The paternal rights and abortion issue is an extension of both the abortion debate and the fathers' rights movement. Abortion can be a factor for disagreement and lawsuit between partners.
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Roman law allowed induced abortions but regulated it in consideration of the biological father. Emperor Septimius Severus ruled circa 211 AD that a woman who had an abortion without consent from her husband should face exile for having bereaved her husband of children.
In his speech Pro Cluentio, delivered in 66 BC, Cicero refers to a case he had heard of in which a woman from Miletus was sentenced to death for having aborted her pregnancy, upon receiving bribes from those who stood to inherit her husband's estate if he produced no heir. Cicero said that in doing so she had "destroyed the hope of the father, the memory of his name, the supply of his race, the heir of his family, a citizen intended for the use of the republic".
A 4th century BC Greek writer from Alexandria, Egypt, Sopater, quoted the lawyer Lysias, who had referred to a trial in Athens in which a man named Antigene accused his wife of having deprived him of a son by having an abortion.
Whether a male has a legal right to advance his personal interest, whether it be toward abortion, fatherhood, or adoption, over that of the female, differs by region.
In 2011, it was reported that Indonesia, Malawi, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Taiwan and Turkey all had laws which required that an abortion first be authorized by the woman's husband. However, in some countries, this stipulation could be bypassed or overridden if there is genuine concern for maternal health.
Since Roe v. Wade, some states in the United States have attempted to enact laws requiring spousal consent. All of these laws have been ruled unconstitutional, spousal consent in the 1976 decision Planned Parenthood v. Danforth and spousal awareness in the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey
In China the husband of a woman who had an abortion filed a lawsuit against her in 2002 under a law intended to grant sexual equality in terms of childbearing and contraceptive decisions. The law stated that a woman has no overriding priority over her spouse in deciding whether to have a child.
A number of legal cases have arisen in the Western world in which men have tried to prevent women with whom they had been sexually active from obtaining an abortion, all of which failed:
About men deciding to decline parenthood in the event of an unintended pregnancy and asking for a financial abortion:
Men who have tried to compel a woman to have an abortion:
Those who support a man's right to intervene in a woman's reproductive decisions, argue that it is unreasonable that, after fertilisation has occurred, women have several opportunities to legally opt out of pregnancy and parenthood (such as the morning after pill, abortion, adoption or safe haven laws) whereas men have none. Armin Brott has said of this, "A woman can legally deprive a man of his right to become a parent or force him to become one against his will". The man can essentially have the obligations of fatherhood, such as child support, forced upon him against his wishes. This could potentially apply even if conception was without his knowledge or consent, such as birth control sabotage, sperm theft or sexual assault of the man.
Men's rights and fathers' rights activists have argued that men should have veto power over their partners' decisions to abort. Similarly, philosopher George W. Harris has written that, if a man impregnates a woman with the explicit goal of having a child, in a manner that is mutually consensual, then it would be morally unacceptable for that woman to later have an abortion.
Those who object to men having a right to direct involvement argue that because it is the woman's body carrying the unborn baby, her determination for or against abortion should be the only one. Marsha Garrison, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, stated that U.S. courts acknowledge "that embryo is in the woman's body, it is within her and can't be separated from her, so it's not just her decision-making about whether to bear a child, it's about her body".
A 2002 United States Gallup special report mentions only 38% of the population being opposed to notifying the husband of a married woman for an abortion. In a 2003 Gallup poll, 72% of respondents were in favor of notification to the husband, with 26% opposed; of those polled, 79% of males and 67% of females responded in favor of notification inside married couples.
Bioethicist Jacob Appel has asked, "if one grants a man veto power over a woman's choice to have an abortion in cases where he is willing to pay for the child, why not grant him the right to demand an abortion where he is unwilling to provide for the child?"
Main article: Paper Abortion
In reference to cases in which men who do not desire to become fathers have been expected by the mother to pay child support, Melanie McCulley, a South Carolina attorney, in her 1998 article, "The Male Abortion: The Putative Father's Right to Terminate His Interests in and Obligations to the Unborn Child", set forth the theory of the "male abortion", in which she argues that men should be able to terminate their legal obligations to unwanted children.
It is also possible, rather than taking the stance that males should have the freedom to opt out of inherent responsibilities and rights, to take the stance that one must opt-in and agree to undertake those responsibilities to be compelled to follow them, and only through doing so, earn parental rights. This is what occurs during adoption.
In the case of abortion, fathers' rightists are accusing women of denying fathers' paternal instincts and are lobbying for fathers' rights to veto abortion decisions.