Despite advances in women’s rights, we still live in a society where the responsibility for children lies with the mother. A mother is obligated to begin caring for a child as soon as she is aware she is pregnant or face charges of negligence and child abuse. The burden of getting to and from prenatal visits, paying co-pays, purchasing medications, purchasing clothing for her expanding figure, and making lifestyle changes that include eating nutritiously while eliminating any bad habits such as tobacco, alcohol, or drugs…They all fall on her shoulders. A father, though, faces no responsibilities until a child is born. Is it time for re-evaluation of paternity rights and duties and when they begin?
The return of baby Teleah to her father, Terry Achane, has been revered as “ground breaking” for fathers and their paternal rights. The online articles paint a picture of a loving, doting soldier who was not aware of his daughter’s birth because Tira Bland, the “deceptive wife”, had informed him she had gone through with an abortion. Kristi and Jared Frei are portrayed as “baby thieves”, trying to “steal” this baby away from Achane, fighting him in court when they should just hand the baby over. Before jumping to conclusions and riding this bandwagon, we need to further investigate the details surrounding the story and how we got to this point.
Achane moved from Texas to North Carolina to be a drill instructor in the Army. He left his pregnant wife, knowing she was pregnant and didn’t want to leave her family and friends in Texas. Sometime later, she informed him she had followed through with an abortion and Achane didn’t question it. He later was contacted by the adoptive parents who petitioned to legalize the adoption through his consent, when Teleah was a few weeks old. Some details are confusing because different versions are posted in different media outlets.
Question number one lies with his moving from his wife. She worried she would become a single mother of two after the birth since she is already a mother of one child. Second, why did he not question or seek out details of the alleged abortion? Was this a welcomed maneuver on his part? A quick trip to Texas would have confirmed whether she had or had not had an abortion. Apparently, he had turned his back on his wife in an already tumultuous relationship. Why would she have any reason to believe he would become a doting, loving father when he so quickly bought the lie about the abortion?
Now, fast forward to after he was made aware of Teleah… The adoptive parents contacted him in hopes that he would agree to the adoption and allow them to keep the baby. Having the ability to stay in contact with the Frei’s, he could have made arrangements to develop a relationship with his daughter. However, he didn’t ask about her well-being or developmental milestones. A parent who is truly interested in their child will want to know how their child is developing and growing. Did he send birthday or Christmas gifts? Did he make arrangements to come to Utah and visit with Teleah? He did none of these things. He hired an attorney to seek custody of her and nothing further. He made no efforts to go beyond the absolute bare minimum.
In essence, Achane abandoned baby Teleah despite seeking legal counsel and custody. Should his lack of interest influenced the judge in determining whether to remove Teleah from the only home and parents she has known? Was it in the best interest of Teleah to rearrange her living situation from a family who has cared for, protected, and loved her to a home in which the father couldn’t be burdened to come visit or buy her a birthday present?
Instead, his daughter has been back in his custody for a matter of days and already there are sites to donate money to help with his legal fees. He also has an online Amazon gift registry to purchase the things Teleah needs. Instead of spending every moment he’s been given to get to know his child and acclimate her to her new surroundings, he’s creating a wish list for gifts. Most parents get 7 or 8 months to prepare for the arrival of a child, depending on when the mother finds out she is pregnant. Achane had twenty-two months and had neither set aside money for the items Teleah would need, nor has he purchased those things. You really have to question someone’s motivation who had 22 months to prepare for a child and hasn’t even purchased a bed.
Abandonment in this case should have been considered at conception of Teleah. Achane was aware of the situation yet made decisions that were detrimental to the well-being of the baby. Based on this, should abandonment be well-established in this case already to influence the return of Teleah to the Frei family?
Child custody is in need of an overhaul to re-evaluate the responsibilities of a father and when his paternal obligations begin. And if a father fails to meet those obligations, his paternal rights should be stripped from him. The legalities surround a child and adoption need assessment as well because, so often, a father refuses to agree to adoption and all responsibilities fall on the mother. It is unfair to allow an uninvolved parent the right to refuse a mother to place a child up for adoption.
When will our rights as women encompass all aspects of reproduction? Women are screaming about their rights to abortion as though that’s the only concern. When regulations inhibit a mother from placing a child into adoption, two lives are affected: the mother and the child. When a father has made no effort to care about the well-being of a child throughout a pregnancy, should he have the right to prevent a woman from giving her child the chance at a better life? How many lives could be changed for the better in this type of situation? To all the pro-life advocates: imagine how many children are aborted simply because adoption is rarely a feasible option.