I began thinking about the issue of the rights of a father of an unborn child years ago, long before I had my own children. It started when a happily married male friend of mine told me about his previous, unhappy marriage. Among other things, his ex-wife had three abortions and never even told him she was pregnant until long after. Did she have the responsibility to tell him she was pregnant? Did he have the right to have a say in whether or not the children were carried to term? Depending on what side of the divide of paternal rights you are on, you could make a pretty compelling argument either way. And if you do have a particularly strong opinion in this matter, does the fact that they were married have any bearing? Maybe you can't even make that kind of call without knowing the mental, physical, and emotional health of both parents at the time.
In an ideal world, we are all intelligent, empathetic, mentally and physically healthy people, and mother and father have equal say in what happens in case of an unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. We have to deal with abuse, rape, mental illness, physical disability and illnesses that makes bearing children unsafe. In short, life happens and that complicates this seemingly simple question: does the father have a say? I would say that it depends on the father, but that just opens up more questions.
Let's pretend for a minute that some sort of legislation has come through that says the father has an equal say over what happens with an unwanted pregnancy. What if the mother and father disagree over it? Who then decides what's right? And what if the father is not known? Should the mother be forced to undergo additional medical tests to determine paternity? And if we are, as a society, able to come up with some sort of formula for the rights of the father, does the nature of the relationship between the father and mother play a role in what rights he is given?
Clearly, the mother has undeniable rights when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. If the mother decides to keep the baby, the father has responsibilities to the child, whether those responsibilities be determined by moral, legal, financial, or just societal rules. If he has responsibilities, it seems he should have some sort of say as well. But how much say? Where do his rights start? Where do they end? Do the courts decide what rights the father has, or is it merely as much right as the mother is willing to give him?
In short, yes, even though it's probably not the popular opinion, I fully believe the father should have some sort of rights when he and his partner are faced with an unexpected pregnancy. But where his rights begin and end and in what situations is something I just can't determine. I'm not sure that anyone can. For the moment, I suppose the best we can say is that a father has as much right as the mother gives him.