life, too. At the very least, the state and its people have no right to decide for him.