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Pregnant? You May Need the Baby’s Father’s Permission to Move

Pregnant? You May Need the Baby’s Father’s Permission to Move

A man and woman meet, go on a few dates, have sex, but then decide they are incompatible. She gets pregnant from this brief relationship and decides to move to a different state to pursue a college education so she can better care for the child, whom he says he has no interest in. Now, the child is born and the man marries someone else. Oh, and then he decides to sue for custody, claiming she stole his child by leaving California while pregnant.

A New York court has agreed, and has allowed him to have the child.

This nightmare scenario has played out in the case of Sarah McKenna, who briefly dated and got pregnant by Bode Miller, an Olympic skier. Miller began dating someone else, whom he married, and a few months into the pregnancy McKenna chose to leave California and move to New York to go to college with her GI Bill, the New York Times reports. Miller decided to file for paternity and custody in California, and a New York judge declared that the California legal filings superseded McKenna’s filing for custody of her own child in New York. The infant was taken from McKenna and given to Miller and his wife, instead.

According to the New York family court, McKenna’s “appropriation of the child while in utero was irresponsible, reprehensible.” However, that leads to the logical question: what other options would that leave a pregnant person?

The precedent set by the family court’s ruling are both undeniable and disturbing for those who support women’s rights. In essence, the court is arguing that once a person is pregnant, she no longer has any right to make any decision about her own future, even if it will affect the future of the child, without the consent of the person who got her pregnant. That rule would apply even in cases where the father of the child no longer has a relationship with the person who is carrying it. It would provide the person who got her pregnant with unlimited control, with her unable to take a new job, return home to a family for assistance, or make any other life change involving a different state even if those changes would be in the best interest of her and the baby.

Should the ruling stand, the courts would literally be saying that once you are pregnant, you have lost the ability to make life decisions without the consent of the person who impregnated you. The idea is terrifying to anyone who believes in personal rights and autonomy.

News reports state that Miller originally wanted McKenna to get an abortion, which she refused to do. Yet abortion is one reason why even those who consider themselves pro-life should be up at arms over this case. For McKenna, the simplest way to remove Miller’s ability to control her — and, apparently, put her tens of thousands of dollars into debt with legal bills – would have been simply not to have continued the pregnancy. With high profile cases like this, more women and teens when faced with an unplanned pregnancy with a partner they have no intention of having an ongoing relationship with will see the hardship that can come with being forced to keep the father of their child in their life in some form.

A review of the case on appeal has Miller and McKenna back in front of New York judges, now, and McKenna has been given temporary custody of her son while the couple try to mediate a real custody and mediation plan. Regardless of how this case turns out in the end, however, some serious damage has already occurred that cannot be as easily reversed. The entire incident has exposed the faction of family court judges who truly believe that a father’s rights need to be so protected that a pregnant woman should lose her own liberties in order to keep his intact. They believe that once pregnancy begins, the rights of the fetus and, more importantly, those of the fetus’ father should always come before the woman carrying it.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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194 comments

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5:34PM PST on Dec 11, 2013

To Carole L. A woman may have carried the baby for 9 months, but does not have to raise it for the next 16- 20 years. Also the two people that created the child, do not have to be the two people to raise the child. Lots of adopted children out there.

3:35PM PST on Dec 6, 2013

Bill
“If you become pregnant and give birth your not 2 but 3 people. father has rights unless he surrenders them exactly them as the mother”

he surrendered his rights when he demanded she abort the fetus.

Dad's D
“Why when a woman is ready to give a child up for adoption & then she sees her new born & changes her mind & wants to keep her baby it is ok but men can not have feelings?”

because the woman carried the fetus for 9 months, feeling it kick, change position, hick-ups, birthing pains etc. while the man felt a few moments of pleasure.

Nohvah B.
“Lets face it, I think we all know how difficult being a single parent can be, add to that the added pressure of school and additional child care. I think this women is just being selfish.”

riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. So in your “reasoning” she should have just had that abortion when the father demanded it.

6:32PM PST on Dec 3, 2013

>what other options would that leave a pregnant person?

Exercise your abortion or adoption rights? Plan B? Use contraception? Thanks Care2 constantly educating us on a variety of options. I also don't see anywhere mentioning that the pregnancy was accidental.

A pregnant woman doesn't need a permission to move to where she pleases. But the child, once born, it's not a "fetus" anymore and cannot be kept away from their legal father. Consider if it was the opposite, a father kidnapped a baby and moved away from the mother. It's an age of equality. She decided to have a baby, he decided to file for paternity, same thing. She's not a womb, but he's not a sperm bank either. A woman can't just decide: I want to have a baby from this guy, but my child doesn't need a father, I can ignore him. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

5:03PM PST on Dec 3, 2013

:/ he didn't want the baby. he wanted the baby aborted. why should he EVER have a say in the life of a child he wanted to never have existed? he's married now.. impregnate her

1:01PM PST on Dec 3, 2013

This is so wrong. He said he didn't want the baby..

8:30PM PST on Dec 2, 2013

Just a thought, but if Miller retains custody shouldn't he be legally obliged to pay McKenna 9 months womb rental?

4:48PM PST on Dec 2, 2013

I don't pretend that the father initially saying that he had no interest in the child in this case was right. However, we have to look at the precedent that this sets for all prospective fathers. What this court was doing on the larger scale was protecting the fathers right and ability to be involved in the childs life. Maybe Miller didn't want the kid, but other fathers do want their children, even if they don't agree with the mother. A good parents love, regardless of mother or father is essential to the child and this right should be protected as it is.

6:43AM PST on Dec 2, 2013

This father clearly is the better choice for being the primary custodian. He wants to be with his son, he can afford his son and the fathers home will be a more stable environment. All of these things are in the child's best interests. Lets face it, I think we all know how difficult being a single parent can be, add to that the added pressure of school and additional child care. I think this women is just being selfish.

5:27AM PST on Dec 2, 2013

She should be able to get on with her life just as he got on with his. One of the points that falls through the cracks is that he has money and she does not. I am sure this factored into the case as everything in our society is influenced by this. If he didn't have any money, this probably would have been dismissed much earlier.

It is good that it appears that this father wants to be in the child's life, but they need to come to some compromise. Why can't he move?

One of the biggest failure of our society and one that contributes to so many social problems is that fact that so many creators of children do not take their responsibility seriously and raise their children. There are so many men that need to stand up and be men. For those that are already doing it, great, be role models for those that aren't.

10:10PM PST on Dec 1, 2013

Hope the mediation process comes up with a result that makes more sense than the first court case

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