Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fathers’ Rights, Then and Now

In 1854, Elizabeth Cady Stanton addressed the New York State Legislature.
“. . . .4th. Look at the position of woman as mother. . . . The father may apprentice his child, bind him out to a trade, without the mother’s consent – yea, in direct opposition to her most earnest entreaties, prayers and tears. . . . Moreover, the father, about to die, may bind out all his children wherever and to whomsoever he may see fit, and thus, in fact, will away the guardianship of all his children from the mother. . . . Thus, by your laws, the child is the absolute property of the father, wholly at his disposal in life or at death. . . .”

The 1854 women’s property measure was defeated, and again Stanton addressed the New York State Legislature in 1860, on the very eve of the Civil War. She compared the plight of women to that of the slaves in the South.
“. . . .Cuffy has no right to his children; they can be sold from him at any time. Mrs. Roe has no right to her children; they may be bound out to cancel a father’s debts of honor. The unborn child, even, by the last will of the father, may be placed under the guardianship of a stranger and a foreigner. . . .”

Finally, the New York State Married Women’s Property Act of 1860 became law. The above wrongs were set aright with the following clause:
“. . . .9. Every married woman is hereby constituted and declared to be the joint guardian of her children, with her husband, with equal powers, rights, and duties in regard to them, with the husband.”

[These documents appear in History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I., by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (Rochester, NY, 1881). The six volume were reissued (Arno Press, NY, 1969).]

That was then; this is now. As the saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

I offer the poem below as a reminder to pray for all the voiceless fathers who have lost their children to abortion.

The Would-Be Father
By Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller

He knocked
at the door
of her parents’ home
and asked to see his beloved.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea” –
her father refused.
“But she’s carrying my baby” –
the young man protested.
“Not if I can help it” –
the older man replied.
“But I love her –
I want to marry her –
We can make this work!”
cried the lad.
“You’re poor
and uneducated
with no prospects –
you’re a loser,”
said the father,
and slammed the door.
And he was that,
but not by choice.
For there was nothing he could do
to save his unborn child.
They tore it from him
before he could ever know
the child that was his.
His soul filled with sorrow
and left a hole
that could never be filled.
He looked at fathers
playing football with sons
or walking with their daughters
Decades later,
married with children,
and grandchildren even,
he would still wonder
what could have been.
“Precious baby,
he prayed,
Angel in Heaven,
I never meant it to be so.
One day,
we will be united.
Until then,
you pray for me,
and help me to forgive.”

Today is Day One of the 40 Days For Life campaign.


Leticia said...

Very few people have such understanding of how the father of an aborted child must feel.
Beautiful poem, I'm linking to it.

Joanna said...

All I can say is "wow". Very touching.