dads and abortion1.jpg
With the Republicans dominating the state Senate after a coup last month, it's no surprise that anti-abortion activists see an opening. On Wednesday, the Senate's

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Dads' Rights Rhetoric Enters Debate on Abortion Parental Notification Bill

dads and abortion1.jpg
With the Republicans dominating the state Senate after a coup last month, it's no surprise that anti-abortion activists see an opening. On Wednesday, the Senate's Law and Justice Committee will hear a bill requiring health care providers to notify a teenage girl's parents before performing an abortion. What is a surprise is the way one prominent activist is casting the issue.

"Protecting Daughters from their Dads," is the title of a long blog post and mass e-mail generated this week by Joseph Backholm, executive director of the conservative Family Policy Institute of Washington. It's a mystifying title, evocative more of abuse allegations than the abortion-rights debate. And it's a fairly convoluted argument Backholm is making.

The thrust seems to be that the current law, which does not require parental notification, is aimed in particular at dads and shutting them out of their daughters' lives. From Backholm's missive:

The whole situation seems a bit backwards. We see ourselves as the men who cried the day we met them, got wrapped around their fingers, worry ourselves silly when we don't know where they are, and spend our lives trying to figure out how to make their world better. Despite the fact that they frequently do things we wish they wouldn't, we find it very hard to believe that anyone in the universe cares more about their well-being than we do.

The State of Washington, however, sees it differently. They see us as the men that our daughters should be protected from if they wind up with an unexpected pregnancy.

True, one of the opponents of the bill, Democratic Sen. Karen Keiser, has been saying that girls are at risk of abuse if forced to tell parents about issues related to their sexuality. "There have been documented cases where young women have been abused, thrown out of the house and in rare cases actually killed," she reiterates to SW. But she says she's never put the blame specifically on dads.

"This is crazy," she says after hearing Backholm's rhetoric. "Young women have also been thrown out of the house by their mothers. It's not a gender issue."

Backholm's way of framing the argument might, however, be a clever way of tapping into the dads' rights movement, which has a host of grievances that spark ardent and bitter feelings, including the way fathers are treated in family court.

But Backholm, who is the father of three daughters ages 4 to 8, tells SW he was merely trying to get dads' attention. "I don't know how to explain it. A lot of dads are living their lives, working their jobs. They don't really track this stuff," he says. Unlike moms, whom he credits with being more engaged.

Backholm does see another gender dynamic. "Dads are more protective of their daughters," he says. And so he's playing upon that protectiveness--and what he assumes will be dads' anger when they find out that the state is trying to "keep them in the dark" about their daughters--in drumming up support for SB 5156.

*See Also: Why'd They Do It? Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon Explain Why They Helped Republicans Stage a Senate Coup

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