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11:00 PM, Dec 8, 1996 • By NEIL MUNRO
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IT MAY SEEM OBVIOUS NOW, but as we review the events of the past year -- from January 1, 2002, to December 31, 2002 -- it's worth remembering that just a few years ago nobody could imagine how success would force the feminist movement into a shotgun marriage with the pro-life movement.

The nuptials were announced on September 17, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Stanley Nichols of Modesto, Calif., had an unlimited right to abortion -- the abortion of his paternal responsibilities for his out-of- wedlock child. Nichols's lawyers estimated that those responsibilities would have cost Nichols $ 1 million over the next 18 years.

The court cited as precedent its rulings in three long-standing decisions -- the 1996 VMI decision, which barred almost any form of gender discrimination, and the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions, which gave women the right to physical abortion.

The Nichols v. Moore decision allows every man to legally abort any duties to his unborn children. The father's abortion of responsibility has to be completed before the child's head emerges from the mother, the court ruled. "If the decision to bear or abort the child is a woman's alone, so the decision to support that child is the man's alone," concluded the 5-to-4 majority opinion.

The deciding vote for men's abortion rights was cast by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had spent her career fighting for women's abortion rights and strict sexual equality before joining the court. Initially, she had decided to vote against men's abortion rights, but switched after the four dissenting judges proposed a radical new legal theory. The liberal dissenters, led by Justice Catherine MacKinnon, proposed the existence of previously undetected " black holes" in the Constitution that redirect away from men the Constitution's "penumbras and emanations" used in Roe v. Wade to justify women's abortion rights.

Chief Justice W. J. Clinton also voted with Ginsburg for the Nichols decision, writing in a concurring opinion that the court should "leave these most intimate and private decisions to the father, his doctor, his accountant, and his spiritual adviser."

The men's movement has greeted its victory with delight. "Women have the freedom to choose, but they don't have the freedom to make us pay for their choice. . . . We're off to Georgetown to spend the child-support payments," laughed ex-baseball player Steve Garvey, president of Planned Fatherhood and a prominent spokesperson for the Men's Coalition. It was also good news for lawyers, scores of whom started men's abortion clinics, including one in San Diego, Calif., that has begun a nationwide class-action suit to reclaim child- support funds paid out years earlier.

Two days after the court decision, a grab-bag of outraged feminists announced they wanted an alliance with the shocked pro-life community to reverse the court's decision. This new Fatherhood-NOW Alliance then spent seven days drafting a constitutional amendment to supplant the Nichols decision.

To satisfy the pro-choice camp, the amendment would force fathers to pay child support and would fund generous child-related welfare programs. To satisfy pro-lifers, the amendment would bar non-emergency abortions in the second and third trimesters and provide generous financial incentives for women to choose adoption over abortion. The amendment would impose strict regulation of the abortion industry and establish extensive informed-consent laws.

To deter later reinterpretation by the Supreme Court, the 1,000-word amendment makes extensive use of strictly defined mathematical symbols, is written in capital letters, and contains no words longer than three syllables. "If we don't restrict the court and its retinue of lawyers, they'll shrink political debate into disputes over money and transform ethics into attorney- advised self-interest," said a press release by the pro-life wing of the Fatherhood-NOW Alliance.

The proposed amendment has already won much-needed financial support from the condom industry. "If men don't have to pay for child support, they certainly won't buy our products," grumbled one executive from Trojan, Inc., as he handed over $ 1 million in advertising funds.

In response, the men's movement has also entered into a marriage of convenience with radical feminists via an ad hoc coalition called Sexual Autonomy for Everyone. The dirigiste university feminists of the coalition champion the Nichols decision because it helps to "sever the dangerous link between all our children and the testosterone-poisoned, phallocentric, hetero-sexist patriarchy."